But, since it’s not often the Bucs play in prime time and we still have a few hours until kickoff, let’s talk a little more about this one.
Let’s turn to ESPN Stats & information and Tampa Bay’s media relations department for some statistical nuggets on this matchup:
Tampa Bay’s offense appears to be coming to life. The Bucs have had 976 net yards in their past two games. That’s the largest number in a two-game stretch in franchise history. The Bucs rank second in the NFL in yards per pass and fifth in total yards per play.
Quarterback Josh Freeman has only five career games in which he’s thrown for 300 yards or more. But two of those were in the past two games. He’s coming off a career-high 420 passing yards against New Orleans and has thrown for 1,047 yards in the past three games. Freeman also has thrown three touchdowns in each of his past two games. In 45 career starts prior to the current streak, Freeman had only two games in which he threw three touchdowns or more. If Freeman can do it again against the Vikings, he’ll become the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for three touchdowns in three straight games.
Rookie running back Doug Martin also has come on strong recently. In the past two games, Martin has 253 total yards (161 rushing and 92 receiving). He also has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the past two games.
It’s safe to say Vincent Jackson is settling in as the No. 1 receiver the Bucs envisioned when they signed him to a big contract in free agency. Jackson set a franchise record with 216 receiving yards against New Orleans. He’s fourth in the NFL with an average of 97.7 receiving yards per game and is third in the league with an average of 21.7 yards per catch.
Jackson’s arrival also has had a positive impact on receiver Mike Williams. He’s fourth in the NFL, averaging 19.4 yards per catch. Of the wide receivers drafted in 2010, Williams has the best career numbers in receptions (149) and receiving yards (2,103) and is tied with first-round pick Dez Bryant with 14 career touchdown receptions.
The Bucs apparently made the right move when they benched right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and replaced him with Demar Dotson in Week 2. Since then, the Bucs have allowed only seven sacks, the third-lowest total in the NFL in that span.
Rookie linebacker Lavonte David has had an immediate impact. He leads the team with nine tackles for a loss and is part of the reason the Bucs lead the NFL in forcing negative plays (52) and negative runs (28).
The recent history of Thursday night games isn’t good news for the Bucs because they’re on the road. Home teams are 5-1 in Thursday night games this season and 13-3 over the past two seasons. By the way, the Vikings are 4-0 at home this season, after going 5-11 at home over the previous two seasons.
The Bucs have a five-game winning streak against the Vikings. The only active winning streak they have that’s longer is against the Bengals (six straight).
Part of the reason the Tampa Bay defense has been so good against the run (the Bucs rank third, allowing 76 rushing yards per game) is because the Bucs don’t allow much to happen before contact. The Bucs are allowing a league-low 1.7 yards before contact.
Christian Ponder is the first Minnesota quarterback to throw two or more interceptions in three consecutive games since Warren Moon did it in four straight games in 1995. Ponder can tie Moon on Thursday night, but the franchise record is five straight games (Fran Tarkenton in 1978).