Sep 21, 2017
Sep 21, 2017

NFL preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings

The impact a backup QB has on performance

Buccaneers vs. Vikings odds: Analysing the stats

Buccaneers vs. Vikings betting: Where is the value?

NFL preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings

This week’s highlight game pairs together two sides who narrowly missed the 2016 post season. Indeed, the Tampa Bay missed out in a tie breaker and Minnesota a game behind the 6th and final seeds, the Detroit Lions. What should you consider for Buccaneers vs. Vikings betting? Read on for some expert insight into the Buccaneers vs. Vikings odds.

The Buccaneers vs. Vikings odds are currently unavailable due to uncertainty over Minnesota's quarterback status.

The importance of the quarterback

The Buccaneers vs. Vikings betting poses an intriguing question concerning the worth of a side’s starting quarterback. Minnesota’s starter Sam Bradford backed up his impressive 2016 season with a near faultless display in their week one win over New Orleans but was a late, game-time absentee in their week two loss at Pittsburgh.

The Vikings’ passing efficiency was around half a yard per attempt shy of the average allowed by the defences they faced in 2016.

The timetable for his return from an ACL injury remains vague. Minnesota head coach has declared Bradford as “fine”, but has also quoted between one and six games as a likely returning date and unsurprisingly the spreads for the match are largely off the board.

Quarterback is by far the most influential position, possibly in all team sports and while star players can often be replaced by players of similar prowess this is rarely the case in the NFL’s premier position.

The impact a backup QB has on performance

If we look at the most important passing stats for starting quarterbacks from 2016 and compare those produced when their backups were asked to start, we do see the expected drop off in performance for the latter.

Although small sample sizes will inevitably sometimes result in backups occasionally outperforming their larger sampled starting colleagues, as a group, backups - through less experience, talent and a less expansive playbook - underperform. 

In 2016, by comparison, the backup’s completion rate fell along with their touchdown percentage and their longest passing play, while sack and interception rates rose. Most tellingly, the average yards per passing attempt fell by nearly a yard between the two groups.

This year Tampa took to free agency to secure a legitimate deep ball threat for Winston in the NFC East’s star receiver DeSean Jackson to enhance an already competent receiving unit.

So while Minnesota’s passing performance from 2016, which was almost exclusively the work of Bradford, may be largely irrelevant if he again fails to dress for play on Sunday. However, they can still be used as a basis for his backup, Case Keenum’s likely underperformance.

Sam Bradford was the overall number one draft pick in 2010 but struggled initially in poor sides and through recurrent knee problems. His expected progression from a fairly modest starting point was interrupted by a season-long absence and needed a trade to Philly and then Minnesota before he began to justify his expected promise. 

Unlike Minnesota teams of the recent past, they are more reliant upon passing than running the ball, a comment that similarly applies to Sunday’s opponents, Tampa Bay.

Buccaneers vs. Vikings odds: Analysing the stats

The Vikings’ passing efficiency was around half a yard per attempt shy of the average allowed by the defences they faced in 2016, though they found very little on the ground. They rushed for almost a full yard per carry fewer than their opponents habitually conceded - one of the worst running games in the NFL.

Unsurprisingly, they struggled to put points on the scoreboard, averaging 20.4 points per game, where 23 was the average allowed by their opponents. The Vikings impressed more on defence - they were average against the run, but they did well enough at restricting teams through the air to give the team an overall passing advantage against their opponents.

The whole defensive package returned more than the sum of its parts in points allowed. 

Minnesota deserved slightly better than their 8-8 record based on the Pythagorean expectation, they had a net minus two winning record in close games but their turnover record, often unsustainable, was the fourth best in the NFL.

Tampa are led by another of the growing band of young, developing quarterbacks; third year, Jameis Winston. In 2016, he was already around the level of Sam Bradford in his redemption year in Philadelphia, albeit with a slightly less accurate delivery. This year Tampa took to free agency to secure a legitimate deep ball threat for Winston in the NFC East’s star receiver DeSean Jackson to enhance an already competent receiving unit.

Home field advantage, a fit Bradford and DeSean Jackson expanding Winston’s downfield options for Tampa would make Minnesota favourites by three points, with a total pitched at just under 40 points.

Tampa’s passing efficiency was around the league average in 2016. They too struggled to run the ball well and in keeping with Minnesota, scored two fewer points per game than their opponents allowed on average.

Defensively, they were just below average, both on the ground and through the air, but they did restrict opposing offences to a point and a half per game fewer than they usually scored.

Their nine-win season in 2016 was slightly flattering for a side with a negative points differential and thus a sub 0.500 Pythagorean. They also enjoyed two more narrow wins than defeats while turnovers were an unremarkable plus two differential.

Buccaneers vs. Vikings betting: Where is the value?

Comparing these efficiency figures in a full strength renewal, Minnesota just edge the contest by being able to pass the ball slightly more efficiently in a game dominated by the defences.

Home field advantage, a fit Bradford and DeSean Jackson expanding Winston’s downfield options for Tampa would make Minnesota favourites by three points, with a total pitched at just under 40 points.

However, in Bradford’s anticipated absence, along with the expected reduction in passing efficiency and the possibility for a less accurate performance from Keenum, a line favouring Tampa by a point seems most likely. 

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