Tonight the Vikings look to finish off the first half of the season with a victory as they host Tampa Bay. A win would give Minnesota a 6-2 record and set them up for a very realistic run at the playoffs. This season, every team has to play at least one Thursday night game now that the NFL has expanded the format so there is a Thursday night contest every week. The biggest challenge for teams during the short week is making sure players are healthy and rested. As Tampa comes to town, Minnesota is looking at another big opportunity.
Head Coach Leslie Frazier has been keeping a close eye on his players, and several, including Adrian Peterson, have been limited in practice. AP continues to be a huge part of the Vikes offense, although he hasn’t had to carry the burden alone this year. Percy Harvin has been the best all-around player in the NFL this season. Those two guys and the Vikings’ D have put Minnesota where they are today; which is the most improved team in the league from a year ago. Look for Peterson to get 20-25 touches. He probably won’t carry the ball 25 times, but he has become increasingly productive out of the backfield as a receiver. Harvin should get 10-15 touches, not including punt/kick returns. If those two guys are on, all Christian Ponder needs to do is protect the football and play better than he did last week when he only threw for 58 yards.
For the Vikings’ defense the task is pretty simple; continue to play like they have been playing. Jared Allen has been a beast, recording at least one sack in each of the last five games. He has had help from guys like Brian Robison and Kevin Williams, who are wreaking havoc on opponents offenses. The Bucs have been pretty good at home this season, but have lost nine in a row on the road(including last season). If Allen and Co. can keep Josh Freeman running for his life, that streak should grow to ten in a row.
I have said from the beginning that Minnesota had a chance to make a playoff run, but that they would have to win a lot of their early games to have a realistic shot. The second half of the schedule is much more difficult for the Vikings, so while it’s hard to think about a must-win game for a team that’s 5-2, this is definitely a game they need to win if they want to consider themselves a playoff contender.
About the Author
Written by Sean Eckhardt
Univ of Alabama alumni. Born and raised outside Chicago, IL. Currently live in Florida. Some of my favorite teams include the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Heat, and the Florida Panthers. My interests outside of sports include music, outdoor activities, and anything with a motor(cars, bikes, boats, etc...).