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Vikings @ Buccaneers: The Next "Biggest Game of the Year"

The Vikings, fresh off of getting one monkey off of their backs after defeating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. . .and, yes, contrary to all the whining you hear, the Vikings won and deserved to win. . .the Vikings now have to try to get another one off their backs this weekend as they travel to Tampa Bay.  The Vikings have an interesting history against their former NFC Central division rivals.

The monkey comes from the fact that home field advantage has been absolutely huge in this series over the course of the last decade.  Prior to their victory in the 2005 season opener in Minneapolis, the Bucs last victory in Minneapolis came back in 1997.  Surprisingly, that's also the last season that the Beloved Purple won down in Tampa as well.  Even during Minnesota's magical 1998 season, they couldn't conquer their central Floridian demons, losing 27-24 in Tampa.  The Bucs also currently have a three-game winning streak in this series, dating back to 2001.

Right now, the Bucs sit tied with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South at 6-3, one game behind 7-2 Carolina.  Tampa Bay has been winning the way that we've become accustomed to seeing. . .with solid, but not spectacular, offense (their 22.2 points/game average is good for 16th in the NFL. . .just behind Minnesota's 23.3 points/game, which is 14th) and outstanding defense (the Bucs are currently 4th in the league in points allowed/game with 16.3 and 7th in total yardage allowed).  They've been especially tough at home, where they've yet to lose.  In the process of going 4-0 at home, they've held opponents to 69 rushing yards/game and 10.8 points.

The former is bad news for a Vikings team that has been on a roll rushing the football over the past month.  Adrian Peterson has been averaging 140.1 rushing yards per game over the last four games, the Vikings have gotten an increase in production from Chester Taylor, and as a result the passing offense has gotten better with Gus Frerotte at quarterback.  However, for the Vikings to have a shot this weekend, #12 can't be throwing the ball to Buccaneer defenders at the same rate he was throwing it to Green Bay defenders this past weekend. . .largely because Tampa Bay's defense actually has the ability to stop (or at least slow down) Minnesota's running game.

This is going to be an interesting game for the Beloved Purple, and one that they're going to need as they start a tough run of four road games in the last five weeks.  Hopefully monkey-killing season will continue for Minnesota, but if that's going to be the case, the Vikings are going to have to put their best effort forward against Tampa Bay.