One man's prediction: Vikings 21, Tampa Bay 17: The Buccaneers assembled the league's most dynamic group of young skilled players but have weaknesses up front, particularly on the offensive line. That's not good coming into the Metrodome, where crowd noise helps the Vikings pass rush. The Vikings will win because they will pressure Josh Freeman the way the Lions did early last week.
Wrap up LeGarrette The Vikings spent the week working on the most basic fundamental in football: the tackle. Missed tackles at critical moments in the second half against the Chargers contributed to last week's loss. Well, don't look now, but here comes last year's broken tackles champion, LeGarrette Blount. According to STATS Inc., the 6-foot, 247-pound Buccaneers running back, an undrafted free agent in 2010, broke a league-high 29 tackles in 201 rushing attempts. The Vikings had two missed tackles on a 37-yard checkdown pass last week. Even sure-tackling Antoine Winfield missed three.
Finding his rhythm Offensively, the word of the week for the Vikings was "rhythm." As in finding some semblance of it in the aftermath of quarterback Donovan McNabb's 39 yards passing, a career low for a full game. How does one find that rhythm? "Just by doing a better job all around," Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. That means the offensive line protecting better, McNabb getting rid of the ball sooner, the receivers going after the balls harder and Musgrave calling more passes on first down. He called runs on five of last week's six first-down plays of the second half.
The Percy antidote Don't get too excited if Percy Harvin, who returned the opening kickoff at San Diego 103 yards for a touchdown in Week 1, handles kickoff returns Sunday. The Buccaneers landed the Percy antidote when Michael Koenen was signed away from Atlanta as a free agent before training camp. The punter/kickoff specialist helped the Falcons lead the league in opponents' average starting position (22.2-yard line) in 2010. From 2005 to 2010, Koenen was third in the league with 106 touchbacks. With kickoffs now moved up to the 35-yard line, Koenen blanked the Lions last week with three touchbacks.
MANO-A-MANO: A MATCHUP TO WATCH
Today: Vikings right defensive end Jared Allen vs. left tackle Donald Penn.
About Allen: He got off to a fast start last week with half a sack and an interception while covering a running back 7 yards downfield in a man blitz package.
About Penn: From Vikings practice squad in 2006 to $20 million in guarantees in last year's new deal, Penn is OK, but he has struggled. He gave up six sacks and nine more knockdowns in 2010.
Who has the edge? If left 1-on-1, Allen's speed, combined with the crowd noise, prevails.