This week’s Thursday night NFL game takes us to Minneapolis where the Vikings will attempt to double their win total from a season ago against former division rival Tampa Bay.
Most books opened Minnesota (5-2 straight up, 3-3-1 against the spread) as a seven-point favorite with a total of 41. As of early Wednesday, the Vikings were favored by 6 ½ with the total moved up to 42. Gamblers can take the Buccaneers on the money line for a plus-325 payout (risk $100 to win $325).
Leslie Frazier’s team is unbeaten in four home games, compiling a 2-1-1 spread record. The Vikings won a 21-14 decision over Arizona last week as seven-point home favorites. The 35 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 38 ½-point total.
Adrian Peterson ran through the Cardinals for 153 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Percy Harvin had a three-yard touchdown catch from Christian Ponder, who was intercepted twice and threw for only 58 yards.
Nevertheless, Minnesota got the victory thanks to a stellar pass rush that was all over Arizona quarterback John Skelton for 60 minutes. Brian Robison had three sacks and Jared Allen had two to improve his season total to six.
Despite the doubters that found it unlikely that Peterson could be healthy and productive after tearing his ACL at Washington last December, the Oklahoma product is fourth in the NFL in rushing with 652 yards. The scary thing for the rest of the league is that he’s clearly getting stronger each week. Peterson is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has three rushing scores, in addition to 22 catches for 135 yards.
Harvin is also enjoying a banner year, producing 1,142 all-purpose yards and four TDs. He had a game-opening kickoff return for a TD that was called back due to a penalty last week.
Ponder, the second-year signal caller out of FSU, has demonstrated steady improvement despite last week’s poor performance. He has connected on 67 percent of his throws for 1,492 yards with a 9/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The Vikings are ranked sixth in the NFL in scoring defense, surrendering only 18.7 points per game.
Tampa Bay (2-4 SU, 4-2 ATS) is winless in a pair of road assignments, but it took the cash in both defeats at New York (41-34) and at Dallas (16-10). Greg Schiano’s squad is coming off a 35-28 loss at home to New Orleans as a one-point underdog.
On the bright side, third-year quarterback Josh Freeman played his best game of the year, throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. A potential fourth TD pass on the final play of the game appeared to be a game-tying score, but Mike Williams was penalized for illegal touching after going out of bounds before catching a dart from Freeman in the back of the end zone.
Another potential TD pass to Vincent Jackson was thwarted when Saints cornerback Malcolm Jenkins made a great hustle play, running down Jackson from across the field when he appeared poised to complete a 96-yard TD grab. But Jenkins brought him down at the two yard line and then the Saints mounted an incredible goal-line stand.
Jackson, who we should note had missed practice several times due to an injury before the game, still managed to set a team-record with 216 receiving yards on seven catches. Doug Martin rushed 16 times for 85 yards, including a 36-yard TD scamper that put Tampa Bay ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.
For the season, Freeman has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,538 yards with an 11/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. As expected, Jackson has been an outstanding addition from the Chargers, hauling in 27 catches for 586 yards and five TDs.
Martin, the rookie out of Boise St., has 408 rushing yards and two TDs on 100 totes. He can also catch it out of the backfield, as evidenced by 13 receptions for 145 yards.
The ‘over’ is 4-2 overall for the Bucs, 1-1 in its two road assignments. The ‘under’ is 5-2 overall for the Vikings, 3-1 in their home games.
Dating back to October of 2001, Tampa Bay has won five in a row over the Vikings both SU and ATS. The ‘over’ has hit in six of the last nine head-to-head meetings.
Kickoff is scheduled for Thursday night at 8:25 p.m. Eastern on The NFL Network.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--As a home favorite on Frazier’s watch, Minnesota has posted a 3-4-1 spread record.
--The Rams, Jets, Seahawks and Texans share the NFL’s best ATS records (5-2).
--The Eagles have been the worst team for their backers, limping to a 1-4-1 spread record.
--The ‘over’ is an NFL-best 5-1 in New Orleans games.
--The ‘under’ is an NFL-best 6-1 for the Seahawks and Cardinals.
--The ‘over’ is on a 5-0 run for the Patriots, while the ‘under’ has cashed in four of the Rams’ last five games. The total is 47 for New England’s trip to St. Louis on Sunday. Jeff Fisher’s team had won outright in all three home games as an underdog before losing 30-20 to Green Bay last week. As of Wednesday, the Pats were favored by seven.
--Green Bay has won three of its last four games thanks to QB Aaron Rodgers, who has a 16/2 TD-INT ratio in those four contests.
--The highest total on the board (by far) in Week 8 is 55 ½ for New Orleans at Denver.
--Houston defensive end J.J. Watt leads the NFL in sacks with 10 ½. Green Bay LB Clay Matthews is second with nine.
--Click here to check out my NFL Power Rankings going into Week 8.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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