John: Week eight of the NFL season is here. Some teams are playing their eighth game this week (the ones that haven't had their bye), so we're at the halfway point of the year.
The stat to keep an eye on is that Thursday teams are combining to average 8 less points per game than Sunday/Monday games. Thanks to a tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter for that little nugget. In other words, betting the under is a smart move on Thursday night games.
As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to break down tonight's game.
Standings after Week 7 (Straight Up)
Bret 66-38 .635 (Last Week 12-1) Mike 65-39 .625 (9-4) John 64-40 .615 (8-5)
Tampa Bay (2-4) at Minnesota (5-2) 8:20 PM
Bret: There are becoming some really obvious trends on Thursday night games - mostly that home teams win. A stat from the Behind the Bets ESPN podcast - home favorites, coming off a win, with a spread greater than 3 are 30-3 in Thursday night games since 1989.
I know it's short and sweet, but I don't think there's really much else to say. All the matchups becoming useless at the feet of a team being forced to travel and basically getting 2 days prep for a football game.
Besides, when you were 12-1 the week before, you can afford to be aloof. Minnesota 17 Tampa Bay 13
Mike: It seems to work out this way every year, but I can't believe it's already Week 8 and a number of teams are going to be halfway done with their schedule by the end of the week. Just never enough time. That's why we get to enjoy these crazy Thursday night games, even if they're generally sloppy games and players seem to be more prone to getting hurt playing in them. It's all about me, dammit!
I've made it pretty clear on here that I'm a fan of the Bucs despite what their record indicates, and I still stand by that. I'm not totally surprised their defense gave up 35 points last week to the Saints, as Drew Brees has still put up pretty big numbers this season despite the struggles of his team. Add in the fact that their stud CB Aqib Talib is currently out for a four-game suspension. Vincent Jackson has started putting up some big numbers, and Mike Williams has looked a lot more like rookie Mike Williams.
The problem is that I don't buy them as a team that can go on the road into a tough environment and come up with a win against a good team. The Metrodome is not the easiest of places to play, and the Vikings are really clicking, their defense is forcing turnovers, Adrian Peterson is running the ball well, Percy Harvin has been invaluable to the team, and Christian Ponder is doing the right thing. Minnesota also really needs this win even at 5-2, because next week they are at Seattle, and their schedule still has two games against the Bears, two games against the Packers, and a road game against Houston. Just because they are looking to go 6-2 does not mean they still can't end up 8-8 or 9-7. I expect their defense to carry them through this game, but just like all the other Thursday showings, I'm sure this one will be sloppy and probably closer than the 6.5 points the Vikings are favored by. Minnesota 23 Tampa Bay 17
John: This seems to be an easy one for me. Home teams are 5-1 in Thursday night games with the Panthers bed shitting against the Giants as the only home loss. We won't count the opening Wednesday of the year because we're talking only about Thursday games here. I think there's something to that "home field advantage on the short week" theory. The Vikings should win at home.
I'm a huge Adrian Peterson fan. I love that he's playing so well for the Vikings this year. The Bucs have a good run defense, so while I don't expect a huge game from him you know that if he gets his 20 carries he'll be productive. The Vikings passing game isn't a vertical one. They throw short a lot of the time with Christian Ponder hitting Percy Harvin with short throws. It's good that they have Jerome Simpson back because he can spread the field, but that's not their game. They're a short passing offense that moves the chains and every once in a while they break a big play just because they have a lot of great athletes.
I think the Bucs are a team that's good enough to play close games at home against anybody, but when it comes to a road environment against a good defensive team like the Vikings can they get the job done? I'm not so sure. I do like the chemistry that Josh Freeman has built up with his wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams while rookie RB Doug Martin has done a good job as well. I just don't think they will be able to score that much against the Vikings. It's not like last week when they played the defensively inept Saints.
If the Vikings win this they go to 6-2, but like Mike said their schedule gets a lot tougher in the second half of their year. Are they a playoff team? I'm not really sure. The NFC is loaded and to this point the Vikings have benefitted from a soft schedule aside from that impressive home win versus the 49ers. It will be interesting see where they end up. Either way, their fans have to be happy with their performance this year after finishing 3-13 last year.
The spread shows the Vikings favored by 6.5 while the over/under is 42.5 points. I may put a wager on the Vikings to cover the spread before the game starts, but I'm not making it one of my five best bets, which have been awful by the way. You'll see those tomorrow. For now, let's just say the Vikings win and cover the spread. Vikings 24-13
Thanks for reading. We'll see you again on Friday for the rest of this week's games.
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