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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings: The analysis

1 p.m., Mall of America Field, Minneapolis | TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM | Line, O/U: Vikings by 3, 411/2

Bucs

It's still difficult to tell exactly what the Vikings will be like with newcomer Donovan McNabb under center (though he threw for only 39 yards last week against the Chargers). But it's clear their central mission will continue to be getting running back Adrian Peterson going. The Bucs have shown a tendency during the past few seasons to allow great individual rushing performances. But look for safeties Cody Grimm and Sean Jones to take a bigger role in stopping the run. That wasn't possible in the opener because of the threat of Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson. The Vikings' passing game isn't quite that potent.

Vikings' best offensive player

Running back is becoming more and more an interchangeable position in the NFL, but that's not the case in Minnesota. The Vikings recently made Adrian Peterson, right, the league's highest-paid running back with a contract that could max out at $100 million. Peterson's blend of speed and power will present a formidable challenge for the Bucs.

Vikings' best defensive player

End Jared Allen has 56 sacks since 2007, and he'll be a constant threat to quarterback Josh Freeman. Left tackle Donald Penn will be charged with slowing Allen in the noisy dome. Penn said Allen takes advantage of offensive linemen's inability to hear the snap count.

What the Vikings do best

The Vikings stress ball control with running back Adrian Peterson and have the ability to take downfield shots with receivers Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian. On defense, they are aggressive. But the effectiveness of Jared Allen (83½ sacks since 2004) might be impacted by the drug-related suspension of fellow tackle Kevin Williams.

You can beat the Vikings if …

You aren't playing from behind. When the scoreboard tilts in their favor, the Vikings can go to their strengths: the running game and pass rush.

The Bucs must avoid …

Another early deficit. Besides the fact the Bucs are notoriously slow starters, Mall of America Field is expected to be packed to the rafters for the Vikings' home opener. It's one of the loudest venues in sports. And if the crowd gets going early, it could be a long day for a young team such as the Bucs.

Prediction

The Bucs find some offensive balance and get a couple of picks off Donovan McNabb.

Bucs 21, Vikings 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings: The analysis 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 3:59pm]
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