On Sunday the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams started off their season by losing their first games against good but beatable opponents. In both cases, the offense struggled more than the defense. And in both cases, the running game wasn't used much. At first glance, these two teams may seem similar. But they're not, and I think Tampa Bay should win this game comfortably.
And all of that comes down to the quarterback on one side, and the lack of a competent one on the other. Josh Freeman had a relatively outing against the Detroit Lions, but that was a pretty good game by Donovan McNabb's recent standards. The at one point very good quarterback has slowly but surely devolved into a mess, and it's very hard to win in the NFL without a competent passer.
And that's the short of why I think the Bucs will win. McNabb's struggles aren't caused solely by himself, as he lacks a supporting cast of any kind. The offensive line was a mess when it still had Bryant McKinnie, and it hasn't gotten any better by dumping their starting left tackle for being overweight. McNabb was sacked twice and hurried a lot more often against the Chargers. In addition, his receiving corps is nothing to be scared of. Percy Harvin is a very good player, but he's not the kind of receiver who can carry a passing offense.
The Bucs should be able to get their young but talented defensive line going strong against the Vikings, and that should disrupt the passing game of the Vikings. Minnesota will always have Adrian Peterson, of course, but Peterson alone - like all running backs - is not enough to win a game.
That's not to say that the Bucs are going to slice through that defense effortlessly. The Minnesota defense is very good, and has excellent personnel throughout their defense. They have a strong pass rush anchored by Jared Allen, although Kevin Williams' suspension will hurt them. They have excellent linebackers, although E.J. Henderson's injury limits them as well. And finally, they have a good secondary for their Tampa 2-based defense.
There was a lot of talk on getting the running game going this week, but the Bucs will struggle to do so against the Vikings. The Chargers ran for just 77 yards on a whopping 27 carries, for a 2.9 yards per carry average. I would be surprised if the Bucs can top that. Instead, Josh Freeman will have to figure out a way to carve up that secondary.
Freeman should be able to do just that, howe
Ultimately, I think the Bucs win this game 17-7. The Bucs offense will struggle again, but not nearly as much as the Vikings offense. The Bucs defensive line will look good against that leaky offensive line, while the secondary won't struggle to contain the Vikings receivers the way they did Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson in week 1. I think Kellen Winslow and Michael Bennett will be the MVPs on offense and defense respectively, as Freeman will carry his team to victory while Michael Bennett will manhandle RT Phil Loadholt.
So, what do you think? Who will win, what will be the score, and who will stand out on offense and defense?