- Anthony Tornatore
As Playoffs Loom Near, Vikings Travel to Tampa Bay
The Minnesota Vikings end their 2020-2021 campaign with three of their last four games away from U.S. Bank Stadium. For most teams, that would cause a lot of problems, but not for the Vikings this year. The Vikings have played exponentially better this year on the road than at home. Let the record speak for itself. The Vikings are 3-2 on the road and 3-4 at home. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the Vikings as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and the Buccaneers.
However, their first test will be against one of, if not the best quarterback to ever play in the National Football League, Tom Brady. The 43-year-old veteran has done everything that every player wishes they can do in the NFL. He is a six-time Super Bowl Champion, a four-time Super Bowl MVP, a three-time NFL MVP, and a 14-time Pro Bowler. He has easily been the most dominant quarterback for the past two decades. This year, although, may be a year that Brady would like to forget. His team sits at 7-5 and is fighting just to get into the playoffs. A loss would be detrimental.
As every game has been for the Vikings since they started out the season 1-5, this is another must win game. A win here would put them at 7-6, which would be the same record as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and catapult them into the sixth seed in the NFC. A win for the Vikings could give them a comfortable two game lead over the eighth seed, whoever that may be at the end of the week.
It's quite simply, the Vikings need to run the ball with Dalvin Cook and keep the ball out of Tom Brady's hands. They must run the clock and keep the time of possession battle in their favor. Cook has been the most dominant running back in the NFL, and leads the league with 14 total touchdowns. With Tom Brady's inaccuracy issues this season, this could be a recipe for success for the Vikings as they head into this pivotal week 14 matchup.
If that doesn't work, due to the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the best rushing defense in the NFL, only allowing 74.2 yards per game, Mike Zimmer will have to rely heavily on his quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Since the Vikings week 8 win at the Green Bay Packers, Cousins has been one of the most dominant quarterbacks in the NFL. He has completed 70.7% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He has been lights out with the lights shining bright and will try to continue to do that as the season comes to an end.
For the Buccaneers, they need to figure out their running attack before their matinee matchup this Sunday. The Buccaneers have only been rushing for 96.3 yards per game, which is sixth worst in the NFL. The backfield of Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette will have to pick it up this week as the Vikings young secondary has been starting to find its groove, led by Harrison Smith.
The Vikings will be without All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks, who is being sidelined with a calf injury for the second straight week, and without running back Alexander Mattison, who will miss the contest after undergoing an appendectomy. Kyle Rudolph is also listed as doubtful as he quite possibly could miss his first game after 93 consecutive starts.
On the opposing side of the field, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh may both be on the sidelines this week as they both did not participate in practice this past Friday. Those are two huge names to keep an eye on as kickoff nears.
The Vikings are Buccaneers are set to kickoff at 12:00 pm CST/1:00 pm EST with the game being televised nationally on Fox. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be on the call. Paul Allen and Pete Bercich will be providing the sights and sounds on KFAN 100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis / St. Paul.