When Tampa is Running: While the run-pass balance may be stronger this week, the Vikings – who showed holes in the pass defense in the 2nd half because Philip Rivers is Philip Rivers – showed holes in the run defense because Donovan McNabb couldn’t keep the Vikings offense on the field. They finished allowing 2.9 ypc. Edge: Minnesota, slightly.
When Tampa is Throwing: I really don’t think it hurts having Sammie Stroughter out. Dez Briscoe will have no issue filling in. There are some height advantages but the Vikings do have good corners. What will be the X-factor is that the VIkings need to stop an elite tight end for the second week in a row. It didn’t happen last week, with Antonio Gates having 8 catches and 74 yards. Edge: Tampa, slightly.
When Minnesota is Running: I am giving Bill Musgrave this one week to turn it around. He needs to show that he can make this offense move the chains consistently. It’s an offense that is supposed to feature Adrian Peterson in the running game and passing game. The Bucs gave up another big day to a running attack last sunday: 35 carries for 126 yards. The Lions slowed the pace in the second half. I expect big things from Adrian Peterson. Edge: Minnesota.
When Minnesota is Throwing: The Bucs may benefit from playing indoors, as their secondary can fly. McNabb’s job and dignity are on the line and they will be one of three offenses with good-to-great skill position players, looking for comeback weeks: the Falcons and the Steelers are the others. Overall, I expect a contentious game and more growing pains. Edge: Tampa, slightly.
PREDICTION: I learned my lesson last year picking against the Bucs, then this year they let me down when I predicted an opening day win (which was pretty close). I think these teams are about equal, though the Vikings offense was far more troubling than that of the Bucs, while both teams got a lot of help from defense and special teams in their first games. These are two high-effort teams but I get this feeling the Vikings will get 140+ yards in the run game and that Kyle Rudolph will make about three third-down catches to keep drives alive. Vikings 30, Bucs 22.