THE STORY: Donovan McNabb’s first game as a member of the Minnesota Vikings turned into one of the more forgettable performances of his storied career in last weekend’s season-opening loss at the San Diego Chargers. The veteran quarterback will seek redemption in his first contest before the home fans when the Vikings host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Tampa Bay, a somewhat trendy pick in the ultra-competitive NFC South following a surprising 2010 season, struggled on both sides of the ball in a home loss to the Detroit Lions – a division rival of Minnesota.
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. ET. LINE: Vikings -3, O/U 41.5
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (0-1): Despite minimal contributions from McNabb, Minnesota held a 17-7 halftime lead against the favored Chargers and appeared on its way to an upset. Then came the second half, in which the Vikingsaccumulated a sickly total of 21 yards of offense and McNabb threw for only two of his 39 – yes, 39 – yards. Despite stud running back Adrian Pederson rushing for 98 yards, he received only 16 carries as the Vikings punted on all four second-half possessions and held the ball for less than 23 minutes. One of Minnesota’s TDs came on a 103-yard return by Percy Harvin on the opening kickoff.
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (0-1): Unlike the Vikings, Tampa Bay put too much emphasis on its passing game and abandoned the run that served the team so well last season. Workhorse RB LeGarrette Blount grumbled about receiving only five touches despite Tampa Bay leading after one quarter and trailing by a TD at the half. Coach Raheem Morris conceded that he went to a hurry-up passing offense too soon. QB Josh Freeman attempted 43 passes – tying last season’s high – while failing to produce an offensive TD until the final 95 seconds. Save for Aqib Talib’s interception return for a score, the Bucs’ defense was carved up by Detroit’s passing game.
1. Peterson has averaged 110 yards rushing in September, the second-highest total in NFL history behind Jim Brown (110.8).
2. Tampa Bay, which has won four straight meetings with the Vikings, is 6-2 when Blount has at least 15 rushing attempts.
3. TE Kellen Winslow had a team-high 66 yards on six catches last week, extending his streak to 77 games with a reception. Harvin, in his third season, already holds Minnesota’s franchise record with four kick returns for TDs.
PREDICTION: Vikings 20, Buccaneers 17. Expect to see heavy doses of Peterson and Blount. Peterson, along with the home crowd, gives the Vikings a slight edge.