Was there a better time for the Buccaneers to have a bye week than after two consecutive losses? To be fair, both losses were close games and against playoff teams. One, in particular, is the favorite to be the AFC representative in the Superbowl. Heading into week 14, the streak of playoff contenders keeps going as the Buccaneers now face the Minnesota Vikings at home.
Here’s How The Vikings Measure Up
Last week, the Vikings were without a few key players heading into their game against Jacksonville.
- Irv Smith TE was Out (Back Injury)
- Alexander Mattison RB was Out (Illness)
- D.J Wonnum DE was Out (Ankle/Back)
We will need to see how the week plays out a little more to see if these players return to practice. Dalvin Cook appeared to be injured again the week before but ultimately returned to action in time for the Jaguars matchup. All signs point to him suiting up again this week against Tampa Bay.
- Rush Yards/Gm 6th (145.7) / Pass Yards/Gm 16th (244.2)
- Rush Touchdowns/Gm 8th (1.2) / Pass Touchdowns/Gm 8th (2.2)
- % of Rush Plays Called 8th (48.06%) / % of Pass Plays Called 27th (51.94%)
The most obvious and least surprising stat is they are one of the most run favored offenses. When you have Dalvin Cook, who has already amassed 1,250 yards rushing, second only to Derrick Henry of the Titans, you can expect him to be fed week after week. He (Cook) also happens to be the league leader in rushing touchdowns.
In an offense that leans so heavy towards the run, it’s impressive that they also are home to two of the best wide receivers.
Adam Thielen has 12 touchdowns on the year despite missing a game to COVID-19 restrictions. That currently ranks third among all players for receiving touchdowns with a 62% catch rate. Not bad for the seasoned veteran in an offense that occasionally likes to throw the ball.
Going from the “old’ guy to the younger rookie, it only took two weeks for Justin Jefferson to get acclimated to the pros. After starting with five catches for 70 yards in his first two weeks, Jefferson proceeded to become the leading receiver for all rookies through weeks 3 to 13. So far, his rookie campaign has resulted in 61 catches (21st) for 1,039 yards (4th) and 7 touchdowns (12th).
- Rush Yards Allowed/Gm 19th (121.0) / Pass Yards Allowed/Gm 26th (261.7)
- Rush Touchdowns Allowed/Gm 2nd (0.6) / Pass Touchdowns Allowed/Gm 27th (2.0)
- Sacks/Gm 23rd (1.8) / Turnover Margin 3rd (-0.3)
Despite not having many marquee names in the trenches, the Vikings defense is keeping opposing running backs out of the end zone this year. Ironically, the secondary has players like Harrison Smith, who is tied for fourth in the league in interceptions, but are not fairing as well through the air.
At linebacker, the secondary and defensive line is going to need help from star player Erik Kendricks. With 107 tackles on the year and three interceptions, Kendricks is going to have to provide the boost that the run and pass defense both sorely need.
What We Might Expect
Imagine not looking at this matchup for two full weeks and not drooling at the matchup in the passing game. The Vikings are not getting pressure and they are not keeping opposing offenses from picking them apart through the air. This might be low hanging fruit, but it may be safe to assume that Tom Brady has a BIG game on Sunday.
That being said, Ronald Jones II’s recent tear on run defenses might come down to Earth a bit. The Vikings defense has made running backs pump the brakes this year. In addition to that fact, if Brady gets 40 pass attempts against a juicy matchup, it’s just going to reduce Rojo’s touches.
The effectiveness of the offense will remain crucial, however, as the Buccaneers’ defense will also be pushed early and often. There’s just too much star power on the Vikings’ offense to focus on just one player. Carlton Davis III will be looking for redemption from his education courtesy of Tyreek Hill, but Sean Murphy-Bunting is going to have to elevate his game regardless of which receiver he faces.
What we don’t know yet is what we will see from a post-bye week Buccaneers team. Will they be eager to play with anticipation? Could they come out flat and rusty? Maybe both? We’ll find out Sunday, but what we do know is when both teams are fighting for control of a Wild Card spot, there will be some good football on the field.