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NFC North: Minnesota Looks to take over first place

The NFC North is as competitive as ever this season. The Chicago Bears thanks to their win on Monday night lead the division by a half game at 5-1. They are followed by the Minnesota Vikings at 5-2, the Green Bay Packers at 4-3 and the Detroit Lions at 2-4. The top three teams have very legitimate changes at winning the division or making the playoffs.

Tonight on Thursday Night Football the Vikings take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa has scored a number of points, 66 to be exact, over the past two weeks, nevertheless, have only won one of the two games they have played.

They blew out the hapless Kansas City Chiefs 38-10 in week six. Over the two games, Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman has 748 yards passing and six touchdowns. Both defenses he faced, first the Chiefs and last week in a 35-28 loss the New Orleans Saints, have been suspect to say the least.

The Vikings have been named the biggest surprise in both the NFC North and the NFL. The offense has Adrian Peterson back running like he did prior to his ACL tear two seasons ago and quarterback Christian Ponder was great the first few weeks of the season but has had problems of late.

The Vikings currently have the league’s ninth ranked defense for total yards allowed at 319 per game and they are sixth in the league in points allowed at just under 19 per game. Add to that, the offense that controls the clock with its running attack, it is not surprising the Vikings are 5-2 at this point of the season.

For the Vikings to have success tonight, Peterson must have a solid running night against the NFL’s third ranked defense against the run. If Peterson can run well, then the Tampa Bay offense will not be on the field to run up points behind the throwing arm of Freeman.

The defense for the Vikings is ranked eleventh in the league in passing yards. They give up only 220 yards per game through the air and much of that is due to the pressure they put on the quarterback. In their first seven games of the season, the Vikings defense has registered 22 sacks. The Vikings might give up a touchdown or two through the air, but Freeman might also turn the ball over a couple of times because of pressure.

Minnesota might have to rely more on the arm of Ponder than they want. The Tampa Bay defense is tough and will slow down Peterson which makes Ponder that much more important to the Vikings offense.

Ponder has had two picks in each of his last three starts, so the more Minnesota can limit Ponder passing the ball, the better off they will be. Tampa also knows this and will load the line of scrimmage on first and second down with 7 players to stuff the run.

Minnesota should be able to control the clock and play good defense to keep the Buccaneers opportunities of scoring limited. However, if Ponder turns the ball over then the Vikings will allow Tampa Bay back into the game, which then will give them a shot at an upset.

The odds makers have given Minnesota a hefty 6 ½ points spread as the favourite. Smart money is behind Minnesota to shut down Tampa Bay a win large 28-10.

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