The NFC playoff picture is so incredibly confusing. The five-win New York Giants have a playoff spot. The once unstoppable Ariona Cardinals are no longer in the mix. The superteam Tampa Bay Buccaneers are gasping for air in the six spot and somehow the Minnesota Vikings have clawed back from a 1-5 start to capture the seventh seed for the moment.
The Vikings vs. Bucs matchup will now happen in Week 14 and it will say a lot about both teams. The Bucs were not supposed to be 7-5. They are coming off two bad losses where their offense looked incompetent and their defense was not prepared for which coverage to have at any point.
The Bucs have become so incredibly predictable on offense that it feels like Byron Leftwich is just drawing up Madden plays on the sideline. Just a few weeks ago, I suggested that the Bucs host a “create the Bucs game plan” youth raffle because they’d get good community support and it is likely that a third-grader would have more success than Leftwich. It’s unclear how a room with Tom Brady, Bruce Arians and Tom Moore have put together an offense that ranks outside the top five.
On the other sideline, the Vikings have seemed to find a rhythm over the last five weeks although I’m still not entirely sold on them. Minnesota has the 12th best offense in the league and Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson are playing their best ball of the year. But their defense is a mess and they rank 26th overall on that side of the ball.
Just a few weeks ago, Mike Zimmer looked like he might lose his job and now he has his team fighting for a playoff spot. They barely got a win against Jacksonville this year but they do have quality wins against the Packers and well….just that one.
This seems like a game where I want to bet my savings on Tom Brady to go off, prove the haters wrong and show why he is the greatest of all time. But I myself am not so convinced that this is the same Brady we have come to love over the years. Still, this feels like a game that Tampa MUST win and a game that Minnesota would like to win.
Vikings vs. Bucs Players to Watch:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ronald Jones III: When the Bucs run the ball well, they win games. I’m not sure why Leftwich hasn’t figured that out. It’s also confusing as to why Jones is splitting most of his touches with Leonard Fournette when it is abundantly clear that he should be the go-to back in Tampa. Let Jones run all over the 21st ranked rush defense this week.
Minnesota Vikings, Justin Jefferson: This guy is putting on an absolute show this year and has emerged as the top rookie wide receiver and one of the top receivers in the NFC North. We saw what Tyreek Hill did two weeks ago and what Cooper Kupp did to the Bucs three weeks ago. It could not be Jefferson’s turn.
Vikings vs. Bucs Prediction:
The Bucs badly need a win here and I still trust Brady to rebound when needed.
Vikings 24 Bucs 35
By: Matt Lively CruelFan.com