Tonight’s meeting between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings is the perfect example of a game that wouldn’t garner much betting attention if it were played on a Sunday afternoon instead of a Thursday night.
The Vikings opened as 6-point favorites and have since moved to -6.5 with a current over/under of 42.5.
What follows is a breakdown of the point spread for the game, with news, notes, quotes and anecdotes to help you make your bets.
Keep in mind: The “edge” is merely a suggestion, and not something we necessarily recommend playing.
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BUCCANEERS AT VIKINGS, 8:20 P.M. ET
OPENING POINT SPREAD: Minnesota -6 | CURRENT: Minnesota -6.5 | OVER/UNDER: 42.5 | TV: NFL
SUMMARY: At 5-2, the Vikings are among the biggest overachievers so far in the 2012 NFL season and are only a half-game back of the Bears in the NFC North. They’re 4-0 at home and have given up more than 23 points only once (at Washington) all season. Meanwhile, despite a 2-4 overall record Tampa Bay has been competitive in every game, with no losses by more than a touchdown and a 4-2 mark against the spread. Before the season, Cantor Gaming had this spread set at Minnesota -3, signifying virtually even teams on a neutral field.
STORYLINES: The Tampa Bay offense doesn’t really have a “wow” factor, but right now it is fifth in the NFL in yards per play (6.0), generally regarded as one of the best ways to measure the effectiveness of an offense. The four teams ahead of them: Redskins (6.4), Giants (6.3), 49ers (6.1) and Saints (6.1).
While the Bucs rank so high in this category, the reason they’re not considered an elite offense is because they play at such a plodding pace. They rank 30th in the NFL in plays per game (57.7).
Josh Freeman is coming off a career-high 420-yard performance in a 35-28 home loss to the Saints, while Christian Ponder threw for only 58 yards and completed one second-half pass in a 21-14 home win over the Cardinals.
The key for Tampa Bay should be finding a way to get pressure on Ponder, a young quarterback who’s already been sacked 16 times. Since the Buccaneers lost DE Adrian Clayborn for the season, however, they’ve registered only two sacks in three games.
The Vikings, on the other hand, rank third in the league with 22 sacks (led by Jared Allen’s six) and should be able to make Freeman a little uncomfortable in the pocket.
EDGE: Primetime games have tended to be boring and low-scoring more often than not this season, and this one has that feel as well. Both teams are content playing at a slower pace (particularly Tampa Bay), and while the spread seems a little inflated, we like the value on the under more than either side. But we’d probably wait until kickoff, because SportsInsights tells us that more than 60 percent of bettors are on the over, meaning the number could go up throughout the day.