- Jeff Gold, ESPN Insider
Here's a simple question: Are the Minnesota Vikings a good team?
The 5-2 record suggests that they could be headed to the playoffs, but take a look at who they have beaten: the Jaguars, 49ers, Lions, Titans and Cardinals. Of that group, only the 49ers figure to be a playoff team. So take the 5-2 mark with a grain of salt. Not that they have any control over it, but the schedule hasn't been stiff so far.
Still, the impressive return of Adrian Peterson from a devastating ACL injury and the maturation of Christian Ponder have been great developments for Minnesota (3-3-1 ATS, 2-5 O/U). Add to that the remarkable year that Percy Harvin is having, plus a defense that's playing better than anyone could've imagined before the season, and you have a potential playoff contender.
As for Tampa Bay, every time I see Greg Schiano on the sideline, I can't help but think he's devising some sort of sneak-attack kneel-down play. Still waiting to see that one work in the NFL. The Bucs (4-2 ATS/4-2 O/U) appear to be playing hard for him -- to be fair, really, anything looks good compared to what they did for Raheem Morris -- but they've still suffered through some brutal last-minute losses to the Giants, Redskins and Saints.
According to ESPN Insider's PickCenter, fans are backing the Bucs +6.5 at a 58.2 percent clip. When the public is backing the underdog, a rare occurrence, it's worth noting. America clearly doesn't believe in the Vikings quite yet.
Spread: Opened at Vikings -6.5; still Vikings -6.5
Total: Opened at 41.5; still 41.5
Jeff Gold give a gambling preview of the Thursday night game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Minnesota Vikings.