Sunday: Noon at Raymond James Stadium (Ch. 9, 100.3-FM)
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS
• The Buccaneers (7-5) are coming off a needed bye week after a third loss in four games, 27-24 to the Chiefs on Nov. 29. Tampa Bay's sixth-ranked scoring offense failed to top 24 points in the recent three losses to the Saints, Rams and Chiefs.
• Tampa Bay's seventh-ranked defense is the best Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will face since the Colts in Week 2. The Buccaneers allow an NFL-low 3.3 yards per carry while being opportunistic against the pass; their 14 interceptions trail only the Steelers' 16 picks this season.
• Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh form the front and bring a strong pass rush. They have combined for 18½ of Tampa Bay's 34 sacks, which trail only five NFL defenses. Linebacker Devin White, the fifth overall pick in 2019, leads the team with 109 combined tackles (nine for a loss).
• Receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown lead one of the most talented groups in the NFL. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off his first 100-yard game with the Buccaneers; Evans, Godwin and Gronkowski have combined for 18 of quarterback Tom Brady's 28 passing touchdowns.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT |QB Tom Brady
• Brady has thrown at least two interceptions in each of the Buccaneers' three losses, his most picks in a four-game span since 2011. The six-time Super Bowl winner hasn't been as efficient in his 21st NFL season at 43, but he gets better the closer he gets to the goal line.
• Brady leads the NFL's No. 2 red-zone offense with 5.71 points per trip, according to Football Outsiders, behind only the Vikings' 5.89 points. He's thrown 20 of his 28 TD passes from within the 10-yard line. The Brady QB sneak has added another three rushing scores.
• Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians on needing the bye week: "It was a good rest for [Brady], but also going back and looking at a lot of different things. Looking at the way this team plays and the way we've played teams like [the Vikings]. It's still a work in progress — that part is — but again, I feel very comfortable that everybody's on the same page right now."
• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Brady: "He looks good to me. Moves well in the pocket when he's avoiding. Very accurate, really good arm strength. Good velocity, sees things really well. … So, yeah, he looks like the same old guy to me."
COACH SPEAK | Bruce Arians
• Arians is in his seventh year as an NFL head coach, second with the Bucs, with a 63-44-1 (. 588) record in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs. The former Cardinals head coach and Steelers offensive coordinator has seen his offense regress compared with the rest of the league since adding Brady.
• After ranking third in points and yardage in 2019, the Bucs rank sixth and 18th. Arians didn't want to call plays in his return to coaching, leaving the duties to coordinator Byron Leftwich.
• Arians on the sputtering offense: "Third down has been a problem. So, one of the ways to fix it is make first downs on first and second down, and stay out of third down. But, when we do have manageable third downs — knock on wood, we've been playing pretty penalty-free — that we convert those."
• Arians on Evans, who has 11 TDs but no 100-yard games since Oct. 4: "We've moved him all over the place and hopefully he'll be productive and continue to get touchdowns. It would be great if he gets 1,000 [receiving yards]. That means we're doing something really, really well. But it's not the ultimate goal."