There could be no stranger set of circumstances surrounding a football game – prep, college or NFL – that those encompassing Sunday’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings match-up.
The Buccaneers had their Week 1 game in Miami postponed by Hurricane Irma. After a nice 27-9 win over the struggling Chicago Bears, the locker room was hit with a flu bug, threatening the roles of starters such as Chris Baker and Jacquies Smith.
Minnesota is dealing with a crisis at QB, with an injured Sam Bradford trying to nurse a knee injury just enough to start on Sunday. Odds-makers delayed putting out lines as long as they could, finally offering a point spread of “EVEN” on Thursday afternoon. Some books are still refusing to offer cash wagers on the contest.
The thought of Jameis Winston potentially taking on Minnesota backup Case Keenum for 4 quarters will surely drive the line toward the Bucs, right? Nope. For some reason, gamblers are banking on the Norsemen.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
When: Sunday, September 24th, 1 PM EST
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Lines: Tampa Bay (+2) at Minnesota (-2) / O/U Total: (41)
Why would the line move toward the Vikings to prevail, when they may not have a first-class QB? Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons.
Bradford practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, though his mobility is limited. Vikings HC Mike Zimmer is a firm believer in the forward pass – maybe to a fault – so if the former Oklahoma signal-caller does play, he won’t be asked to simply hand the ball off. For wagering purposes, it’s all-or-nothing on Sam.
Zimmer is speaking optimistically to the press about his starter’s chances to play. Keenum didn’t have a terrible outing against Pittsburgh in Week 2, but failed to keep up with Big Ben’s yards and TD total in a 26-9 loss. Despite holding the dead-in-the-water New Orleans Saints to 19 points in the season opener, it’s clear that the Vikings’ best chance to win on a given day is to have a healthy Bradford flinging passes.
Tampa’s defense is improving steadily, and more importantly does not seem to be reliant on 2nd half pass-rushes in front of a loud home throng. There were few Buccaneers fans in Chicago to help confuse the Bears OL on 3rd down, but the visitors intercepted QB Mike Glennon twice and held the Monsters of the Midway to an abysmal 20 yards on 16 rushing attempts while forcing 2 lost fumbles.
Winston finished the day with only a 63.4 passer rating, but it feels like more of a statistical quirk than a real evaluation of his rising talent. The 2nd-year pro threw for 200 yards and a TD with no picks, while the squad rushed for 117 yards with a backfield-by-committee approach.
The action is going the Vikings’ way because not enough bettors understand statistics. Not statistics as in passing yards or defensive tendencies, but probability of winning or losing.
There are 3 equally likely scenarios on Sunday – 1) Bradford sits out injured, 2) Bradford plays but is ineffective due to injury, or 3) Bradford plays and feels just fine. That means there’s only a 33.3% chance that the scenario Minnesota-takers are hoping for will occur, and a 2/3 chance the Vikings’ offense will be hampered.
Besides, even if the hosts have a perfectly functional offense, it doesn’t mean the Bucs can’t win anyway. Minnesota will need some luck to pull it off. Tampa just needs Dayquil and good execution.
Take the Buccaneers and 2 points for a winning wager.