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Alright. I hate that I have to do this.

I don’t see it happening against the Bucs Sunday.

As much as I’ve craved this game, as much as I’m still looking forward to watching it, and as much as I’d love to see a Vikings victory…I give Minnesota little to no chance this weekend.

I was leaning that way anyway, with the Bucs coming off the bye and everyone in Tampa Bay getting a chance to refocus, but Eric Kendricks being out sealed it.

He’s the best player on their defense, gets everyone lined up, makes big play after big play, wouldn’t be intimidated seeing, or hearing, the name Tom Brady, and most importantly is the one linebacker on the team, when healthy, who could cover and compete with Gronk.

Now—with the strength of Tampa Bay’s offense being all their pass catchers, and the weakness of Minnesota’s defense being their pass coverage—you can add Rob Gronkowski into the mix with Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin as guys who will create a mismatch wherever they are lined up on the field Sunday.

Pile onto that the inexperience, and ineffectiveness, of the Vikings defensive line and their inability to get pressure on the quarterback without help from a blitzing linebacker or safety…and the age old adage that has followed Tom Brady around his entire career—you can beat this guy if you successfully get to him only rushing 4—and you can see why the Vikings might have some issues.

I think this game could get ugly.

If they blitz Brady, Minnesota leaves itself vulnerable with inexperienced, and often overwhelmed, young corners one-on-one against pro-bowl receivers. If they fall back and help out their corners in coverage, Brady will have all day back there to make a decision. That’s never been a good thing.

It’s a lose-lose situation.

But, like De Niro says to Pacino in Heat, There’s a flip side to that coin.

There is a little glimmer of hope, as there always is in the nfl.

Seattle has a top two or three quarterback in this league. Minnesota hasn’t beaten the Seahawks since 2009. On a Sunday night earlier this year the Vikings at 1-3 traveled to 4-0 Seattle and I figured it would be a blowout.

Not until shortly before kickoff did I get a feeling that Minnesota might owe them one and surprise some people that night.

They didn’t win, but they played their asses off and gave themselves several chances to get a victory that night.

I can always hold out hope for something similar to happen Sunday afternoon.

Hope. That’s an interesting word when you’re watching your favorite NFL team.

This is a hope game. A week where you turn on your television set knowing the opposing team is better than yours and hope for the best.

Zimmer has had his young, banged up, no-name defense surprisingly up to the challenge this year when’s it comes to playing tough against good quarterbacks.

They held off Aaron Rogers on his potential game winning drive in week 6. Same story with Deshaun Watson in week 3. Russell Wilson had to convert two fourth-and-longs, and a miracle deep pass, to keep the drive going that beat Minnesota late in the 4th quarter. Russ hadn’t done much cooking up until that point in the game.

Maybe Zimmer and his staff will surprise me again this week. But with Kendricks out I just think Tampa Bay is too stacked on offense to compete with.

Minnesota has had a tough time in coverage this season. And Tampa Bay has huge receivers and tight ends that go get balls even when they’re not open. I really think the game will come down to that element being just too much for Minnesota to handle.

But…

When I lived in Las Vegas I had a buddy that did a lot of sports betting, but never put any money on football games. When I asked him why he said ‘because the ball’s not round, it’s too unpredictable.’

So there’s always that hope.

Brady could fumble a snap. The Bucs could look like they’re on a roll and turn it over once or twice on fumbles in the red zone. There could be a miscommunication that leads to Brady throwing a pic-6 when the receiver runs the wrong route. Tampa Bay could have a special teams blunder or two. The referees could blow two or three big calls in the game benefitting Minnesota.

All these things could completely change the momentum and the outlook of one NFL game.

Hence the phrase any given Sunday.

But, as much as I hate writing this, I think Tampa Bay runs them over.

I still can’t wait to park my ass on the couch Sunday at noon and hope that I’m wrong though.

See Also

Minnesota needs to treat this game like they have nothing to lose. They need to go for every fourth and 1, regardless of where they are on the field. Any plays they’ve been saving up because they are too gimmicky…now’s the time.

If they show up to this game with some sort of conservative approach, a lot of stuffed animals and toys will be thrown around my house. This time not by any 2 and 4 year-olds.

Show up ready to play. Don’t be intimated by the name on the back of the Tampa Bay quarterback’s jersey. Don’t be afraid to fail…Especially if you play corner. Corners: This game is your one freebie, they’re gonna burn your ass anyway, so take some gambles, fly around, be aggressive, get off your heals, talk some shit, spit in their ears, whatever works.

I don’t wanna hear about Cousins needing to protect the ball this week. I wanna hear about him cutting it loose. Don’t be so predictable on play calling. Run the ball on long yardage situations and throw the ball on short ones.

CHANGE THINGS UP. PLAY SCHOOL YARD BALL. FLY AROUND THE FIELD.

I know you wanna pound the ball to Cook.

DON’T!

Let Cousin’s throw his arm out. Ya gotta give them something different than what they’re expecting and what you’re used to.

Leave it all out there.

There is hope.

***PREDICTION: BUCS 41 VIKINGS 27 (Over 52.5)***

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