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NFL Expert Picks: Vikings Favored Vs. Bucs; Close Game Expected in Week 1

The Vikings will begin their 63rd season as a franchise on Sunday with a “Classic” look. Minnesota will also open its 2023 campaign against an old-school opponent.

Minnesota will face Tampa Bay at noon (CT) at U.S. Bank Stadium, with CBS broadcasting the game. The Buccaneers joined the Vikings in the NFC Central from 1977 through 2001 before the NFC and AFC moved to their current four-division format in 2002.

The contest will mark the eighth season opener at the stadium for the Vikings (who hold a 6-1 record) and the fifth meeting between Minnesota and Tampa Bay to begin a season. Both teams have split the Week 1 matchups; Tampa Bay won in 1981 and 2005. The Vikings victories were accompanied by significant milestones (the first-regular season game at the Metrodome in 1982 and Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss' first game in 1998).

The Vikings and Buccaneers have met 56 times, with Minnesota currently holding a 33-23 advantage in the all-time series. The Vikings have won two of the past three matchups (19-13 in overtime in 2014 and 34-17 in 2017), but the Bucs claimed the latest contest 26-14 in 2020.

Let's see who the experts are picking to win the game:

Vikings 23, Buccaneers 21 – Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

The Bucs will be starting Baker Mayfield at quarterback against a new-look Vikings defense led by Brian Flores. That unit is aggressive, which will challenge the Bucs offensive line. The Vikings offense will again be led by the passing game, but Tampa Bay will be better on defense this season. That will keep this one close.

Vikings 24, Buccaneers 21 – Staff, Bleacher Report

In 2022, the Minnesota Vikings rewarded fans who sat at the edge of their seats through close games with an 11-0 record in one-score games through the regular season.

While analysts believe the Vikings won't have the same success in tight contests, the offense can still score points in bunches, which explains the six-point spread.

At times, quarterback Kirk Cousins' rapport with 2022 Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson seems unstoppable. Though the Vikings cut four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, replacement Alexander Mattison averages just as many yards per touch (6.3) as a three-down playmaker out of the backfield.

With all that said, our experts went heavy on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to cover a touchdown line because they've fielded a top-nine defense in points or yards allowed in each of the last three years. Furthermore, Minnesota has question marks on defense after the unit gave up the fifth-most points last year.

Vikings 21, Buccaneers 20 – Bill Bender, Sporting News

The Buccaneers enter a new chapter with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, which adds to the unpredictability of a road opener against the Vikings. The Bucs show a little more fight than expected, but Minnesota – much like last season – finds a way in a one-score game.

Vikings 24, Buccaneers 20 – Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

Baker Mayfield looks like he will hold on to the starting QB job by default over Kyle Trask. He has enough help from his offensive line, receivers and running game to keep his team in it vs. a descending Vikings defense. Todd Bowles will keep Kirk Cousins and Kevin O'Connell's pass-happy team in check for a while, but Mayfield will end being the less efficient QB in the end.

6 of 7 experts pick the Vikings, The MMQB

6 of 6 experts (three of nine total had not submitted) pick the Vikings, ESPN

"Straight-up consensus" from seven experts: Vikings, Bleacher Report

12 of 12 experts pick the Vikings, The Athletic