The Buccaneers are back in action this Sunday after their bye week with a crucial matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings are 6-6 on the season and winners of five of their last six. The Vikings are fighting for a wild card playoff spot and are one game behind the Bucs.
After a horrendous start to the season, the Vikings have rebounded nicely to get themselves in position for a playoff spot.
Kirk Cousins has played well and has 15 touchdown passes with two interceptions over the last six games.
Dalvin Cook has played his best football these last few weeks and is on pace to have the best season of his career. Cook has rushed for 1250 yards with four games to play.
The Bucs defense has been very good against the run this season, so this will be a great matchup to watch, Cook vs, the Bucs front seven.
There are two other players on the Vikings offense in addition to Dalvin Cook that the Bucs defense will need to pay attention to, Adam Thielen, and rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
The Vikings rolled the dice this off-season, trading Pro Bowl receiver Stefan Diggs to the Buffalo Bills and taking a chance on the rookie from LSU Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson has more than delivered. He is leading the Vikings with 61 catches, has over 1,000 yards receiving, and seven touchdowns.
Jefferson is fourth in the league in receiving yards and is also fourth with his 17 yards per catch average.
The Vikings are fourth in the NFL in total offense averaging 390 yards a game and have scored 319 points.
The good news for the Bucs offense is that the Vikings defense also gives up just as many points as they score. The Vikings defense has given up 329 points so far on the season.
The Bucs defense will need to be ready to play from the first snap, not wait till the second half. The Vikings have a quick-strike offense and can move the ball and score points in a hurry.
The defense will again be tested, trying to slow down Dalvin Cook and eliminate Jefferson and Thielen’s big play ability.
The Viking’s defense is not that strong. The Vikings traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens this season, and their best defensive player Danielle Hunter has not played this season as he recovers from a herniated disc.
The Vikings have also had trouble getting to the quarterback as they have just 21 sacks this season.
The Vikings have also lost Everson Griffin, Xavier Rhodes, and Trae Waynes from their defense the last few seasons, which has hurt them.
This will be a game that Tom Brady should get his rhythm back against this Vikings secondary. Brady has struggled the last four games throwing eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Vikings rank 26th against the pass giving up 382 yards a game.
The Bucs need to get Ronald Jones involved early, and run some play action passes to help play to Brady’s strength.
The Bucs need to exploit the Vikings defense with the long ball. They can do that by targeting Scotty Miller. That is one aspect of the Bucs offense that has been missing the signing of Antonio Brown.
Two weeks ago, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said in a press conference that Miller had some injuries and would be a more integral part of the game plan in the future.
I will be waiting to see that happen.
The Vikings will score points on this defense. The Bucs defense has not shown that they can shut down a high powered offense like the Vikings. The Bucs have given up 34,38, 27, and 27 points to the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs this season.
The Vikings will be without their best linebacker, as Eric Kendricks is out for the game. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has been downgraded to doubtful and will miss the game as well.
It looks as if Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean will be out as he listed as doubtful on the injury report. Dean practiced all week but then came down with some groin soreness.
This is a game that the Bucs should win. The Bucs are better on both sides of the ball. At the end of the day the Bucs will win 35-28 and put the Vikings playoffs hopes to bed.