By Kyra Hallett
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be facing off against the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night. The Vikings are a surprising 5-2 on the season and have not lost at home so far. In Week Three, they upset the San Francisco 49ers 24-13. The Bucs and Vikings have played each other six times since 2001 with the Bucs winning the last five match-ups. This season the Bucs are 0-2 on the road and are the underdog this week.
The Vikings will have one full practice this week on Tuesday in preparation for the Bucs.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said, “We came out of that game (Sunday) in pretty good shape injury wise. John Carlson is the only guy that will probably not play in this game for concussion-like symptoms. We’ll have to take him over the protocol over the next few days. With a short week, don’t expect him to probably make it.”
In Sunday’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals, the Minnesota defense was dominating. “It was encouraging, the way our defense dominated the line of scrimmage, seven sacks,” said Frazier.
Running back Adrian Peterson had his biggest game of the season last week against the Cardinals, rushing for 153 yards and one touchdown. Peterson has been dealing with an ankle injury so “he’s a little sore,” said Frazier.
Quarterback Christian Ponder struggled the last game, only throwing for 58 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He has been otherwise strong this season, and that could be a challenge for the Bucs because Ponder has a special skill. “He’s able to put bad plays behind him,” said Frazier.
Regarding the short turnaround, coach Frazier said, “I would much rather be playing at home this Thursday than having to get on a flight on Wednesday to travel to the opposing team, so I’m grateful that we’re playing at home.”
The Bucs will have their hands full as the Vikings are a well rounded team. They are strong on offense and defense. The offense is ranked 11th in the league. Ponder has thrown for 1,492 yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions and 16 sacks. Peterson has rushed for 652 yards, three touchdowns and fumbled once. Wide receiver Percy Harvin has been Ponder’s main target. Harvin has 53 receptions for 577 yards and two touchdowns. He also does kickoff returns with an average of 35 yards and one return for a touchdown. Wide receiver Kyle Rudolph has the most touchdowns on the team with five. He has 25 receptions for 225 yards. Kicker Blair Walsh has only missed one field goal and his longest on the season is for 55 yards.
On defense, the Vikings are ranked 18th in the entire league. Linebacker Chad Greenway leads the team in tackles with 68 and two sacks. Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield leads the team in interceptions with two and has 55 tackles. Safety Harrison Smith is the only player with a pick six.
The Bucs will have to continue with the way they have been playing. The team as a whole had too many mistakes against the New Orleans Saints in Week Seven, so they need to go back to their basics. The Bucs will have their hands full trying to stop Ponder, Peterson and Harvin. On offense, the key to the Bucs success will be in the offensive line. They need to protect Josh Freeman and the running backs. Freeman needs to be heads-up to the defensive backs and make sure not to throw any interceptions. He needs to have another game like he did against the Saints for the Bucs success.
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Kyra Hallett is a freelance writer and a Multimedia Sports Journalist. She has experience covering Tampa Bay sports in many outlets including Examiner.com. Her dream job would be to work with the athletes and their fans. You can view some of her work at KyraHallett.com or here at Examiner.com.