Home teams own NFL Thursday nights
OCT 24, 2012 3:05p ET
There's the physical challenge of recovering in time to play another bruising contest. Cold tubs and treatment were even more valuable this week. There's also the mental challenge of preparing for a new opponent, one Minnesota doesn't see often in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have a new coach since the two teams met early last season.
There's an inherent advantage for the 5-2 Vikings this week, though, in hosting Tampa Bay.
"I think it's a huge advantage," defensive end Jared Allen said Tuesday. "I mean, I couldn't imagine getting on a plane tomorrow, just from the standpoint of bumps and bruises, swelling on airplanes. Traveling is tough. So I'm glad at least we have the home game."
The short week hasn't been kind to visiting teams since the NFL began playing regular Thursday night games in 2006. Minus Thursday regular-season openers in which each team has had months to prepare, road teams are 20-35, including Thanksgiving Day games.
This year the trend is even more startling, with road teams 1-5 after the season opener as the league has adopted a full 17-week Thursday schedule. Only the Giants have won on the road, beating Carolina 36-7 in Week 3.
"We're in a more favorable position than Tampa; to have to fly up here tomorrow to get to the game, that's a tough situation they're putting those road teams in," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We're happy to be home in front of our crowd. But it's tough. It's probably tougher physical just to get your body back in that short amount of order because mentally you can just put that game behind you."
In fact, dating back to 2010, home teams have won 18 of the past 26 Thursday night games.
Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who has to rally his team following a heartbreaking 35-28 home loss last week, isn't concerning himself with the reality. Schiano knows he and his 2-4 team have no choice but to play the game on the schedule.
"I hear all the stats like everybody else, that it's 1-5 for teams that have to travel on Thursday night," Schiano said. "All that stuff is well and good, but the reality is no one cares. You've got a game, it's one of 16. We've got to get on a plane to go play it, let's go get on a plane to go play it. I know our guys will be really excited to play on national television."
Minnesota is at least carrying over the positive feelings from a Sunday win. Tampa Bay lost Sunday after believing it had tied the Saints with a late touchdown. But, correctly, officials waved off the TD because the receiver caught the apparent tying score after being pushed out of bounds by a defender.
Now the clock is ticking quickly, and the Bucs need to fade that memory to black.
"Every team playing on a short week, time is always your enemy," Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson said.
The Vikings had Monday off as coaches scoured game film to get the game plan ready. The team then had only had one full day of practice on Tuesday. Wednesday featured a walkthrough in preparation for Thursday's game.
The condensed week forces the usual three days of practice and game plan installation into Tuesday's practice, and players have less time to recover physically. Many of the Vikings have said they don't typically begin to feel better physically until Thursday on a normal week.
"Just trying to get the body ready on a short week and process all the information that we've got going in," Allen said of the challenges of playing Thursday. "But short weeks can be cool, too, for the fact that you don't over think things. You just go out and play. But from a health point, they suck. It is tough getting the body ready."
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