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Early Look: Vikings & Buccaneers Set for Pivotal NFC Matchup

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have reached the final quarter of the 2020 season.

Minnesota has clawed its way to a 6-6 record, even if it hasn't always been pretty over the past few weeks. If the season ended today, the Vikings would be the No. 7 seed in the NFC.

The Vikings opponent on Sunday — the 7-5 Buccaneers — are also in the NFC playoff picture.

Tampa Bay, which had its bye in Week 13, is currently the sixth seed at the conference's second Wild Card spot.

In other words, there is plenty at stake in Week 14.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Buccaneers.

Here's an Early Look at the Vikings Week 14 matchup against the Buccaneers, presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings.

Passing: Kirk Cousins helped the Vikings get a win Sunday, as he completed 28 of 43 passes for 305 yards with three scores and an interception. He had a passer rating of 99.5, just missing out on his sixth straight game above 100.

Cousins' interception was returned for a touchdown, marking the second straight week an opponent has scored off a turnover by the quarterback.

Cousins recorded his third straight game (and fourth of the season) with 300-plus passing yards and three scores.

He has now completed 246 of 363 passes (67.8 percent) for 3,073 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 103.9.

The Buccaneers will counter with Tom Brady, who is in his first season with Tampa Bay after 20 seasons with New England.

Brady has completed 307 of 474 passes (64.8 percent) for 3,300 yards with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 95.1.

The future Hall of Famer ranks first in NFL history with 569 touchdown passes, and his second all-time with 77,871 passing yards.

Rushing: Dalvin Cook handled quite the workload Sunday, as he had a career-high 32 carries, and also set a single-game high with 38 total touches.

Cook rushed for 120 yards on 32 attempts, recording his sixth 100-yard game of the season.

The running back carried eight straight times on the Vikings final possession in overtime. Alexander Mattison missed the Jaguars game after undergoing appendix surgery.

Cook ranks second in the NFL with 1,250 rushing yards and leads the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. Minnesota ranks sixth in the NFL at 145.7 rushing yards per game.

The Buccaneers are 27th at 96.3 rushing yards per game. Ronald Jones II leads Tampa Bay with 820 yards and five scores, while Leonard Fournette has 271 rushing yards. Fournette and Brady each have three rushing touchdowns in 2020.

Receiving: Justin Jefferson continued his impressive rookie season, as he has strengthened his case in the conversation for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Jefferson had nine receptions for 121 yards and a score. He set a Vikings rookie record with his fifth 100-yard game, and also became the second Vikings rookie (along with Randy Moss) to hit the 1,000-yard mark in his rookie season.

Adam Thielen returned in Week 13 and had eight receptions for 75 yards and a score, and C.J. Ham also added a 12-yard touchdown. Cook had six catches for 59 yards.

Jefferson leads the team in receptions (61) and yards (1,039), and his yardage total ranks fourth in the NFL. His seven touchdown catches rank second among rookies.

Thielen is tied for third the league with 12 touchdown catches, and is also tied for the fourth-most touchdown catches in a season in Vikings history. He has 57 catches for 721 yards.

Brady has a plethora of pass catchers available at his disposal with Tampa Bay.

Mike Evans has a team-best 11 touchdowns and 613 yards on 48 receptions. Chris Godwin has a team-high 49 catches and has tallied 562 yards and three scores.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (37 catches for 505 yards and four scores) and wide receiver Scotty Miller (27 catches for 414 yards and two scores) are also key players in the Buccaneers passing attack.

And Tampa Bay added former All-Pro Antonio Brown, who has 20 catches for 168 yards in four games.

Minnesota's offense ranks fourth in the NFL with 389.8 yards per game. Tampa Bay is 18th at 362.8, but the Buccaneers are 10th in passing yards per game at 266.4.

Defense: The Vikings defense had an up-and-down performance against the Jaguars.

Minnesota started slowly and also allowed a late game-tying drive, but the Vikings made plenty of big plays, too.

Cameron Dantzler recorded his first career interception and the first by a Vikings cornerback in 2020. Harrison Smith also snagged a pick in overtime.

Dantzler also forced and recovered a fumble, as did defensive end Jordan Brailford, who was playing in his first NFL game.

Ifeadi Odenigbo also came up big with a sack in the end zone for a safety.

A key storyline this week will be the health of All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks, who did not play Sunday after aggravating a calf injury in pregame warmups.

Odenigbo leads the Vikings with 3.5 sacks, while Smith took over the team lead with his fourth interception.

The Vikings allowed 390 yards to the Jaguars and now rank 24th in the league with 382.7 yards allowed per game.

Tampa Bay has allowed 329.9 yards per game, which ranks seventh this season.

Jason Pierre-Paul has 8.5 sacks, and is one of three Bucs defenders with at least 5.0 sacks in 2020. Shaquil Barrett has 6.0 and Devin White has 5.0.

Cornerback Carlton Davis leads the Buccaneers with four interceptions.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Special Teams: Minnesota's roller-coaster ride on special teams continued Sunday.

Rookie K.J. Osborn had three punt returns for 21 yards, including a career-best on an 8-yard return, but he also fumbled once (he recovered the ball). Minnesota also relied on punter Britton Colquitt and gunner Dan Chisena to flip the field in overtime.

But Dan Bailey had an off day by missing two extra points, as well as a 51-yard field goal. He did hit a 23-yarder to win the game in overtime, plus a 48-yarder.

Bailey is now 12-for-15 on field goals and has made 27 of 30 extra points in 2020.

Colquitt averaged 47.3 yards per punt on seven kicks. He's averaging 45.5 yards per punt this season with a net average of 36.0.

Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop is having a strong year. He's made 22 of 24 field goals in 2020, and is 36-for-38 on extra points.

Punter Bradley Pinion averages 45.3 yards per punt this season with a net average of 41.3.

Brown is listed as Tampa Bay's punt returner. He has one return for 2 yards this season. Tyler Johnson, who played at the University of Minnesota, is listed as Tampa Bay's kick returner, but he does not have a return in 2020.

The Buccaneers recently released Jaydon Mickens (15 punt returns for 99 yards, 12 kickoff returns for 289).

Trying to solve Brady

Although Brady is with a new team in 2020, he's looking to continue his perfect streak against the Vikings.

Brady is 5-0 all-time against the Vikings, with every game coming when he was with the Patriots. That includes wins over Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer in 2014 and 2018.

In five career games against Minnesota, Brady has thrown for 1,311 yards with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

The Vikings are one of four teams that Brady has never lost to. He's also perfect against the Falcons (6-0 including Super Bowl LI), Cowboys (5-0) and Buccaneers (4-0).

Brady, obviously, has never played the Patriots. Tampa Bay and Atlanta meet in Weeks 15 and 17 this season.