KFAN is your Radio Home for Vikings Football. During the 2011 Season, tune in to Vikings programming KFAN 100.3 all week long.
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - Turning around a short week after beating the Arizona Cardinals 21-14 only four days ago, the Minnesota Vikings are primed and ready to take the national stage tonight on Thursday Night Football. Their opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, face a significant disadvantage having to travel on the short week, but the two teams match up well against each other and should serve the nation to an entertaining night of football.
Sitting at 5-2, the Minnesota Vikings are one of the bigger surprises of the 2012 season and are starting to gain some national recognition. A win in primetime tonight will only help their cause.
Tampa Bay carries in a 2-4 record with inconsistent performances strewn across the first part of the schedule. Their only wins coming against Kansas City and Carolina (teams with a combined two wins on the season), The Bucs have proven they have the ability to put points on the board but have yet to put together a complete performance in all facets of the game.
While the Vikings lead the all-time series 31-21, the Buccaneers have won the five most recent match ups including the "Meltdown at the Metrodome: Part Two" last season when the Vikings blew a 17-0 halftime lead getting outscored 24-3 in the second half. With last year's letdown fresh in their minds, the Vikings are looking to earn their best first half start since going 7-1 with Brett Favre in 2009.
Here are some notes for you to key in on during tonight's primetime matchup...
It's unclear how much of a real possibility seeing V-Jax in purple might have been, but his name was tossed around quite a bit in Minnesota during the most recent free agency period. Ultimately landing in Tampa with a 5-year $55.55M deal, Jackson has been a complete gang buster with Josh Freeman and a dangerous Buccaneer passing attack.
Coming off of a 216 yard week against the Saints, Jackson is currently sixth in the league with 586 yards receiving and has hauled in five touchdowns through the Buc's first six games. Averaging 22 yards per reception and 98 yards per game, Jackson is easily the Buccaneers most dangerous offensive weapon. All that being said, in fairness, Tampa Bay has faced some of the worst pass defenses in the league but Jackson has found ways to abuse them.
Facing the Giants (25th ranked pass defense), the Redskins (32nd) and the Saints (27th), Jackson has averaged 148 yards and a score per game. Against more respectable defenses, he averages 47 yards receiving and less than a touchdown a game. The Vikings pass defense currently ranks 18th in the league but they have yet to allow a 300 yard passing performance and have kept the opposition under 200 yards three times already. Getting pressure on Freeman and hitting Jackson hard could throw the Bucs off of their game in the air.
As far as cheese goes, swiss cheese has to be one of the more respected varieties. Filled with solid favor, great color and consistency it has to be top five. Despite its elite features, many people can't get over the fac that swiss cheese is filled with holes. Similarly, the Buccaneer's defense has a handful of elite aspects, but is flawed with holes that have led them to a 2-4 start.
The Buc's rush defense is indeed elite. Currently ranked third in the NFL and allowing only 76 yards on the ground per game, Tampa Bay has only seen one 100+ yard rushing performance this season and that came behind the two headed attack of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. Leading the league in negative yardage runs, the Buc's run defense is legit. That said, they have not yet faced an offensive line on the level of Minnesota's and they have yet to face a running back as dynamic as Adrian Peterson. Immovable object, meet the unstoppable force.
Looking at Tampa's pass defense, it's flat out putrid.
Ranking in at 28th, Tampa's secondary already allowed 510 yards to Eli Manning and the Giants in week two. On the season, they allow 323 yards through the air each week and have surrendered eight scores by way of pass. Minnesota and Christian Ponder's aerial attack rank middle of the road, but opportunities should be abundant if they are willing to take the chances.
With 15 seasons under his belt, Ronde Barber is navigating his way through the rough spots of his first year at safety and the team's top cornerback, Aqib Talib is in the middle of a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance (adderall). Couple that with the fact that the Buc's defensive line has yet to record a sack in the month of October and has accumulated only eight on the season. Put that all together and Ponder should have fantastic opportunity to have a bounce back performance against a sub-par defense tonight.
While there are some glaring deficiencies in Tampa's attack, they are still a dangerous team. The game will likely be close and could swing either way by as little as a three-point margin. I've got the VIKINGS WINNING 20-17.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN
*Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images