For some strange reason, people seem to be buying into this Minnesota Vikings team. However, the advanced metrics tell a different story. Let's take a closer look at why there is value on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I have to say that the NFL is one of the most fickle sports in the entire world. The look ahead line on this game was Vikings -5. It actually opened higher after Week 7. It now sits at -6.5, but -7's are out there (odds from SBRforum). I'm not sure about you, but I didn't see much last week to shift my favor towards Minnesota.
In Favor of the Vikings
There are three primary advantages Minnesota have in this matchup.
1) Home field advantage on a short week.
2) Superior run defense vs an average run offense.
3) Extreme advantage on special teams.
The problem is, how does this equate to a full touchdown difference? I know it's very tough for road teams on Thursday night because they immediately lose a day of rest/preparation before the light turns green, but I'm not about to adjust my line over a field goal because of it.
In Favor of the Bucs
Fundamentally speaking, this is a very even match-up across the board. Yet, I actually give the slight advantage to the Bucs defense for a couple of reasons. One, they are well above average on third down and in the red zone. And two, the Bucs defense have faced much more efficient offenses this year than the Vikings defense.
Yes Tampa Bay had some bad moments (NYG & NO), but as a whole they've been very solid when you look at the full body of work. This isn't a Vikings offense that scares anybody - especially with a sheltered Christian Ponder under center.
Even better news for the Bucs defense is the fact that the Vikings haven't faced very good defenses this year, and they still rank mediocre in most critical categories.
This game is very similar to the game against the Cardinals last week, but a key difference here is Tampa Bay's offense actually inspires some hope. The stats still give me a strong reason to doubt the Vikings. After factoring everything in, I would set this line at Minnesota -3.5. Take the value and ride the dog.
NFL Pick: TB +7.749932