Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Each week the Pewter Reporters will give our predictions including how we think the game will play out, plus a Pick to Click, a player we think will stand out. Make sure to share your thoughts and your predictions in the comment section.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (1-0) AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-1)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1:00 P.M. ET (12:00 P.M. CT)
U.S. BANK STADIUM (66,860)
NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: THOM BRENNAMAN ANALYST: CHRIS SPIELMAN SIDELINE: PETER SCHRAGER BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
LAST GAME: TAMPA BAY WON VS. CHICAGO 29-7; MINNESOTA LOST AT PITTSBURGH, 26-9
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
The Bucs took care of the Bears last week with ease, but this week’s test at Minnesota against a 1-1 Vikings team offers a bigger challenge for two reasons – its defense and rookie running back Dalvin Cook. Let’s start with the Vikings defense first. The big matchup to watch is left tackle Donovan Smith versus defensive end Everson Griffen, who has three sacks through two games. The good news for Jameis Winston is that no other Vikings defender has a sack this season, although players like defensive ends Danielle Hunter, who led the team with 12.5 last year, and Brian Robison, who had 7.5 in 2016. Keeping Winston’s pocket clean and keeping the franchise quarterback upright will be key for Tampa Bay in trying to get its first road win of the season.
The Vikings will likely match up big cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who had five interceptions last year and has a pick this season, on big Mike Evans one-on-one. Look for Bucs head coach and play caller Dirk Koetter to move Evans into the slot occasionally to try to create some size mismatches and foil Minnesota’s coverage plans. Tampa Bay will need to come out throwing the ball to set up the run because Minnesota’s front seven led by defensive tackle Linval Joseph and linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks do a solid job stuffing the run and Jacquizz Rodgers could struggle to produce. The Bucs may have to give more carries to Peyton Barber, a bigger, more physical back. Winston will have to do a good job spreading out the ball and perhaps target DeSean Jackson and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cam Brate on Sunday. Trying to get Howard matched up often against strongside rookie linebacker Ben Gedeon would be a plus for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs defense will be without defensive tackle Chris Baker, defensive end Jacquies Smith due to illness as the flu has hit the team the last two weeks, but the biggest loss will be not having middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, whose hamstring injury hasn’t allowed him to practice this week. The team was impressed with the play of rookie Kendell Beckwith in the preseason playing both SAM and MIKE linebacker spots, and in last week’s season opener filling in for Alexander. Beckwith had five tackles, including a tackle for loss, and will get the start at MIKE. It’s important the Bucs run defense to fill gaps and gang tackle Cook, who is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and has 191 yards through two games. With Sam Bradford out, the Bucs will face Case Keenum, who is 2-0 against Tampa Bay with the Rams. That won’t happen again as the Bucs secondary is much improved over the last two years. The key will be generating a pass rush to get to Keenum and force errant throws. Defensive end Noah Spence and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will have to get to Keenum, and if they don’t, look for defensive coordinator Mike Smith to send linebacker Lavonte David and Beckwith on some blitzes.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 26-20
Reynolds’ Pick-to-click: TE O.J. Howard
PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Case close. It has to be. After seeing the average backup quarterback quarterback beat them two straight years, if Case Keenum beats the Bucs again with his arm for a third straight season, there are some bigger issues that will need to be addressed. Of course the Vikings could still win if the Bucs play sloppy offensively, but there is no way Keenum should be the reason the Bucs come home from Minnesota with a loss.
Obviously the Bucs will need to be wary of rookie running back Dalvin Cook who is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and has three runs of 30 yards so far this season, but Cook shouldn’t be able to beat the Bucs by himself. The Vikings receivers are solid, but again, it will be Keenum throwing to them, not Sam Bradford, who is out again with the bone bruise in this knee. If the Bucs can turn the Vikings into a one-dimensional team, which they should, they should leave with a win.
Offensively the Bucs need to be patient. The Vikings defense has a ton of talent, and head coach Mike Zimmer is former defensive coordinator, so you know he will have his team do everything they can to make quarterback Jameis Winston uncomfortable. The pass protection from the offensive line will go a long way in determining the Bucs success on Sunday, and if they give Winston a clean pocket, he will eventually find people open. There are just too many weapon on this team to not be able to move the ball, even against a stout defense.
Tampa Bay’s run game might not be hugely successful but they can’t give up on it, even if it struggles early. Keep pounding it, and taking your shots with Winston’s arm when they present themselves is the recipe for success.
Cook’s Score prediction: Bucs win 27-13
Cook’s Pick To Click: DT Gerald McCoy
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
So, no Sam Bradford; no Kwon Alexander.Both are key players for each team for different reasons. Bradford obviously plays the most important position on the football field. Losing your starting quarterback is never easy, but thankfully for Minnesota, they have a man who has really had the Buccaneers’ number the last few times he’s faced them in Case Keenum coming in in relief. For the Bucs, Alexander is like the quarterback of the defense. He’s usually the one calling the plays as the centerpiece, and he’s also a leader of emotion and passion throughout the game. But, in some saving grace for Tampa Bay, rookie Kendell Beckwith has been playing as well as you could hope any rookie would and will get the chance to start in Alexander’s place.Let’s talk about some other matchups. Vikings’ top cornerback Xavier Rhodes going up against Mike Evans will certainly be a big one. Both use physicality as their main trait, so it will be strength versus strength – may the best man win. On the flip side, DeSean Jackson gets to go up against a cornerback who is speedy, but has his struggles in Trae Waynes. Waynes gave up three catches, 91 yards and touchdown to Martavis Bryant last week, so many are thinking this will be advantage Jackson.
However this game, as is the case for many football games, will be won in the trenches. The Vikings offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL last year, and though they have some better pieces, they couldn’t replace every spot. For the Bucs, it starts with McCoy, but to get the advantage, the pieces around him will have to be the ones to finish plays. Clinton McDonald likely getting the start for Chris Baker (illness) will be big, and I have a lot of faith in McDonald to be a difference maker. On the other side, the Bucs offensive tackles will have a tough task against edge rushers Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter. Both are two of the better edge players in the NFL, and Bucs fans know their tackles have had their inconsistencies. This could either be their coming out party for a great year ahead, or much of the same we’ve seen from them in years past – Demar Dotson and Donovan Smith were two of the top three most penalized players in 2016.
Wrapping things up, yes, the Buccaneers have to contain Dalvin Cook, but I think they will. The Buccaneers will also have a chance to really get the tight ends involved, but I honestly think the player who will make the biggest difference in the game will be DeSean Jackson in that Trae Waynes matchup. Jameis Winston went to Jackson four times on passes beyond 20 yards last week, including three that went into the end zone. I think at least one of those hits on Sunday, and will be the first passing touchdown of more than 50 yards for the Buccaneers since December 27, 2015.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 24-17
Sikkema’s Pick-to-click: WR DeSean Jackson
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
Vikings played a Top 5 team; who did we play? Vikings/Bucs are evenly matched. Vikings have hometown advantage ; unfortunately, we lose. I hope I’m wrong. Go Bucs!
I agree Horse and hope you are wrong.
For me, nothing else matters than how Winston plays. This is the type of game where QB ought to be the difference maker. If he takes the step forward that everyone is predicting, we win. If he plays like he did the last 5 games last year, we lose, simple as that.
Nothing else matters, huh? Not how the OL blocks? Not how the DL has to get pressure and stop the run? Not how the secondary plays? Not how the running backs and wide receivers do their jobs? Not how Dirk calls the game? It’s only on the QB? How absurd. You just live for taking shots at Winston.
No- I just know that these are the kind of games franchise QB’s find a way to win these. Think Aaron Rogers with no a depleted O-line and no Jordy Nelson last year at Dallas. If Winston wants to be elite he has to find a way to beat Case Keanum.
Wrong. It’s about our defense finding a way to beat Case Keenum & the Vikings offense. Jameis has to worry about the Vikings defense. It’s not all about Jameis. Teams win games.
Bucnut 2 always tries to find a way to take a jab at Jameis Winston without ever offering any credit when it’s due. For ones’ opinions to have credibility they need to be unbiased, offering both good and bad perspectives.
If the Bucs don’t turn the ball over they WIN!
I am hoping to see OJ Howard have a good game. Payton Barber could also help a lot in the running game.
yep the question is will Winston be a TO machine or will he manage this game well. It all comes down to him
QBs don’t beat other QBs last I checked was a team sport. The whole team better play well if they want to beat his good team on the road. Bradford or not it’s a good team.
These are two pretty even teams except at the QB position. They have a career journeymen and we have someone who is supposedly trending to elite. The NFL is a QB driven league. This game comes down to Winston. It’s that simple.
Let me try to finish. The loss of Kwon will be felt as to how much we will have to see. GO BUCS!
I’m not worried about our offense, I’m worried about our defense. We have injuries at some of our starting positions and this is what concerns me. This Viking team is much better than last year and the year before. We can beat them then I feel comfortable we could win more than 9 games. Go Bucs!
I’m worried more about the office. Griffen has totally owned Smith and I think we will struggle to protect a turnover prone Winston. I hope he doesn’t give the game away.
The Vikings defense is very stout at home. Their defense will expose our weaknesses at LT, LG and RB. Will Winston have time to throw? Will Stocker and OJ Howard stay in to block and keep Jameis clean? On the other side of the ball the Bucs should have an advantage. Minnesota has a vastly improved OL from last year and a premium RB. With Alexander out I expect Beckwith and Glanton to both step up and make plays. Our run defense is the key to this matchup. If we allow 5 ypc as Pittsburg did last week we will lose. If we shut Cook and McKinnon down we will win
This is unquestionably a tougher matchup than the Bears last week. That said though, it is definitely a winnable one. For all the talk about Keenum being 2-0 against us, we need to remember that we didn’t have this defense on the field back then. Our defense has played lights out since the bye last year and I expect that to continue.
Losing Kwon is definitely gonna hurt us but I believe Beckwith played well last week in his stead and will continue to do so. Glanton has also shown promise enough to make up for the loss. The key will be shutting down Cook and I believe we will be able to do that. Ward showed why he was such a valuable FA addition last week and will show his run support skills this week. Our secondary is good enough to cause problems for Theilen and Diggs as long as we shut down Cook. With Bradford under center it would be a lot tougher, but lucky for us he won’t be suiting up.
On the offensive side, it’ll come down to our Line play, especially our Ts. We need to push the run even if it isn’t immediately fruitful and keep those pass rushing DEs honest. The one on one matchup of Evans/Rhodes will be fun to watch. I don’t believe there is a DB in the game that can shut Evans down 1 on 1 for an entire game (ask Sherman lol.) I’m liking the matchup for DJax, and hopefully we see the timing between he and Winston improve from last week. After 3 weeks not playing I think that was expected and will get better. Koetter will probably leave Howard and Stocker in pass protection if our line begins to struggle, so I believe we have the tools to deal with the pass rush and give our WR time to get open.
This will be one of those games that tests our patience for sure, and will give an accurate view of how far this team has come in recent years. I look forward to the challenge and truly believe we will be up to it.
I don’t think any opponent will fear our running game until we have a player at the position who is more than “just a guy”. The game plan for the Vikings defenders will be to ignore the run. Since covering all of the passing targets will prove to be a difficult task, the only option is to pressure young Jameis in an attempt to force mistakes. But, one of the things # 3 does best is make plays when out of the pocket. I’m looking for a big day from Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
Vikings offense will just try to get through this game relying on Dalvin Cook with Keenum operating as a game manager. Our defense faced that same situation last week against the Bears and fared quite well against their RB tandem.
Look for more of the same.
Look like no Chris Baker. Not sure how much he contributes anyways after just one game against the crappy Bears. Time will tell if he was worth the signing I guess. Hope Grimes can go he’s doubtful.
No Baker,Kwon,Grimes, this just got tougher. Still they are playing Keenum. We just have to get pressure. I think McCoy is dinged up too. This is one of those games we need him to really dig deep and just takeover.
I’m not worried about Jameis “losing the game” either Bucnut. I think he will play much smarter in his third year and take what the defines gives him.
I am worried most about Donovan Smith getting Jameis hurt if they don’t help him a lot today with Howard or something. Smith is terrible especially against speed rushers.
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