In a game with conference playoff implications, we break down the numbers and rankings for the Vikings and Buccaneers.
Something has to give this week between the Vikings and Buccaneers today in Tampa. As it currently stands, both teams are in second place in their divisions – the Vikings tied with Chicago at 5-4, but with a loss in hand to the Bears, and the Bucs at 6-3 a game behind Carolina.
Both teams have been impressive against the NFC, which is the top criterion after head-to-head play in the wild card chase. The Vikings are 4-2 vs. NFC teams while the Bucs are 5-2. Of the teams not in first place in their division, only the Washington Redskins are better or equal to the Vikings and Tampa Bay at 5-2 against the conference.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle the Vikings will face is beating Tampa Bay at home. The Buccaneers are 4-0 at home this season and, dating back to last season, have won eight straight at Raymond James Stadium. The last time Tampa lost at home was Oct. 28, 2007, in a 24-23 loss to Jacksonville.
Snapping that streak won't be easy for the Vikings, but, for a team that has won five of its last seven games, few teams in the league come into play today on a better roll than Minnesota – which would make a win in Tampa less of an upset than it might appear on paper.
VIKINGS-BUCS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 13th-rated offense in the NFL (fifth rushing, 20th passing) and the sixth-ranked defense (third rushing, 19th passing).
The Bucs are tied for the eighth-ranked offense (11th rushing, ninth passing) and the have the seventh-ranked defense (11th rushing, 5th passing).
The Vikings are 23rd in the league in sacks per pass thrown on offense, while the Bucs are 4th in the league in preventing their QBs from being sacked.
The Vikings are 26th offensively in third-down conversions.
The Vikings' return games are the worst in the league. The Vikes are 31st in punt return average; defending the punt they ranked dead last.
Tampa Bay is fifth in the league in kick-return average, as well as being fifth in kick return defense.
Minnesota is fifth in the NFL in gross punting average, but 30th in net punt average when you factor in opposition return yardage.
Tampa Bay's defense is fifth in the league in interception percentage; the Vikings are 23rd.
Why do many think this could be a low-scoring game? The Vikings are fourth in first downs allowed defensively and the Bucs are third, while the Vikings are third in third-down conversions allowed. One of the two teams with a better third-down percentage? Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay is one of two teams that is even in the giveaway/takeaway ratio (16 giveaways, 16 takeaways) to tie for 18th place. The Vikings are tied for 25th at minus-5 on the scale (14 takeaways, 19 giveaways).
Offensively, the Buccaneers average 116 yards rushing a game and 234 yards passing, while the Vikings average 144 yards rushing and 200 yards passing.
Defensively, Tampa Bay averages allowing 105 yards rushing and 185 yards passing a game; Minnesota averages allowing 70 yards rushing and 219 yards passing.
Both teams have been brutal in the red zone on offense. The Vikings rank 29th with a TD percentage of just 37.5 percent (24 red zone trips, nine touchdowns). Tampa is even worse, ranking 30th (37 trips, 13 TDs). Only St. Louis and Oakland are worse.
Defensively the Bucs are fourth in the red zone (18 trips, seven TDs), while the Vikings are 21st (25 trips, 14 TDs).
The league average gain on first down is 5.28 yards. On offense, both teams are above the average – Tampa Bay at 5.56 yards and the Vikings at 5.31. On defense, surprisingly both teams are below average – the Vikings at 5.52 and the Bucs at 5.59.
The Bucs have had three 300-yard passing games this year, two by Jeff Garcia and one by Brian Griese. The Vikings haven't had a 300-yard passing game since Brad Childress became head coach.
The teams have combined to allow three 300-yard games, two of them by Drew Brees of the Saints. The other was by Peyton Manning, who threw for 311 yards against the Vikings in the home opener.
Both Antonio Bryant and Bernard Berrian have three 100-yard receiving games. Nobody else on either team has topped 100 yards receiving.
The Bucs have allowed four opponents to top 100 yards receiving, while the Vikings have allowed three.
Adrian Peterson has rushed for 100 yards or more in six games. Tampa has three 100-yard rushing games – two by Earnest Graham and one by Warrick Dunn.
The Vikings have yet to allow an opponent to top 100 yards rushing. The Bucs have allowed just one 100-yard rusher, but it was Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs last week.
Garcia ranks third in the league in completion percentage and is tied for second in the league in interception percentage.
Garcia has a passer rating of 95.6 on third down.
Peterson leads the NFL with 1,015 yards rushing – the only player to date who is over 1,000 yards. Graham is 15th with 560 yards.
Eight of the top 10 rushers in the NFL are from the AFC.
Bryant is 18th in the league in receptions with 45. Bobby Wade leads the Vikings with 36 catches, tied for 39th in the league.
Berrian is tied for 13th in the league in receiving yards with 621. Bryant leads the Bucs with 566 yards, good enough for 23rd place.
Matt Bryant is fifth in the league in scoring among kickers with 78 points. Ryan Longwell is tied for 10th with 72 points.
Peterson is second in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 1,113 – just 32 behind Clinton Portis, who isn't expected to play this week. Graham leads the Bucs with 734 total yards, good enough for 20th place.
Peterson is third in the league with 50 first downs converted, behind only Portis (57) and Marion Barber (52).
Jared Allen is tied for seventh in sacks with eight. Kevin Williams is tied for ninth with seven sacks. No Buccaneer has more than four sacks.