Week 8 is upon us, and this week’s Thursday night NFL treat is a matchup of former division rivals in the NFC North – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) travel to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” to take on the Minnesota Vikings (5-2).
As a Buccaneer fan, I will resist the temptation to turn this week’s column into an homage to my boys, and instead I will get right to this week’s three-fer.
1. Christian Ponder – I know, it seems like taking the easy way out to suggest the QB is a good fantasy start but this QB has been downright dreadful his past two starts. Ponder’s 26 point output over the two games will most likely have owners benching him this Thursday, but he may not be as bad an option as one might think. In 2012, QBs complete 68% of their passes against the Bucs’ passing defense and Ponder is tied for 4th among all NFL QBs at a 71% completion rate. Also, Brady Quinn (in his first NFL start since December 20, 2009!) is the only QB this season to throw for fewer than 283 yards against the Bucs, and while I don’t expect Ponder to exceed that total, he should be serviceable if you’re in a bye week pinch. Look for him to throw for 245 yards with 2 TDs and one INT.
2. Kyle Rudolph – As Ponder goes, so goes Rudolph, which was quite apparent given Rudolph’s ZERO-point Week 7 performance. However, even with that blank, Ponder ranks 8th in fantasy points amongst TEs over the past two weeks, and he continues to be Ponder’s go-to guy, with 14 targets over that time frame. Rudolph is still tied with “Mr. Touchdown-Tight-End” Rob Gronkowski for the league lead at five TD receptions, and the Bucs have given up either a TD or 50+ receiving yards to TEs in every game so far this season. I expect Rudolph to continue that streak, catching 4 passes for 35 yards and a TD.
3. Mike Williams – In what was a difficult 2011 season, Mike Williams’ worst game came against the Vikings in Week 2 where he posted a one catch for -4 yards stat line. Enter Vincent Jackson in 2012 and Williams looks like a different player, posting top 30 WR numbers so far on the season. Minnesota has done a terrific job of neutralizing opposing teams’ number-one WRs this season, but not such a good job against the second option (see Andre Roberts 7-catch 100-yard outing on Sunday). Williams should see 8-9 passes in the game and I’m predicting a 5 catch, 60-yard day for him with a red zone TD reception.
Tampa Bay has won five in a row against Minnesota, yet I’m afraid this is the game where that streak ends. I look for the Bucs to be competitive, but in the end the Vikes’ home field advantage will pay off and they should win by a touchdown. Good luck in your fantasy football matchups this week and enjoy the Thursday night game!