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Oct 21, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) rushes for 8 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at the Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Tampa Bay at Minnesota: A Quick Preview

This week’s installment of the NFL on Thursday night features two young teams with different “luck” this season.

The Bucs have won only 2 games, lost 4 by a total of 22 points, and had the New York Giants on the ropes in New Jersey before Eli pulled yet another rabbit out of a hat. The Vikings started strong and have ridden Adrian Peterson and an improving Christian Ponder to a highly unlikely 5-2 start.

Don’t forget – one of those was a thorough thrashing of the San Francisco 49’ers.

Ordinarily, it would be simple to look at the records and see the fact that the Vikings are playing at home and assume they’ll win the game handily. Not so fast.

While Buccaneer rookie Doug Martin is certainly no Adrian Peterson, he’s been getting a lot of carries and is turning out to be more productive than any other rookie non-QB is even close to being. While Trent Richardson may have more talent, he’s apparently not nearly as durable as Martin is…and being on the field is everything in the NFL.

Tampa Bay isn’t as horrid as their record shows, nor are the Vikings much of a threat to go deep into the playoffs, it would seem, despite the big win over the ‘9’ers. The Vikings are doing things on the backs of a handful of stars – Peterson, DE Jared Allen, CB Antoine Winfield, and Percy Harvin, who leads the NFL in catches right now. Top pick Matt Kalil would appear to have been the correct and highly unsexy choice, but is a large reason why Ponder has been able to raise his level of play in this, his second NFL season. Kalil literally has his back(side).

So how do the teams match up?

Despite a young and very fast defense, the Bucs will probably give up 100+ yards to AP. It’s not so much the D as it is AP. The guy is amazing, coming off a devestating knee injury in week 17 last season to be able to start the season. If not for him, the Vikings’ record could easily be flipped.

Both offenses have a “franchise” running back. Both have a true #1 receiver that is a threat to go the distance each time he gets the ball (Harvin, Vincent Jackson). Both have a relatively young quarterback that struggled last year.

The much-maligned Vikings defense from a year ago has reduced by over 20 points the opposing quarterback’s QB rating and they also have a better scoring defense than Tampa Bay, allowing 4 points per game less (18.7 to 22.7) in 2012. Add to that the fact they’re the home team, and the 3 points for home field advantage, and the Vikings win by seven points.

Looking at scoring offense, the two teams are quite close. The Bucs average 24.9 ppg; the Vikings 23.9….leaving the Vikings with a 6-point statistical advantage.

The Buccaneers have shown me no reason yet why I should pick them to upset the Vikings, and therefore will probably do exactly that with my luck. Until that breakout game arrives, however, I think Adrian Peterson is just too much of an advantage for the Bucs to overcome especially playing in Minnesota.

I’ll go right in lockstep with the statistics today and say that the Vikings should win this one, 26-20. Peterson gets 120 rushing yards, Martin gets 80-ish, and Vincent Jackson leads the game in receiving yards but Harvin gets more receptions.

But best of all, the fans win tonight. It’s a really good chance to see some established stars (Vikings) try and keep the youngest roster in the NFL “down” one more week.

When Schiano’s team finally pieces things together? Woe be to the rest of the NFL. The west coast of Florida houses some pretty big talent. Check out the game to see if tonight’s the night they actually do put it together or not.

Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye

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Tags: Buccaneers At Vikings Tampa Bay At Minnesota Thursday Night Football

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