3 Keys for the Vikings vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1
The Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to face off in Week 1 of the NFL season.
Heading into the new year, there are high hopes on both sides after each team won their respective divisions during the 2022 season. As the Vikings’ Week 1 matchup with the Bucs approaches, here are 3 keys to keep in mind.
Win the Trenches
Minnesota started the 2022 season strong against the run, but by the end of the year, they had fallen down to the 11th-worst run defense in the NFL in terms of EPA. Meanwhile, their offense relied heavily on the pass, attempting the fifth-fewest runs in the league.
Heading into 2023, the Vikings are hoping to rejuvenate their rushing attack by bringing back Alexander Mattison and adding TE Josh Oliver. A balanced offensive approach should lead to more consistency on that side of the ball.
Meanwhile, the Vikings defensive front goes up against an offensive line that features Tristan Wirfs at left tackle, one of the best in the business. Outside of that, though, there are questions with C Ryan Jensen out and rookie RG Cody Mauch questionable with a back injury. The Vikings need to take advantage of this matchup by applying pressure on Baker Mayfield while containing top RBs Rachaad White and Sean Tucker.
Vikings CBs vs. Buccaneers WRs
Say what you will about Baker Mayfield as an NFL QB, but he is benefitting from a strong group of weapons this season in Tampa Bay. Mike Evans has been one of the NFL’s most consistent receivers over the past decade, surpassing 1000 yards in each of his first nine seasons.
Meanwhile, Chris Godwin has been almost equally steady over the past few years. In three of the past four seasons, Godwin has 80+ receptions while also surpassing the 1000-yard mark. The only year in which he didn’t do so was in 2020 when he played just 12 games.
In their way is a very young group of Vikings cornerbacks hoping to slow down the savvy veterans. Akayleb Evans is getting the start alongside Byron Murphy, but we could also see a healthy dose of rookie Mekhi Blackmon and 2022 second-round pick Andrew Booth.
Overcoming a Strong Tampa Bay Defense
The Buccaneers won the NFC South last season by largely relying on their defense. They return a number of their top starters like Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Vita Vea, and Devin White. They also added young talent in Calijah Kancey and Yaya Diaby to the front.
In order to win this game, the Vikings will need their stars to show out on the offensive side. The offensive line must contain a strong pass-rush while Kirk Cousins needs to deliver sharp, accurate passes through this loaded secondary. T.J. Hockenson and Justin Jefferson are a strong one-two punch as pass-catchers, but they will need contributions from both Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn as well.
Despite losing Tom Brady in the offseason, this Tampa Bay team is not one to be slept on and could sneak away with a win if the Vikings don’t put points on the board. Hopefully, the offensive firepower will prove too much to handle.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on our sister-site, PurplePTSD.com.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.