One man's prediction: With their passing attack sputtering, the Vikings seem vulnerable to an upset. But it's hard to get past the struggles that road teams seem to have with these Sunday-to-Thursday turnarounds. Since the start of 2011, teams traveling on the Sunday-Thursday flip are just 3-12. Tampa Bay is coming off a tough loss to NFC South rival New Orleans as well. Vikings 24, Tampa Bay 23
Tampa Bay used its Week 5 bye to refine its offense somewhat, freeing quarterback Josh Freeman to take more shots down the field. The results have been eye-opening. The Buccaneers have totaled 976 yards of offense the past two weeks, with Freeman completing 39 of 68 passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns. Freeman has two big-play receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. And if defenses grow overly concerned with eliminating the deep ball, rookie running back Doug Martin has averaged 5.6 yards per carry the past two weeks.
The Vikings' defensive line registered six sacks in last week's dominant effort against Arizona and now has 15 sacks in the past five games. That ability to create pressure without help is certainly comforting to coordinator Alan Williams, who likely will keep the blitzing to a minimum again this week while using his safeties to protect against the vertical passing game. Jared Allen has a sack in each of the past five games.
So now what?
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has committed seven turnovers the past three games and is coming off a dismal effort Sunday in which he threw for just 58 yards. How much will a slide like that impact his confidence? "'I've already moved on," Ponder insisted. "We're not thinking about Arizona anymore at all." The good news: Tampa Bay ranks 31st against the pass (323.0 yards per game). The Buccaneers will also be without top cornerback Aqib Talib (suspended) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (season-ending knee injury).
22 Yards per catch by Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson (actually 21.7). He has more receiving yards this season than Percy Harvin (586-577) despite having 26 fewer catches (53-27).
Dallas Clark, Buccaneers: With the Tampa Bay offense exploding, Clark finally woke up last week with five catches, 51 yards and a TD in a loss to New Orleans. The former All-Pro tight end for the Colts (100 catches in 2009) signed as a free agent with the Bucs during the offseason.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David vs. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
About David (right)
Standout rookie leads the Bucs in tackles (49) and tackles for loss (nine).
Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after an upset of New England in Week 2.
Leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (787) and registered his 29th career 100-yard game last week, gaining 153 against Arizona to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Advantage: Peterson. The Bucs' D held the top backs of its first six opponents to an average of 49 rushing yards. But the Vikings rank seventh in the NFL in rushing offense (132.3 ypg). And their playmaking star seems to be getting better by the week.