The Vikings won 13 games last season, but expectations aren’t through the roof entering 2023. Between a weak defense and an unsustainable number of close wins in 2022, there’s some doubt as to whether a terrific offense can be enough for another NFC North title. Expectations are still higher in Minnesota than they are in Tampa, where the Buccaneers are done with the Tom Brady era and onto Baker Mayfield at QB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings Prediction
A majority of the money is on the Vikings, but bettors shouldn’t be so quick to forget that this Vikings team rarely won big last season – even at home. In fact, Minnesota went 1-2 last season when favored by 6 or more points. This is a team that is comfortable winning close games, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see Sunday’s matchup be decided late.
The Buccaneers won’t be very good this season, but the idea they’ll be easily pushed over doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Brady is gone, but the offense was a nightmare even last season. It can’t get too much worse. Tampa also made an effort to keep its roster together by bringing back multiple key defensive starters and resisting trading major weapons. Swapping out Byron Leftwich for Dave Canales at OC should also be an upgrade.
Baker Mayfield has proven he’s capable in good situations, and this situation – considering the defense he’s facing – isn’t so bad. A Buccaneers team that will lean on its defense should be able to put together one of its best days from a passing perspective against a Vikings secondary littered with questions. Elsewhere on the defense, Minnesota lost an impact pass-rusher in Za’Darius Smith and a starting DT in Dalvin Tomlinson.
Ultimately, the Vikings’ offense will likely be too talented for the Bucs to overcome. The Cousins-to-Jefferson connection is well-documented, but with two strong tackles, a high-level tight end in T.J. Hockenson, and the addition of Jordan Addison, there isn’t any excuse for the Vikings not to just outgun Tampa.
In a game that looks like it should go over 45.5 points, just don’t rule out the likelihood that the Buccaneers put some points on the board themselves.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings Odds
The Vikings enter as 6-point home favorites, sitting at -250 on the moneyline. The over/under is 45.5 points.
Nearly all projections have the Vikings finishing well ahead of the Buccaneers this season, but this is a tricky one for bettors just because of Minnesota’s propensity for close wins. Personnel-wise, the Vikings’ defensive issues don’t look like they’ve gotten better. Can they still outscore Tampa by a touchdown or more?
The Vikings went 7-10 ATS last season despite their 13-4 record.
The over was 7-2 in Vikings home games last season.
The Vikings have scored first in 13 of their last 19 games. Minnesota developed a reputation for starting strong on the opening possession last season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Injuries: S Antoine Winfield Jr. (calf) missed time in training camp but has returned to practice ahead of Sunday’s opener. DT Calijah Kancey (calf) is unlikely to make his NFL debut on Sunday. WR Mike Evans dealt with a groin injury in the preseason but is expected to play. C Ryan Jansen (knee) and WR Russell Gage (knee) will miss the 2023 season.
Minnesota Vikings Injuries: TE T.J. Hockenson missed most of training camp with what was called a back injury, but his new contract has healed it.
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Buccaneers vs. Vikings below.
Buccaneers WRs vs. Vikings Cornerbacks
The Buccaneers’ passing game is going to be worth watching in this one, considering Mayfield has two impressive receivers and the Vikings are lacking talent in the secondary. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both healthy as they go up against a cornerback group that has only one established veteran in Byron Murphy and lost Patrick Peterson after a decent season.
If the Buccaneers are going to keep up with the Vikings, they’re going to need to score more points than they will in most games this season. Whether Mayfield and his receivers can take advantage of the Vikings’ biggest weakness will be key.
Alexander Mattison vs. Buccaneers Run Defense
We know the Vikings’ passing game is in good shape with Jordan Addison now at Kirk Cousins’ disposal alongside Justin Jefferson. Will the running game be as strong as it was with Alexander Mattison replacing Dalvin Cook?
The Buccaneers saw their run defense drop from third in the NFL in 2021 to middle of the pack last season and below average in terms of yards per carry. Vita Vea regressed a bit from 2021, while Devin White struggled and Lavonte David got a year older. The potential is still here. David continues to play very well for his age, and a healthy Vea should be better.
The Bucs will probably get beaten through the air; they can’t let themselves get beaten on the ground as well.