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Avast, Mateys! This Game Be a Big One!



Date: November 16, 2008 Location: Tampa, FL
Time: 12:00 P.M. CST Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
DirecTV Ch. 708
Know Thy Enemy: Buc 'Em
Gonzo's Prediction: Buccaneers 19, Vikings 17
Final Score: Buccaneers 19, Vikings 13

As mentioned earlier this week, the Vikings travel today to a place where they haven't won since 1997, facing a team with an outstanding defense and fighting to maintain at least a share of first place in the NFC North. We'll also be keeping an eye on the other big divisional matchup today as the Packers host the Bears. By the end of the day, there could be another three-way tie for the NFC North lead. But, let's take a look at a couple of keys for the Beloved Purple this afternoon.

One thing that the Vikings will need to be able to do in order to be successful today is throw the ball effectively on first down. The Bucs have an outstanding run defense, and we can't simply pound the ball into the line on every 1st and 10, as Brad Childress is wont to do. The Vikings have to make an effort to keep the Bucs off-balance and not allow them to load up to stop the run. Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor can be effective against this Tampa Bay defense, but not if the Bucs are allowed to pile 8 and 9 men in the box on a regular basis. This goes hand-in-hand with taking care of the football. Gus Frerotte has thrown 11 interceptions in his 7 starts this year, but 8 of those 11 have come in the last 3 games (4 @ Chicago, 1 vs. Houston, and 3 vs. Green Bay). That really, really has to come to an end, and that's a tough road to hoe against this Buccaneer defense.

The Vikings also have to contain Buccaneers' quarterback Jeff Garcia. Garcia is just the kind of quarterback that the Vikings famously have trouble with. . .he doesn't necessarily have the strongest arm in the league, but he is very accurate, and has a great deal of mobility. Keeping the Tampa rushing offense bottled up doesn't terribly concern me, particularly with the injuries that all of their running backs are battling at this point. So, with the rush offense being held down, the Vikings need to keep Tampa's passing game in check. Are they capable of doing that? Certainly. Will they do that? That remains to be seen.

Oh, and it would also be nice if the Vikings' special teams could maybe NOT suck out loud today. For a little perspective on the Vikings' special teams. . .we're 9 games into the 2008 season, and the Beloved Purple have already tied the NFL record for most return TDs allowed in a season with 6. That there. . .that's pretty pathetic. It's not even the kick coverage so much. . .they've gotten markedly better since the Saints' game last month. . .but the punt coverage unit is beyond awful, and the Bucs have a good young return man in rooke Dexter Jackson, the Bucs second-round pick out of Appalachian State.

Kickoff is two short hours away. By the end of the day, the Beloved Purple will either have a three-game winning streak and some serious momentum working in their favor. . .or they'll be back to being a .500 team. I'm hoping for the former, but I can't pick it in good conscience. I would love nothing more than to be wrong this week.

See you all in the comments section!