The bye week for the Buccaneers has come and gone. After all that's been said and done about the 1-5 start to the 2014 season, the Bucs are still only two games out of first place in the NFC South. This week they have a reeling 2-5 Vikings team that's limping into town having lost their last three. With all eyes looking forward, this Buccaneers team has 10 games left to right the ship. Here are my keys to the Vikings game on Sunday:
ROOKIE QUARTERBACK: Teddy Bridgewater is the starting quarterback for the Vikings. He's a rookie who has gone through his ups and downs so far this season, throwing five interceptions in the last two games and getting sacked twelve times.
I called several games during Bridgewater's career in college. I got to see first-hand that what made him so good coming out of Louisville was his ability to process information at the line of scrimmage and read through his progressions. Unfortunately, this is the NFL, and his transition to a faster-paced game is going to take some time. Advantage Buccaneers secondary.
PROTECT GLENNON: The Bucs' offensive line will have its hands full with Vikings' DE Everson Griffen, who has seven sacks this season, and DT Tom Johnson, who has four. Pressure on the quarterback has been a bright spot for the Vikings defense under new head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer. Expect all bullets to be flying on Sunday as the Vikings look to shake their own losing ways.
URGENCY FROM THE OLINE: I challenge Anthony Collins, Logan Mankins, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Patrick Omameh, and Demar Dotson. They MUST set the attitude and fight from the first snap of the game to the last. In my twelve years of experience, the must successful O-lines I've been around weren't necessarily the most athletic, but they were the most physical. They must set the tempo, not just this Sunday, but every Sunday moving forward, if this Buccaneers offense wants to succeed in the second half of the season.
BUCS D-LINE NEEDS TO BE LICKING THEIR CHOPS: The Vikings offensive line has been horrendous so far through the first seven games. They're second in the NFL in sacks allowed with 27 and the team is averaging fewer than three yards per rush.
The Buccaneers performance two weeks ago against the Ravens left a bad taste in every Bucs defender's mouth. The extra week off allowed some of our starters to heal up and we should see the return of SS Dashon Goldson and CB Johnthan Banks. In addition to getting healthier, the bye week gives the defense a chance to change its personality against the Vikings with fundamentally sound play, executing assignments and swarming to the football.
Bucs fans, it's not rocket science. There is no special play on offense. There is no special scheme on defense. Like I said before, the Bucs are just two games out of first place in a division that no team has taken a stranglehold on. The Falcons, Saints and Panthers are all going to lose some more games. The question is, can this Buccaneers team seize the opportunity and turn this season around? It starts Sunday, 1 PM, against the Vikings.
One game at time.