Peterson powers Vikings rush up the middle

Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire

Adrian Peterson looks to lead the Vikings to a win tonight over the Buccaneers.The Minnesota Vikings are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL at 5-2 entering Week 8. They have already surpassed their win total from last year and, with a win tonight, can match their total from the 2010 season.

However, history may not be on their side against the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have won five straight games versus the Vikings, tied for the longest win streak by either team in the series.

The Buccaneers have dropped their last nine road games but might feel confident going into Minnesota tonight. Their last win away from home came in Minneapolis, a 24-20 victory over the Vikings in Week 2 of 2011.

When Minnesota has the ball

The Vikings’ surprising start has been fueled by one of the top ground attacks in the league led by a strong comeback season from Adrian Peterson, who is just 10 months removed from tearing his ACL and MCL.

Peterson is coming off a season-best 153 rushing-yard performance against the Arizona Cardinals and currently leads the NFL with 787 yards from scrimmage.

Adrian Peterson Rushing Between Tackles
This Season

Peterson has done most of his damage this season between the tackles, accounting for over 90 percent of his rushes and rushing yards.

He faces his toughest challenge of the season tonight against the Buccaneers, who boast one of the best run defenses in the league. Tampa Bay ranks third in fewest rush yards allowed per game and first in yards allowed per rush.

The Buccaneers defense matches up well against Peterson, who leads the NFL with 607 yards rushing between the tackles; Tampa Bay has given up the fewest rushing yards between the tackles in the league.

The Bucs’ defense is also especially strong near the line of scrimmage, holding opponents to the fewest yards before contact and forcing the most negative yardage runs in the NFL. Peterson averages just 2.4 yards before contact, slightly below the league average of 2.6.

When Tampa Bay has the ball

The Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon is Vincent Jackson, who torched the New Orleans Saints secondary last week for a career-high 216 yards. He has not dropped a single pass this season; only Percy Harvin has more targets (66) than Jackson’s 56 without a drop.

Highest Avg Target Depth This Season

Jackson is one of the best deep threats in the league, with four receptions of 30-plus yards and an average target depth of 16 yards.

Jackson’s success is linked to the accuracy of his quarterback’s strong arm. Josh Freeman has completed 56 percent of his passes more than 20 yards downfield, second-best in the league. Jackson has seven receptions on such throws, tied for second-most in the NFL.

The Vikings secondary has rarely been tested deep this season. They have seen just 16 pass attempts of more than 20 yards downfield, tied for third-fewest in the league, and allowed only 158 yards on those throws, the second-fewest in the NFL.