The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t made the playoffs in 13 years.
To change that, they have to defeat the three teams that remain on their schedule: the Minnesota Vikings, the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions. Though all three teams have losing records, the feat won’t be easy. Weeks 15 and 16 are consecutive road matchups, and they face the Falcons twice– first in Atlanta and then later at home.
However, before they can worry about those games, they have to get through Minnesota this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Players to watch
Former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is having a stellar season. According to ESPN he’s rushed for 1,250 yards on 251 carries, and his 13 touchdowns rank first in the league. As if that isn’t enough, last week he recorded a career-high 38 touches in the Vikings’ game against the Jaguars.
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians knows how talented Cook is. He told media earlier this week that Cook is “arguably the best back in the league.”
On the other side of the ball, the Bucs will have to look out for safety Harrison Smith. He’s recorded 38 solo tackles, and his four picks on the season rank fourth in the NFL. In a press conference earlier this week, Bucs’ safety Antoine Winfield Jr. called Smith a “stud” and “a great player”:
Let’s start with the obvious.
Tom Brady has lit up the field since signing with the Bucs earlier this year with 3,300 passing yards and 28 touchdowns this season. His addition to the team allowed Tampa Bay to bring in other weapons, too– not long after Brady signed, tight end Rob Gronkowski joined him in the Sunshine State.
With six Super Bowl rings, Brady is no stranger to the playoffs. As he attempts to reach another postseason, he’s focused on being at his best.
With a front seven that consists of four Pro Bowlers, the Bucs are stacked defensively. Add that the unit only allows 3.3 yards per run– a league low– and Kirk Cousins and the rest of the Minnesota offense will have their hands full on Sunday.
Like many games this weekend, Sunday’s matchup is a vital piece to the overall playoff picture.
Currently, the Bucs are the sixth seed in the NFC South. Minnesota is the seventh. Should both teams finish with identical records, the winner of this game will have the tiebreaker for a wildcard spot.
The game will be shown on Fox, with kickoff scheduled for 1 PM.