This Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) will hit the road for the first time in 2017 to take on the Minnesota Vikings (1-1). The Vikings could again potentially be without the services of starting quarterback Sam Bradford. Despite the uncertainty at quarterback, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter says the Vikings are a solid team with a roster full of playmakers and they don’t beat themselves.
The last time the Buccaneers saw Vikings’ backup quarterback Case Keenum, he was wearing a Los Angeles Rams jersey. Last season, Keenum led the Rams to a 37-32 victory over Tampa Bay and surprisingly, the veteran has better stats against the Buccaneers than Bradford. Both quarterbacks have faced the Tampa Bay defense twice in their career.
Keenum vs. Tampa Bay: 424 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception with a 65% completion rate.
Bradford vs. Tampa Bay: 322 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception with a 49% completion rate.
Koetter says Keenum shouldn’t be referred to as a backup and added that Keenum seems to have Tampa Bay’s number. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer says Keenum is smart and brings energy into the huddle when he’s in the game.
The Buccaneers look to be up to the challenge of facing Keenum or Bradford if they maintain the level of play they displayed in their season opener against the Chicago Bears. The defense nearly shutout the Bears and didn’t surrender any points until the Bears scored a late touchdown with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Koetter says the unit has improved by not giving up explosive plays and forcing turnovers. Tampa Bay finished tied for 13th in turnover differential in 2016 with a +2 margin. They surrendered the 10th most yards in the league last year, giving up 367.9 yards per game. They gave up only 310 yards against the Bears.
Of those 310 yards, Chicago managed to pick up only 20 via rushing. A big key to that success is the play of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. He’s currently nursing an ankle injury and didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday. Fellow defensive lineman Chris Baker missed practice due to illness and linebacker Kwon Alexander did not participate due to a hamstring issue.
We're hungry. pic.twitter.com/UWuRlDpxFv
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) September 21, 2017
Keys to Success
The Vikings’ defense is one of the best in the league. In 2016, the unit finished tied for third in total defense, surrendering just 314.9 yards per game. They began this season facing two high-powered offenses: the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers. In those two games, they allowed an average of 339.5 yards per game. If Minnesota wants to pick up their second win of the season on Sunday, they need to keep Jameis Winston and his offensive weapons in check.
One of Winston’s offensive weapons, free agent addition DeSean Jackson, will be looking to get into a better rhythm with his quarterback. He caught just three of his seven targets against the Bears, totaling 39 yards.
Tampa Bay needs Jackson, Mike Evans and the rest of their offensive playmakers to step up their game in the absence of running back Doug Martin, who will serve the second game of his three-game suspension this week. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers carried the majority of the load in the Tampa Bay backfield last week. He finished with 67 yards on 19 carries.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) September 20, 2017