Minnesota and Tampa Bay both have a lot riding on this game.
The Viking and Buccaneers would be in the playoffs if the postseason started today. Minnesota would have the No. 7 seed, while Tampa Bay would have the No. 6 seed.
But there are no guarantees. The Buccaneers are 7-5, but a losing streak could take them out of the postseason conversation. At 6-6, the Vikings are in the same boat.
Minnesota has mostly beaten struggling opponents during its win streak. It has a chance to prove it’s capable of beating top-tier talent on Sunday.
Vikings Wire interviewed Luke Easterling, the managing editor of Bucs Wire, to preview the matchup.
Here is the interview:
1. The Buccaneers are 7-5 and appear to be in a good place on paper. What would you say the team has done well this year?
Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
The Bucs have been at their best this year when making in-game adjustments on defense, and protecting Tom Brady well. Todd Bowles is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, and though he’s had a few hiccups in terms of changing things up when necessary (see the second Saints game), overall he’s done a fantastic job of scheming the Tampa Bay defense into success. Brady has tons of weapons in the passing game, but in the game’s they’ve struggled the most, it’s been an inability to give Brady time to get them the ball that has given them the most trouble.
2. Tom Brady was of course a very high-profile acquisition. Do you think he has lived up to the hype?
Photo: Tampa Bay Buccaneers via AP
I would say so. He’s been everything the team expected, and while 7-5 might not be as good as some expected, they’re still in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot with four games left after winning just seven games all of last year. The Bucs have statistically one of the best offenses in the league, turnovers are down, and wins are up. That’s why Brady was brought to Tampa Bay, and he’s delivering so far.
3. Who is the most underrated player on Tampa Bay right now?
Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
On defense it’s Will Gholston. Vita Vea has been out since Week 5 with a season-ending injury, and he’s one of the NFL’s best nose tackles. Gholston has been a huge reason why the Bucs are still one of the best rush defenses in the league. On offense, it’s right guard Alex Cappa. There are bigger-name guys across the offensive line, but Cappa is a third-year guy out of Humboldt State that has been a huge reason for Tristan Wirfs’ rookie success, in terms of helping him with communication, etc. Both of them deserve more credit.
4. A lot of Minnesota fans also root for Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson, on account of them playing for the Gophers in college. What have you seen from them as rookies?
Photo: The Record
Both have shown flashes of brilliance so far this season. Winfield looked early on like a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, and he’s clearly a steal as a second-round pick. Johnson hasn’t had as much of a chance to shine since the signing of Antonio Brown, but he’s already built a strong rapport with Brady, and made some big catches in key moments. The future is bright for both of these young players.
5. What is a key matchup to watch on Sunday?
Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo
The big matchup in this one is Tampa Bay’s corners vs. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Carlton Davis III is having his best season overall, but Tyreek Hill carved him up in Week 12. Jamel Dean is doubtful for this game, and Sean Murphy-Bunting is having somewhat of a sophomore slump after a strong rookie season. This unit will need to tighten up their technique if they want to slow down one of the best route-running combos in the league.
6. Score prediction! Who wins and why?
Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
The Bucs are coming out of a much-needed bye week, getting healthier and giving them more time to prepare for this game. The Vikings are hot in the win column right now, but they also struggled at home against the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars last week. This game is huge in the NFC wild card race, but the Bucs are coming off close losses to both the Rams and Chiefs, and will be primed to get things going in the right direction after the bye week. The Vikings won’t have the benefit of playing at home against one of the league’s worst teams like they did last week. Minnesota has the talent and the coaching to make this a close one, but the Bucs will pull it out. Bucs 24, Vikings 17.
Published: 2020-12-12 17:07:31
Tags: #Previewing #Vikings #matchup #Buccaneers