The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off the bye week fairly healthy. There was a hamstring scare earlier in the week with Mike Evans, but he looks like a full go for Sunday. Unfortunately, Jamel Dean is doubtful to play, which means Ross Cockrell will get thrust into action once again.
With a playoff spot on the line, here are your keys to the game for Sunday’s matchup.
Stop Dalvin Cook
Mike Zimmer is not shy about using a run heavy scheme. The Vikings actually rank eighth in attempts with 359. For a team that started the year 1-5, that sure is a lot of carries.
It’s no surprise that this offense runs through Dalvin Cook, if you can stop him, the entire offense falls apart. The Buccaneers are still first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 74.2, which should give them the edge.
Most NFL head coaches are stubborn, and will continue to play their style of football even if the matchup is poor in a given week. This is exactly what Mike Zimmer will run into on Sunday. Forcing Kirk Cousins into third and longs is the key to success, and I have confidence the Buccaneers defense can get it done.
Keep It Simple Stupid
Where do I even start with the offense. A unit that should be a shining light on this team, has been question repeatedly due to lack of chemistry, a bad scheme, and poor play calling.
This week, Byron Leftwich was asked why he doesn’t use more play action, considering that is when Brady is most effective. His answer “I don’t know”.
You are the play caller, and you can’t come up with an answer? Leftwich then went on to say that when the team fails to establish the run, play action just won’t be effective.
Am I losing my mind?
It takes a basic understanding of analytics to understand that you DON’T need an effective run game to use play action. It will work regardless. Am I being a bit harsh? Probably. But this unit should be better, and it falls squarely on the coaching staff.
Getting back to Sunday…The Buccaneers are the better team on both sides of the ball. I doubt they have made many adjustments, but they honestly don’t need to against a team of this caliber.
Feed the ball to Ronald Jones, throw it underneath, and take the occasional deep shot using play action. That is the recipe for success. If Tampa Bay can do that, they should be in good position to bring home a victory.