It wasn't supposed to be like this. LeGarrette Blount was supposed to pound the Lions into submission. Josh Freeman and Mike Williams were to make Detroit's secondary look like Central Michigan. The newly revamped defense was supposed to break Matthew Stafford into a million tiny little pieces and be Optimus Prime to Detroit's Megatron.
Instead, the Bucs head to Minneapolis with their tails between their legs, complaining about how those tricky Lions showed them fronts they've never seen before, how it was hot and giving lip service to "starting fast".
Awaiting them is a youngry Vikings team that nearly pulled off a major upset in San Diego and is looking to impress the home crowd in their home opener.
It's a little early to talk must wins but with Atlanta and Indianapolis on the horizon - the Bucs need a W in the worst way.
Can they get it in a stadium that hasn't exactly been kind to them over the years?
Records: Tampa Bay 0-1, Minnesota 0-1
Series History: Minnesota leads 31-20
Last Meeting: Tampa Bay 19. Minnesota 13
One of the reasons we think the Buccaneers' coaches "blinked" last week against Detroit was the concern that Josh Freeman just isn't "right". In attempt to get Freeman going, they abandoned the run and went full out two minute offense. Eventually, FIVE finally heated up and nearly rallied the Bucs against the Lions.
Mike Williams displayed the skills that made fans so excited about him last season and there doesn't appear to be much drop off (if any). Meanwhile, Regus Benn, Kellen Winslow and Desmon Briscoe failed to do much. The Bucs are going to need more production from their secondary sources if they hope to become an effective passing offense.
Tampa Bay is currently ranked 14th in the NFL in passing.
Minnesota boasts one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL in Jared Allen. Against the Chargers, Allen had a half sack, six tackles (3 solo) and an interception. After a solid first half where they stifled Phillip Rivers, the Vikings defense fell apart in the second half, eventually surrendering 330 yards passing and two touchdowns.
They did pick off Rivers twice, Antoine Winfield nabbed the other one.
Minnesota is ranked 28th in the NFL against the pass.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Rushing Attack vs. Minnesota Run Defense
The Bucs promise to get back to basics and get the football into the hands of one of their best weapons, LeGarrette Blount. Blount only had 5 totes for 15 yards against the Lions and spent most of the game on the bench while the Bucs ran their two minute offense.
As the Bucs offense desperately needs balance, we can expect Tampa Bay to return to the run first mentality, use play action to suck in the defense and make big plays downfield.
The Bucs are currently 29th in the NFL in rushing.
Minnesota did an excellent job against the Charger's running game, limiting them to just 2.9 yards a carry and 77 total yards rushing. They rank 12th in the NFL against the run.
Minnesota Vikings Passing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
It's the old resistible force against the moveable object. Two struggling units square off in Sunday's showdown between the Buccaneers and the Vikings.
Donovan McNabb is calling the shots behind center for the Vikings, although you'd never know it, as he only managed 39 yards passing on 15 attempts. The Vikings simply didn't have the ball long enough to do anything against the Chargers' defense.
With McNabb coming off a tough performance, the Christian Ponder watch is in full effect. McNabb's going to want to impress upon the crowd that Ponder can wait awhile.
The Vikings (of course) ranked dead last in the NFL in passing.
The Bucs pass defense is coming off a terrible game as well, being carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey by Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford nearly had 300 yards passing at halftime and would finish the game with 305 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bucs failed to register a sack in the game, although Aquib Talib did pick six Stafford and the boys in Honolulu Blue.
Tampa Bay is ranked 25th in the NFL in pass defense.
Minnesota Running Game vs. Tampa Bay Run Defense
One of the biggest challenges the Buccaneers defense will face all season is that of Adrian Peterson. Peterson is a terror, giving the Chargers fits and finishing with 98 yds, 6.1 yards a carry and a long of 46. The Vikings are 7th in the league in rushing.
Tampa Bay did a credible job at controlling the Lions run game until they began to wear down late in the first half. Mason Foster will be crucial for the Buccaneers keeping Peterson under control.
Tampa Bay is 23rd in the NFL against the run.
Bucs kicker Connor Barth was a perfect 2-for-2 in the season opener with the Lions. Punter Michael Koenen showed the Bucs why he was worth the money, averaging 52.2 yards a punt, pinning 1 inside the 20 and putting 3 of 4 kickoffs through the endzone for touchbacks. The Buccaneers lost their top kick returner Sammie Stroughter to an ankle injury.
Preston Parker will take over those duties until Stroughter can return.
Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell was 1-for-1 in the field goal department for Minnesota with a long of 33 yards while punter Chris Kluwe managed an average of 48.2 yards a punt and place 3 punts inside the 20.
When healthy, former Gator Percy Harvin can be one of the most dynamic returners in the game. He showed it again last week, taking the opening kickoff 103 yards for a score.
Raheem Morris is in his 3rd season as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is 13-20 with no post season appearances.
After a long wait, Leslie Frazier is finally a head coach in the NFL. Winning the full-time job after securing a solid finish last season, Frazier is 3-4 with no playoff appearances.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
By the Numbers
- Tampa Bay has won the last four meetings and 6 of the last 8 against Minnesota.
- Tampa Bay was 6-2 on the road last season.
- Minnesota was 4-4 at home.
- Prior to the Bucs win over the Vikings in 2005, Minnesota had won 7 out of the last 8 in Minneapolis.
This is a difficult football game to get a feel for. After being stunned by the Lions last week, the Bucs desperately need a victory and were a better road team last season that they were at home.
The Metrodome (now called Mall of America Field) has always been a house of horrors for the Bucs as Tampa Bay has managed just 7 victories in 25 tries in the big Hefty bag.
The Bucs will need to win the turnover battle, LeGarrette Blount has to be used and be effective while the defense must do everything it can to keep Peterson between the 20's. Let him run around all he wants, just as long as he doesn't lead the Vikes to the end zone.
In the end, I think the Vikings will give the Bucs everything they can handle but I like Josh Freeman in the clutch a lot more than I do Donovan McNabb.
Tampa Bay 20, Minnesota 17