NFL

Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings

A year is a lifetime in the NFL. Last year, the Buccaneers completed a furious rally after looking dreadful in the first half, coming back to beat Minnesota on the road. It was the first of what would prove to be many historic collapses for the Vikings with Donovan McNabb at quarterback. It also seemed to signal that the Buccaneers would continue to find ways to win, after a year where they had 10 of them, while being outscored badly in several losses.

As it turns out, the Bucs would collapse as well, to the point the team basically gave up, and Greg Schiano was brought in to replace Raheem Morris. The Vikings, meanwhile, went through their growing pains as well. They have re-emerged in 2012 with a better defense, an explosive playmaker in Percy Harvin, and Adrian Peterson returning from his injury. Christian Ponder’s up and down play has been masked by other areas, but hey, a year ago, it was Donovan McNabb limping around.

The last meeting likely tells us nothing, as these teams have changed so much. Here’s what we know about tonight.

1) The Bucs are vulnerable on the back end, but play pretty good up front and against the run. Tampa has proven tough to run against, but against good quarterbacks, have been torched. Christian Ponder hasn’t been Mr. Consistent, so if he doesn’t have a good game here, Tampa can win. Percy Harvin should prove a matchup nightmare if Ponder can get him the ball.

2) The Minnesota defense is playing much better against the pass, and will now have to slow down Tampa’s receivers. Josh Freeman is hitting big plays this year, with a high yards per attempt to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, but a low completion percentage. Generating big plays in this one will be key to Tampa springing the upset.

The Line: Minnesota by 6.5

The Pick: Bucs +6.5

[photo via US Presswire]

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