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2023 Game Preview: Buccaneers-Vikings, Week 1

The Buccaneers and Vikings seek to prove doubters wrong as they open their 2023 seasons together at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Sunday…Series history, notable additions, injury updates and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin their quest for a third straight NFC South title on Sunday, September 10 with a road game against the Minnesota Vikings. It is a matchup between two defending division champs, as the Vikings secured the NFC North with a 13-4 record in 2022. Both teams, however, made a quick exit from the playoffs with a loss to a Wild Card team from the NFC East, with the Bucs falling to the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota losing to the New York Giants. As such, both teams begin the 2023 campaign with a sense of unfinished business.

The Buccaneers also are making something of a fresh start, having brought in a new offensive coaching staff and overall scheme, directed by coordinator Dave Canales, as well as a new starting quarterback in the wake of Tom Brady's retirement. Having won a very tight preseason competition with Kyle Trask for that assignment, Baker Mayfield will be making his Buccaneer debut on Sunday. Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns, is looking to kick his career back into high gear after a 2022 season split between the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams.

Opposing that new-look Bucs offense will be a Minnesota defense that is also under new leadership. After finishing 31st in total defense last year, the Vikings replaced coordinator Ed Donatell with former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, who typically takes a very aggressive approach to defensive play-calling, including a heavy dose of blitzes. The Vikings also were active on that side of the ball in free agency, adding edge rusher Marcus Davenport, down lineman Dean Lowry and cornerback Byron Murphy.

Tampa Bay's defense still contains much of the proven talent that helped the team make three straight playoff appearances and blast its way to the Super Bowl LV title in 2020. That includes Pro Bowlers on all three levels: defensive lineman Vita Vea, outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White and safety Antoine Winfield. The Buccaneers also managed to retain standout corners Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean over the last two offseasons despite the threat of free agency. The Bucs finished ninth in the NFL in total defense last year and have designs on an even higher ranking in 2023. They also hope that the addition of explosive first-round defensive lineman Calijah Kancey will jump start their entire pass-rush, though Kancey missed much of training camp with a calf injury and is something of a question mark for Sunday's opener.

That defense will get an early test from a Kirk Cousins-led Vikings offense that ranked eighth in the league in points scored a year ago and was very prolific through the air, averaging 263.8 yards per game. Cousins gets a tremendous amount of help from fourth-year wide receiver Justin Jefferson, whose 4,825 receiving yards are the most in NFL history for a player in his first three seasons. Jefferson's former running mate, Adam Thielen, is now in Carolina but the Vikings moved quickly to replace him with an other talented option, using a first-round draft pick on USC's Jordan Addison. The Minnesota passing attack also got a boost midway through last season with the trade for former Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson had 60 catches and 519 yards in just 10 games with the Vikings. There's also a new lead back in the backfield, as the team cut ties with long-time standout Dalvin Cook and gave the starting job to Alexander Mattison.

The oddsmakers have the Buccaneers as heavy underdogs in their road opener, and national power ranking polls suggest there are low expectations for the 2023 Bucs as they move on from the Brady era. Meanwhile, the Vikings generated doubts about their ability to sustain last season's winning percentage given that they finished the season with a negative points differential and were an incredible 11-0 in one-score games. As such, Sunday's game pits two teams that are determined to prove their doubters wrong and are seeking a big boost in those efforts with a Week One victory.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-0)

Sunday, September 10, 1:00 p.m. ET

U.S. Bank Stadium (capacity: 67,202)

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Television: CBS (Local WTSP Channel 10)

TV Broadcast Team: Andrew Catalon (play-by-play), Tiki Barber and Matt Ryan (analysts), A.J. Ross (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played the Minnesota Vikings 55 times overly nearly 50 years, but the Buccaneers have definitely enjoyed the last quarter century of the rivalry a lot more than the first two decades.

Overall, Minnesota owns a 33-23 edge in the head-to-head series with Tampa Bay, but the momentum may have swung when Tony Dungy left the Vikings to take over the Bucs' head coaching job in 1996. Dungy's first victory at the helm was memorably over the Vikings, and beginning with that contest Tampa Bay has won 12 of the last 20 meetings between the two teams. That included a six-game winning streak from 2001– the year before Tampa Bay left Minnesota and the old NFC Central behind to join the new NFC South – to 2012. The Vikings briefly reasserted control with wins in 2014 and 2017 but the Buccaneers won the most recent meeting, a 26-14 decision in Tampa. Tom Brady gave the Buccaneers an early lead with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller, then extended it with a scoring strike to Rob Gronkowski, while Tampa Bay's defense sacked Kirk Cousins six times, twice by Shaquil Barrett. That outcome began an eight-game winning streak for the Buccaneers that extended through Super Bowl LV.

Since the 2002 realignment that put the Buccaneers in a new division, Tampa Bay and Minnesota have essentially only met every three years as part of the usual rotating divisional matchups, which means they have almost never finished in the same spots in their respective divisions in the same year. The Bucs and Vikings did both win their respective divisions last year, but the NFC North and South were already scheduled to play each other in 2023. The exception was an extra game in 2012 that the Buccaneers won, 36-17, powered by rookie running back Doug Martin's first 100-yard game and three Josh Freeman touchdown passes.

Minnesota's most recent win in the series came in 2017 as Case Keenum threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Stefon Diggs. Dalvin Cook, then a rookie playing in just his second game, ran for 97 yards and a score as the Vikings pulled away for a 34-17 victory. The Buccaneers' aforementioned six-game winning streak included a number of high-scoring affairs, including decisions by scores of 41-14, 38-24 and 36-17.

The Buccaneers have played the Vikings even in Tampa, with each team winning 14 times. The Vikings had taken a one-game lead in that category in 2014 with a 19-13 decision in Tampa in 2014, an overtime game that lasted all of one play in the extra period. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled after a 10-yard catch and Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr returned it 27 yards for the game-winning score. In an odd note, however, the Bucs have more overtime wins over Minnesota than any other team in their history, owning a 3-2 mark in such games. All three of the Bucs' overtime wins over Minnesota occurred between 1990 and 1996.


· Buccaneers Assistant Coach Tom Moore, who is in his 41st season as an NFL coach, spent four of those years as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator of the Vikings from 1990-93 under Head Coaches Jerry Burns and Dennis Green for two seasons each.

· Vikings Wide Receivers Coach Keenan McCardell played the same position for 16 seasons in the NFL, including two (2002-03) with the Buccaneers. McCardell caught two touchdown passes in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl XXXVII victory over the Raiders and made the Pro Bowl following a 2003 season in which he caught 84 passes for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns.

· George Edwards, who is in his first season as the Buccaneers' outside linebackers coach, spent six years (2014-19) as the Vikings' defensive coordinator. During that span, the Vikings' defense ranked third in yards allowed, passing yards allowed and sacks. In 2017, the Vikings' defense ranked first in the NFL in both yards and points allowed, the team's first top-ranked defense since 1993.

· After a 14-year playing career in the NFL and a handful of years coaching high school football, Buccaneers Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Ross first broke into the NFL coaching ranks with the Vikings in 2003. He spent three seasons as Minnesota's secondary coach on Head Coach Mike Tice's staff.

· Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield, Jr., who played his college ball at the University of Minnesota, is the son of former NFL cornerback Antoine Winfield, Sr. The elder Winfield played 14 seasons in the NFL, the last nine of them with the Vikings.

· Minnesota long-snapper Andrew DePaola performed the same job for the Buccaneers in his first three NFL seasons, 2014-16.

· Brian Angelichio, the Vikings' tight ends coach and passing game coordinator, first transitioned from the college coaching ranks to the NFL with the Buccaneers in 2012, coaching tight ends for two seasons under Head Coach Greg Schiano.

· Buccaneers kicker Chase McLaughlin spent one week on Minnesota's practice squad in September of 2019.

View pictures from Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice on 9/7/2023.


Tampa Bay:

· Head Coach Todd Bowles

· Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

· Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales

· Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

· Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote

· Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong


· Head Coach Kevin O'Connell

· Assistant Head Coach Mike Pettine

· Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips

· Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores

· Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels



· LB SirVocea Dennis (fifth-round draft pick)

· OLB Yaya Diaby (third-round draft pick)

· TE Payne Durham (fifth-round draft pick)

· RB Chase Edmonds (FA)

· G Matt Feiler (FA)

· DL Greg Gaines (UFA)

· CB Josh Hayes (sixth-round draft pick)

· S Christian Izien (UDFA)

· WR Rakim Jarrett (UDFA)

· DL Calijah Kancey (first-round draft pick)

· G Cody Mauch (second-round draft pick)

· QB Baker Mayfield (UFA)

· K Chase McLaughlin (UFA)

· S Ryan Neal (FA)

· WR Trey Palmer (sixth-round draft pick)

· RB Sean Tucker (UDFA)


· WR Jordan Addison (first-round draft pick)

· CB Mekhi Blackmon (third-round draft pick)

· RB Myles Gaskin (FA)

· QB Jaren Hall (fifth-round draft pick)

· DL Dean Lowry (UFA)

· CB Byron Murphy (UFA)

· TE Josh Oliver (UFA)

· WR Brandon Powell (UFA)

· T David Quessenberry (FA)

· DL Jaquelin Roy (fifth-round draft pick)

· S Jay Ward (fourth-round draft pick)



· Todd Bowles enters his second season as the Bucs' head coach with a new offensive coordinator on his staff. Former Seahawks Quarterbacks Coach Dave Canales takes over for Byron Leftwich, who spent four seasons in that role, the first three under Head Coach Bruce Arians. Canales helped quarterback Geno Smith go from journeyman to the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2022 and has roots in the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay systems.

· The Buccaneers made a number of other changes to Bowles' staff after the 2022 season, bringing in George Edwards (a former Vikings defensive coordinator) to coach outside linebackers, Brad Idzik to tutor wide receivers, and Skip Peete to take over the running backs room. David Raih and Jordan Somerville also joined the team as senior offensive analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach, respectively. With the arrival of Edwards, defensive Pass Game Coordinator Larry Foote switched from the outside linebacker room to the inside linebacker group. Thaddeus Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant wide receivers coach, was promoted to quarterbacks coach.

· After winning a Super Bowl and two division titles over the past three years, the Buccaneers saw an era come to an end when quarterback Tom Brady announced his retirement in late January. To move on at the game's most critical position, the Buccaneers brought in former number-one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield to compete with 2021 second-round selection Kyle Trask. Former Ram John Wolford was also added for experienced depth in the quarterback room. Mayfield was named the opening-day starter by Bowles between the second and third preseason games in August.

· After largely "keeping the band together" for the 2021-22 seasons after their Super Bowl LV victory, the Buccaneers parted ways with a number of prominent players in 2023. Donovan Smith, who occupied the Bucs' starting left tackle spot for eight seasons, was released in March, as were tight end Cameron Brate, running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop. Safety Mike Edwards, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, safety Keanu Neal, defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tackle Josh Wells all found new homes in free agency while defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, wide receiver Julio Jones, outside linebacker Carl Nassib, tight end Kyle Rudolph and safety Logan Ryan were not re-signed.


· The Vikings retained much of the roster core that helped them win the NFC North with a 13-4 record last year – including Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith – but they did part ways this offseason with a handful of their most high-profile players from the last half-decade or so. That included both running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen, who rank third and fourth, respectively, on the franchise's all-time rushing and receiving charts. Thielen was released before the start of free agency and quickly found a new home in Carolina. The team waited longer on Cook, trying to find a reasonable trade offer, but eventually released him in June. He is now with Aaron Rodgers and the Jets. Linebacker Eric Kendricks was also let go in March after eight seasons in Minnesota; he quickly signed wit the Chargers. Edge rusher Za'Darius Smith, unlike those three long-time Vikings, was only with the team for one year but did rack up 10.0 sacks in 2022. He was traded to Cleveland in May.

· Like the Buccaneers, the Vikings made a prominent change at a coordinator position, replacing Ed Donatell with former Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores. Minnesota finished 31st in yards allowed in 2022 and 28th in points allowed and had particular struggles slowing down opposing pass attacks. As noted above, the Vikings brought in some reinforcements for the secondary in free agency and the draft, but the biggest shift may be in defensive philosophy. While Donatell generally took a bend-but-don't-break approach, which usually tries to limit big plays by keeping two high safeties, Flores is a very aggressive defensive play-caller. His schemes include a suite of exotic blitzes and pre-snap disguises and often ask his cornerbacks to hold up in man-to-man coverage. Flores' defenses have also been known for forcing a high number of turnovers.

· The Vikings are rolling with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has made three of the last four Pro Bowls, for a sixth season. However, he is headed into the final "real" year of his current contract. However, Minnesota did tack on two voidable years during a restructuring of Cousins' contract that created $16 million in cap space for the 2023 roster, a move that would increase his dead cap hit in 2024 if another deal is not reached before then.

· In addition to the players the Vikings released, they also lost several high-profile defenders in free agency, including defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who got a lucrative deal from Cleveland after two reasonably strong seasons in Minnesota. Cornerback Patrick Peterson, the long-time Cardinals star, also spent the last two seasons with the Vikings but moved on to Pittsburgh in free agency.



DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed


· DL Calijah Kancey (calf) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

· G Cody Mauch (back) – WEDS: NL; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Questionable.

· S Kaevon Merriweather (quad) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· OLB Anthony Nelson (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· RB Ke'shawn Vaughn (not injury related - personal) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· S Antoine Winfield Jr. (calf) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.


· OLB Marcus Davenport (ankle) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.

· LB Troy Dye (elbow) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· P Ryan Wright (ankle) – WEDS: NL; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.


Domed stadium; Outside weather: Partly cloudy, high of 74, 24% chance of rain, 66% humidity, winds out of the NNE at 9 mph.


Head referee: Scott Novak (10th season, 5th as referee)


· Favorite: Vikings (-6.0)

· Over/Under: 45.5

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS (2022 final totals)


Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 117

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans/RB Leonard Fournette, 6

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 4,694

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 90.7

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 668

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 104

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 1,124

Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/S Mike Edwards/CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, 2

Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 6.5

Tackles: LB Lavonte David/LB Devin White, 124


Points Scored: K Greg Joseph, 118

Touchdowns: RB Dalvin Cook, 10

Passing Yards: QB Kirk Cousins, 4,547

Passer Rating: QB Kirk Cousins, 92.5

Rushing Yards: RB Dalvin Cook, 1,173

Receptions: WR Justin Jefferson, 128

Receiving Yards: WR Justin Jefferson, 1,809

Interceptions: CB Patrick Peterson/S Harrison Smith, 5

Sacks: OLB Danielle Hunter, 10.5

Tackles: LB Eric Kendricks, 137

TEAM STAT RANKINGS (2022 end of season)


Scoring Offense: 25th (18.4 ppg)

Total Offense: 15th (346.7 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 32nd (76.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 2nd (269.8 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-13th (20.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 21st (37.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (2.93%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 22nd (52.0%)

Scoring Defense: 14th (21.1 ppg)

Total Defense: t-9th (324.3 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 15th (120.7 ypg)

Passing Defense: 9th (203.6 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-5th (18.5)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 6th (36.9%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 12th (7.89%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 26th (62.5%)

Turnover Margin: t-20th (-2)


Scoring Offense: 8th (24.9 ppg)

Total Offense: 7th (361.5 ypg)

Rushing Offense: t-27th (97.7 ypg)

Passing Offense: 6th (263.8 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 4th (22.5)

Third-Down Pct.: 12th (41.2%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 16th (6.99%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 8th (62.5%)

Scoring Defense: 29th (25.1 ppg)

Total Defense: 31st (388.7 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 20th (123.1 ypg)

Passing Defense: 31st (265.6 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 26th (21.1)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 12th (38.1%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 23rd (6.16%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 21st (57.1%)

Turnover Margin: t-12th (+2)


· Wide receiver Mike Evans needs to start one game in order to tie former Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott for the sixth-most starts in franchise history. Evans' next start will be his 137th. Only Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Paul Gruber, Lavonte David and Tony Mayberry have more.

· Evans also needs just three more points scored to move into second place on the team's all-time scoring list. Evans has exactly 500 points in his career, just behind the 502 recorded by kicker Michael Husted. Martin Gramatica holds the franchise record with 592 points scored.

· Wide receiver Chris Godwin could also take over sole possession of 10th place on that scoring list with a score of any kind. He is currently tied for 10th with Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles with 204 points.

· If Godwin were to score via a touchdown – admittedly the most likely scenario by a long shot – he will also catch Giles in terms of total TDs scored and tie Cameron Brate for touchdown receptions. Godwin currently has 33 touchdowns on his resume (32 receiving and one rushing), while Giles has 34, all receiving, and Brate has 33, all receiving.

· Godwin has 5,700 yards from scrimmage in his career, which currently ranks seventh in team history, but he's very close to moving up two spots. Just ahead of him on that list are running backs Michael Pittman (5,723) and Doug Martin (5,724).


· Head Coach Todd Bowles on what he sees as the strengths of his team: "That's yet to be determined. Obviously, you've got to get a lot of kinks out of the way the first couple of games. The trick is to win while you're doing it. We feel like we've got a lot of strengths and until we settle in on what we are in Week Four or Five, we'll see. We feel like we're great in a lot of areas, but you've got to play the games to be sure."

· Quarterback Baker Mayfield on if he enjoys playing on the road and being an underdog: "I think any time you go on the road, it's a special opportunity – especially in that environment. I've only played there once but their crowd is awesome, the stadium is great, and you're going up against a good team. Defensively, they've been good in the past. We're looking forward to a new challenge with [Defensive Coordinator Brian] Flores calling it. You look forward to the challenge of all the pressures – the crowd noise and all the different variables that they're going to throw at you. It's something about your team, your guys only in that stadium, against theirs. It's always special."

· Tackle Tristan Wirfs on what a win in Week One would do for the Buccaneers: "I think kind of just slingshot us. A win in Week One is a big confidence builder. Opening the season up with a 'W' is huge. Everyone wants it, but not everyone is going to get it. For us to do that is going to be big. I think [it would be] a good kick-start for the season."

· Wide receiver Chris Godwin on the growth he has seen from Baker Mayfield in the Bucs' offense: "I think he is getting really comfortable at getting the offensive scheme, getting comfortable with the terminology, and being able to effectively communicate what he is looking for with the receivers, and their relationship growing as a whole. As the weeks and days kind of start, I see him getting more and more comfortable with that."

· Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales on if second-year TE Cade Otton is overlooked in the offense: "Yeah, he has already had a huge impact. He is truly the Swiss Army Knife. He is truly the connection of the run and the pass game. We handed him the ball the other day and he got us 12 yards. He got us an explosive play on a jet sweep just because he kind of just knows how to do everything. He's smart, he studies, he is dependable. When you design passes, you don't design passes to go to everybody. You design passes, truthfully, to go to Mike Evans, then Chris Godwin. Then everybody else – when they roll coverage, they double and do all of that stuff, the ball goes to everybody else in suit and then it ends up spreading itself out naturally. You don't go into a lot of offensive pass plays saying, 'Hey, OK, Cade is No. 1 and then we go from there.' There will be things that way, but that's a small percentage of what you do."

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