NFL Preview: Minnesota Vikings v Tampa Bay Buccaneers live on Sky Sports 1HD
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 25/10/12 11:05pm
Adrian Peterson: Looking back to his best for Minnesota
The surprising Minnesota Vikings make an appearance on Sky Sports with their Thursday night hosting of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with star running back Adrian Peterson looking back to his very best.
The Vikes have been one of the success stories of the season so far, surprising a few teams, most notably the well-fancied 49ers, in moving to 5-2 for the current campaign and being a dominant 4-0 at home.
Whilst the Mall of America Field may not be their home for too much longer, it has been a fortress in this campaign to date and the Bucs arrive on a lean streak away from home with two losses so far in 2012 and a run of nine straight road defeats since they last visited Minneapolis.
Tampa Bay have won the last five meetings between the two teams though, and have looked good at times but have just been unable to put complete games together during what has been a disappointing 2-4 start to the season.
Peterson is undoubtedly the main weapon, with the four-time All Pro rusher carrying the team to victory last week against Arizona with 153 yards and a touchdown whilst QB Christian Ponder registered a woeful 58 yards passing.
The Vikings defence also showed up big with seven more sacks to take the team total up to 22 for the season, and they rank ninth in the league with 319.7 yards allowed per game - and it will be the defence and Peterson who will be expected to lead the way against Tampa Bay.
The Bucs actually measure up well against this attack though, as their run defence is the third best in the NFL, and with their passing defence the second worst, the Vikings might have to turn to Ponder to do some of the damage.
Percy Harvin will be the main go-to guy if Ponder is looking to take advantage through the air, with him having 53 receptions already but having a big impact all-round on the field, while tight end Kyle Rudoplh is the big red zone threat with five TDs already.
While Minnesota's nine-best rushing attack versus Tampa Bay's third-best run defence could be the key to the game, stopping the Bucs' own offence will be a big thing for the home side if they are to improve to 6-2.
Josh Freeman threw for a career-best 420 yards last week against the Saints as the Bucs went 21-7 up, and although they failed to hold onto that lead their start will have pleased coach Greg Schiano.
Freeman has 748 yards and six TDs in his last two games and has receiver Vincent Jackson looking like the unstoppable wideout of a couple of years ago in San Diego after his team record 216 yards last Sunday.
Look for Minnesota to run the ball a lot, behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, leaving Ponder to make just short throws when needed, but the Bucs will need a different approach and Freeman will be looking long to Jackson and fellow wideout Mike Williams.