Buccaneers game day is approaching, and it’s time for the PewterReport.com staff to offer up its weekly game predictions. Let us know what you think in the article comments section and add your prediction, too.
WHEN: December 13, 2020 KICKOFF: 1:00 p.m. ET WHERE: Raymond James Stadium TV: FOX PLAY-BY-PLAY: Joe Buck ANALYSTS: Troy Aikman SIDELINE: Erin Andrews RADIO: 98 ROCK 97.9 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff ANALYST: Dave Moore SIDLINE: T.J. Rives SPANISH RADIO: 96.1 FM PLAY-BY-PLAY: Carlos Bohorquez ANALYST: Martin Gramatica
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Scott Reynolds: Bucs End Their Home Losing Skid With A Win Over The Vikings
Tampa Bay comes off a bye week looking to end a three-game losing streak with back-to-back losses at home to Los Angeles and Kansas City. The Bucs should be refreshed mentally and physically from the time off and ready to go 3-1 (or perhaps 4-0) down the stretch instead of 1-3 as they did in the month of November. Minnesota is now 6-6 after winning five of its last six games – many in comeback fashion thanks to Kirk Cousins’ fourth quarter heroics. The key to beating the Vikings is to win the first quarter and avoid slow the slow starts that plagued this team over the last month, and then finish strong in the fourth quarter, which hasn’t been a problem for the Bucs.
Living up to the billing as the No. 1-ranked rushing defense will be important with Dalvin Cook coming to town. Cousins operates the offense far better when he can use play-action bootlegs with the Vikings’ ground game clicking. Stopping the run and making Minnesota one-dimensional is key for Tampa Bay in this game defensively. The Bucs safeties need to make plays and help out the cornerbacks better than they did against the Rams and the Chiefs.
It is really hard to predict which Vikings team will show up on Sunday. On one hand you have a team that is stringing together win after win, after a dismal start, but then throws a loss to the Cowboys in there while also almost losing to the Mike Glennon-led Jaguars last week.
Of course, you could almost say the same thing about the Buccaneers. Big wins over the Raiders and Packers, but an inexplicable loss to the lowly Bears. And the Bucs are coming off a two-game slide and losers of three of their last four. The losing streak ends this week however as the better teams walks off the field with a win and an 8-5 record. The Bucs should have little problem moving the ball offensively and protecting quarterback Tom Brady as the Vikings jut can’t generate much pass rush. Defensively we will see if the Buccaneers were able to get things corrected on that side of the ball over the bye week. Regardless, the game will likely be close, but Tampa By will do what they haven’t been able to do as of late and that is win the fourth quarter.
The Vikings are hungry and nipping at the Bucs’ heels for a wild card spot but come into this game with a handful of key contributors banged up. The Vikings being without their best linebacker in Eric Kendricks isn’t ideal and I expect the Bucs to get Ronald Jones II going early and often and wear down the Vikings by the fourth quarter. Minnesota will try and do the same thing with their stud in Dalvin Cook but even if Cook manages to play well, the Bucs defense will make sure he wakes up feeling sore on Monday morning. The biggest factor will be slowing down Cousins who has been hot in comeback wins the last two weeks, particularly in the fourth quarter. The team who wins the sack battle wins the game and the Bucs should be better than Minnesota after coming off a week of rest.
Jon Ledyard: Bucs Rolling Towards The Playoffs With Win Over Vikings
After two disappointing, close losses, I’ve reached the same conclusion for the Bucs’ Week 14 game against the Minnesota Vikings that I did back in Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers – you can’t pick Tampa Bay to lose this game if you still believe they are a playoff-caliber team. And I do.
Look, the Bucs aren’t perfect, and they may not be perfect until next season. The Vikings are playing much better after a 1-5 start, and their offense will test a Bucs defense that has really struggled against opposing passing attacks since shutting down Aaron Rodgers back in Week 6. Even if the Bucs stop the Vikings’ vaunted run game, which features Dalvin Cook, there is still the difficult matter of handling outstanding wide receiver Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, as well as the upward-trending play of quarterback Kirk Cousins.
On the other side of the ball, the time for excuses is simply over for the Bucs offense. They match up very well with a Minnesota team that offers rookies at cornerbacks, very little pass rush and a second level without Eric Kendricks. Mike Zimmer is a good defensive coordinator, but he’s operating with much less talent than he’s had in year’s past, and the Bucs should be coming out of the bye ready to roll on offense in Week 14. I think it’s a big week for Brady and Ronald Jones II, which carries the team to a crucial victory.
Matt Matera: Highly Energized Bucs Take Closer Step Towards Postseason
It’s time to put up or shut up for the Bucs. After a week off to replenish the body and refresh the mind, the Bucs need to be ready from the jump. It’s December now and you want to be hot going into the playoffs. If they don’t start now, it might be too late. You can live with losing to Patrick Mahomes, you can even live with losing to a Sean McVay – designed offense. But Kirk Cousins and the Vikings? With so much on the line, taking a third straight loss here is a huge disappointment.
You can look up all the stats you want in the world, but on Sunday it comes down to attitude and heart for the Bucs. Is this the season right here? Not necessarily, but why stress over the following three games if you can take care of business now? It’ll start with shutting down Dalvin Cook in a battle of the league’s best rushing offense vs. the best rushing defense. The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object. I give the advantage to the Bucs here, which allows Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul to tee off.
Surely the offense will be analyzed and dissected in a million different ways. Every call by Byron Leftwich will be looked at under microscope, but at the end of the day the offense can’t get into numerous three-and-outs and make every drive so painstakingly difficult. Don’t forget to feed Ronald Jones II and take it from there. They obviously need to call more play action plays, but overall I just want to see the offense simplified. Go back to what has worked and don’t veer off the course as soon as something doesn’t work as they planned.. Hopefully they figured that out during the Bye week.
This Sunday the Vikings and Bucs meet in a massive match-up with huge playoff implications, leaving them both potentially on the outside looking in with a loss as both teams sit at 7-5. While the Vikings had a terrible start to the year, they’ve surged coming out of their bye week winning five of six games while the Bucs are coming off of two consecutive losses, dropping three of their last four in total.
Defensively the Bucs will look into the backfield first and foremost, as they typically do, and make it a necessity to limit one of the most talented and explosive backs in the league in Dalvin Cook. Every time I think the Bucs’ will struggle in the run game, despite their top-ranked run defense, they step up to the challenge and I don’t think this weekend will be different. I don’t expect Tampa Bay to completely limit Cook, but I expect them to keep him well below his typical game-changing performances, especially with the Vikings potentially missing two of their top tight ends in Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. After that it will be imperative for the Bucs to get pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins in an attempt to limit his ability to take over the game with extremely talented receivers in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. The Bucs’ secondary has struggled of late and pressure will be the key to helping the unit overcome those struggles.
Offensively I fully expect the Bucs to match up well against the Vikings and put points on the board, even more so with middle linebacker Eric Kendricks being forced to miss the contest with a calf injury that also held him out of the Vikings’ game last week. The Vikings have struggled getting to the quarterback this season, in the league’s bottom third in sacks per game and among the lowest team pass rush grades per PFF. Where they shine is their talented safety duo, so Tampa Bay will have to utilize their favorable match-ups against young cornerbacks in Jeff Gladney and Cam Dantzler while limiting the chance for Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris to make plays out of the safety spots deep. All-in-all I think the Bucs match-up well on both sides of the ball, specifically with their wide out and defensive line, and will come away with a win on Sunday.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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