Vikings vs Buccaneers Storylines, Keys to Victory and What to Know in Week 1
Vikings vs Buccaneers Preview: The Minnesota Vikings will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday wearing 1969 throwback uniforms and there’s quite a bit on the line, given it’s only a week one matchup. Kirk Cousins enters his second season with Kevin O’Connell calling plays in his ear and the offense returns all sorts of weapons, including the newly extended TJ Hockenson and the yet to be extended, Justin Jefferson.
On the other side of the field, the Bucs enter the 2023 season as a shell of what they were in 2021 and 2022 with Tom Brady at the helm. Replacing Brady is former #1 pick Baker Mayfield, who was the best of what was in the offseason bargain bin. The defense should still be decent. If Mike Evans can look past his contract frustrations, they have some weapons on offense, too.
Where/When is Vikings vs Buccaneers?
- Date/Time: Sunday, September 10 – 12:00 PM CT
- City: Minneapolis, MN
- Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium
- Field Surface: ActGlobal Speed S5 (Field Turf)
- Capacity: 67,202
How to watch Vikings vs Buccaneers:
- TV: CBS (WCCO)
- Stream: Paramount+ (NFL Sunday Ticket if out of market)
- Play-by-Play: Andrew Catalon
- Analysts: Tiki Barber and Matt Ryan
- Sideline: AJ Ross
How to listen to Vikings vs Buccaneers:
- Radio: KFAN (100.3-FM), KTLK 1130-AM, Vikings Radio Network
- Stream: KFAN Channel – iHeartRadio App
- Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
- Analyst: Pete Bercich
- Sideline: Ben Leber
Vikings vs Buccaneers Quick Facts:
- The Vikings are 2-2 in opening season games vs the Buccaneers, losing in 1981 and 2005, winning in 1998 and 1982.
- The Vikings are 6-1 in home openers at US Bank Stadium.
- Kirk Cousins’ start on Sunday will be his 6th opening season start in a row for QB of the Vikings, tying Daunte Culpepper for 3rd most in franchise history.
3 Vikings Storylines to Watch:
1: Year 2 of O’Connell/Cousins Era Begins: There’s been a lot made of this being Kirk Cousins’ 2nd season in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a noticeable difference in Kirk’s demeanor and comfortability with what KOC is trying to do. Additionally, I’ll be watching for increased complexity within the offense. Will we see more pre-snap movement or a bunch of different formations?
2: Alexander Mattison takes over RB1 Duties: How much work will Alexander Mattison get this season? Yes, he is the undisputed RB1 but that’s in an offense that ran the ball less than any other team in the NFL last season. Sure, O’Connell says he wants to run more this season but that’s easier said than done, especially when you have less top-end talent and overall depth in the RB room. And we still do not know what percentage of the carries Mattison will get, vs what Cook got last year.
3: Can Brian Flores fix this defense and how quickly?: Brian Flores makes his debut as Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator on Sunday. He takes over one of the worst defenses in the league last year but he doesn’t have a lot of time to turn things around, if he wants to find himself back into the NFL head coaching carousel next offseason. Beyond the results, I’m intrigued to see how Flores’ defense looks. We know the pre-snap movement is going to be constant and we know they’ll bring pressure in a lot of different ways but it’ll be exciting to see it come to fruition in a game.
3 Keys to Vikings victory over Buccaneers:
1: Don’t turn the ball over: The Minnesota Vikings should win this game. They have a better team. But that only matters if they play clean and do not turn the ball over. If the offensive line can’t hold up vs the Bucs pass rush and that forces Kirk Cousins into throwing interceptions or the interior line can’t open holes for Alexander Mattison (see below) and that leads to fumbling issues, the better team could find themselves in big trouble. Week 1 can be a crap shoot so it’s hard to know what we’ll see.
2: Put pressure on Baker Mayfield: Tampa Bay returns just two starters from their 2022 offensive line (LT-Tristan Wirfs, C-Ryan Hainsey) and one of those starters (Wirfs) has swapped from the right to left side. Sports Illustrated named the Bucs OL as their biggest weakness, entering the 2023 season.
If the Vikings defense is going to have success on Sunday, Brian Flores will have to find ways to get after Baker Mayfield and the rest of the QBs they play against this season. A healthy Danielle Hunter will help. Marcus Davenport is expected to bring pressure from the other OLB spot but he surprisingly landed on the Vikings injury report on Friday as “questionable”.
3: Inside OL must hold up: Nobody is worried about the Vikings right or left tackles. (RT) Brian O’Neill and (LT) Christian Darrisaw make up two of the best bookend combos in all of football, entering the 2023 season. The same cannot be said for the interior OL, however.
If you watched the Netflix series, “Quarterback”, which featured Kirk Cousins and his journey through the 2022 season, you saw the beating Cousins took last season, thanks to the Vikings’ interior issues. Instead of finding help via the draft or free agency, Minnesota is returning all three of their young starters from last season — (LG) Ezra Cleveland – 25 y/o, (C) Garrett Bradbury – 28 y/o and (RG) Ed Ingram – 24 y/o –, banking on experience and cohesion improving their play.
Tampa Bay’s biggest strength is defensive talent and one of their premier players on that side of the ball is (NT) Vita Vea. If he is able to disrupt the new Vikings run game, behind first-year starter Alexander Mattison, and apply interior pressure throughout the game on Kirk Cousins, playmakers in the secondary like Antoine Winfield Jr and Shaq Barrett will make them pay.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan