Vikings and Bucs Heading In Different Directions

Heading into the third week of the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a chance to bury the Vikings. A month later, it's Minnesota with a chance to put away the Bucs.

Tony Dungy isn't one to do a lot of pre-emptive talking, but, when surrounded by classic loudmouths like Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson, sometimes it seems to rub off.

When the Bucs came to the Metrodome last month, Tampa was 1-0 and the Vikings were 0-2 and Dungy realized that a win would effectively give the Bucs a four-game lead over the Vikings, prompting him to say that a victory would, in effect, put the Vikings away.

His Bucs didn't get it done and, since that statement, the Vikings have gone 3-1 while the Bucs have gone 1-3 and now the role is reversed -- but don't expect to hear the Vikings do a lot of talking this time around.

"We've done that same kind of talking before too," Cris Carter told VU. "Twice we went down to Tampa in the last three years with a 7-0 record looking to put them away and were confident we would do it. We were looking ahead and didn't focus on the job at hand and lost both of those games."

That is something the Vikings are using as motivation against a Bucs team under the microscope where teams like the Steelers are calling them "paper champions" -- a team with almost a dozen Pro Bowlers and the ability to do a lot of trash talking, but a team with nothing to show for years of defensive dominance.

If the Vikings can put Tampa Bay away it will give them the first sweep in nine years, when Dennis Green was in his first year with the Vikings (and Dungy was his defensive coordinator). Both teams know the gravity of the game and, like the meeting last month when the Bucs had the chance to put away the Vikings, Tampa Bay will be a dangerous team in these conditions.

* The Vikings' 8-1 record both heading into and coming out of bye weeks are the best in the NFL. Surprisingly, the cumulative record of teams coming into and out of bye weeks is barely over 50 percent.
* The buzz in Tampa continues to be that Shaun King is going to get a shot at starting if Brad Johnson doesn't show dramatic improvement.
* If the Vikings win Sunday, it will be the first time all season they would be above .500.
* How messed up is the NFL this year? If the playoffs began today, the AFC division champions would be Oakland, Pittsburgh and Miami with San Diego, Cleveland and Seattle as the wild cards. In the NFC, it would by St. Louis, Philly and Chicago as division champs, with Green Bay, San Francisco and New Orleans as wild cards. Who wouldn't be in the playoffs? The Vikings, Bucs, Giants, Colts, Ravens, Titans and Broncos -- all playoff teams last year.

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