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The Skinny Post: Vikings, Keenum Ready for Tampa Bay

The Vikings will return to the friendly confines of U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday when they play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon (CT).

Minnesota is 1-1 and will start quarterback Case Keenum for the second straight week. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is out with a knee injury.

The Buccaneers are 1-0 after their Week 1 game was rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma. Tampa Bay scored a 29-7 win over the Bears in Week 2.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Keenum's Vikings debut at home | By@pcraigers

Keenum's first start in Purple also was his first game against a Steelers defense that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer described as "pretty exotic." He was debuting on the road and with an offensive line that was playing its second game together as a unit against Pittsburgh's 3-4 front that racked up 7.0 sacks in Week 1.

Keenum was sacked two times in Week 2 and "under duress" other times, Zimmer said after the game.

This is no means a slight against Tampa Bay's defense, but the alignment of Buccaneers 4-3 scheme should be more familiar to the Vikings front that has practiced against Minnesota's 4-3 front all offseason.

That, combined with being at home and not having to deal with crowd noise, are all things that could help Minnesota's offense realize more success this week.

Keenum spread the ball around last week, connecting with Adam Thielen five times, Kyle Rudolph four times and Laquon Treadwell three times. Unfortunately, a catch of 23 yards by Stefon Diggs was negated by an offensive pass interference call, and pressure caused a throw to be off the mark when Diggs was open early in the game. 

The Vikings also fell behind the chains multiple times and were unable to overcome adverse down-and-distances. It is important to avoid those situations.

A highlight play and reducing penalties could help | By@EricLSmith

The last time Minnesota and Tampa Bay met in the regular season, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr scored the game-winning touchdown on a 27-yard fumble return that gave Minnesota a 19-13 win back in 2014.

Two games into the 2017 season, the Vikings defense is still looking to create its first turnover. That might come against Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who has thrown 33 career interceptions in 33 career games.

But perhaps more importantly, the Vikings are focused on playing mistake-free football and eliminating penalties on defense.

Minnesota's defense was flagged four times for 81 combined yards Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"It's two games … takeaways are going to come," said Vikings defensive tackle Everson Griffen. "First and foremost, if we eliminate the penalties, most likely it's a closer game.

"But takeaways are going to come when they come. I think [not having] penalties will help us win more games than takeaways," Griffen added. "If we play on a high level and take away the penalties, then we're going to be a better team. Takeaways, they're going to come eventually."

Cook looking for 1st NFL touchdown | By@LindseyMNSports

Dalvin Cook's 46 touchdowns at Florida State make him the Seminoles all-time leader, but he has yet to notch a score in pros.

Against the Steelers last week, Cook got so close to the end zone he could taste it. He was originally ruled over the goal line for a score, but the call was reversed, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run for C.J. Ham on the following play. Cook said after the game that he was glad Ham notched his first career touchdown. The rookie, however, will continue his search for the end zone on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

After the first two games, Cook ranked third in the league with 191 rushing yards. He knows that Tampa Bay will game plan for him but said that doesn't deter him — or the Vikings plan — on offense.

"The way we're going to approach things is that we're going to be aggressive," Cook told Twin Cities media members on Thursday. "If the scouting report is [to limit me], we're still going to be aggressive in the play calling. We're still going to establish ourselves by running the football and doing what we do."

Substantial Stats

— Griffen is tied for third in the NFL with 3.0 sacks this season. Griffen has 51career sacks and made his 50th career start last week.

— The Vikings defense hasn't allowed a run of more than 11 yards so far this season. Tampa Bay's longest run allowed in its opener against the Bears was nine yards.

— The Vikings and Buccaneers played together in the former NFC Central for 25 seasons (1977-2001). Minnesota went 31-17 against Tampa Bay in that span.

— Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels became the Vikings all-time punt return leader last week as he now has 1,822 career punt return yards. Sherels also tops the list with five punt returns for touchdowns.

Quotable

"I prepare every week like I'm going to play. So if I'm not actually getting the rep, I'm behind, working the same footwork, the same reads, doing the same thing. Just maybe not actually handing it off or throwing it, but getting those same types of reps that I would be getting." — Vikings quarterback Case Keenum on his approach before Bradford was ruled out.

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