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Minnesota Vikings v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Vikings

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 26-14 victory over Minnesota?

The Buccaneers came out of their bye week on Sunday and picked up a massive victory over the Vikings, winning 26-14 at Raymond James Stadium to move to 8-5 and inch one step closer to a playoff berth.

Tampa Bay’s schedule the rest of the way appears favorable. Minnesota was the toughest test left, as two games against Atlanta (4-9) with one against Detroit (5-8) sandwiched in between them are all that remain in the regular season. The Bucs are currently in possession of the NFC’s No. 6 seed, which—if the season ended today—would mean a trip out west to take on the Rams in the first round of the postseason.

Before we look ahead to playoff matchups or even take a peek at the Week 15 game in Atlanta, we’ve got some Buccaneers of the Week points to hand out. With the season nearing its end, who helped their case to take home the top spot in the season standings? Let’s take a look.

A reminder of how this works, for anyone who’s new around these parts: Each week, I’ll rank the top five Bucs of the Week and assign them point values, which will determine their place in the “Buccaneers of the Week Standings.” No. 5 gets one point, No. 4 gets two and so on. The 2018 Buccaneer of the Year was Mike Evans, while Shaquil Barrett was the 2019 Buccaneer of the Year. OK, let’s get it going.

Honorable Mentions

Tom Brady was a bit off early in Sunday’s game, but he finished hot to put up a 120.9 passer rating to go along with 196 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-23 passing... Mike Evans had just three catches, but he totaled 56 yards and also drew a key pass interference call in the end zone to set up a touchdown... Antonio Brown had a couple of key third-down catches and finished with 49 yards on five catches... Scotty Miller may have only caught one pass, but it was a big one. His 48-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was not an easy one to make, and it turned the game in Tampa Bay’s favor...

Antoine Winfield Jr. finished the day as the Bucs’ leading tackler, posting 12 (10 solo) and his third sack of the year... Carlton Davis was key for the defense, coming up with a huge pass breakup to thwart a Minnesota threat in the second half while playing a huge part in keeping the dangerous duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson to just seven catches for 78 yards on 12 targets... Pat O’Connor got to Kirk Cousins late in the fourth quarter and took him down for his first career sack.

5. Offensive Line (One point)

The Buccaneer offensive line played a huge part in Sunday’s win, collectively having a phenomenal game against the Minnesota front. The group held the Vikings without a sack and only allowed one tackle for loss on 49 offensive snaps. Tom Brady was only hit three times as well, which helped him put together an efficient afternoon. And even though all five guys were strong in this one, Pro Football Focus’ grading system liked two guys especially. Donovan Smith’s 87.4 grade was the second-highest for any Buc on Sunday, while Tristan Wirfs’ 86.1 grade was the third-highest. That’s promising for Tampa Bay, as getting good play out of its tackles will be huge down the final stretch of the season and into the playoffs. For their collective effort, the big guys up front pick up their second point of the 2020 season.

4. Jason Pierre-Paul (Two points)

Tampa Bay’s defense may have struggled to get off the field at times on Sunday, leading to 39:03 of possession for Minnesota. But Todd Bowles’ unit came up with the big plays when it needed them, and Jason Pierre-Paul was a big part of that, especially when it came time to close out the game. The veteran brought pressure off the edge all day, but couldn’t quite get home. That was, until the Vikings’ final chance to keep the game alive. Down 12 with just over two minutes left, Kirk Cousins had his team in Buccaneer territory. But on 4th & 13, Pierre-Paul fought through and sacked Cousins—the team’s sixth sack of the day—while knocking the ball loose and recovering it himself. The sack not only effectively ended the game, but it also brought the 31-year-old’s sack total to 9.5 on the year. The forced fumble was his fourth of the season, and the recovery was his second.

3. Ronald Jones II (Three points)

The offense isn’t well-represented on this edition of Bucs of the Week, but Ronald Jones II more than earned his spot. Tampa Bay, for the first time in what seems like a while, had a near-even run/pass split in Sunday’s game. Jones took advantage of that, fighting for 80 tough yards on 18 carries while also finding the end zone in the second quarter. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and while the Bucs struggled to drain much time off the clock throughout the day, the third-year running back carried his weight and helped the team preserve its lead down the stretch. With Leonard Fournette sidelined, Jones’ career year continued. He needs just 100 rushing yards over the final three games to break the 1,000-yard mark for the first time as a pro. And with three points this week, he now has a seven-point lead atop the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

2. Shaquil Barrett (Four points)

While Jason Pierre-Paul had a nice afternoon on one side of Tampa Bay’s defense, Shaquil Barrett was even better off the other edge. He put pressure on the quarterback all day, leading to a big game. He finished with four tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hits. The first of his two sacks was monumental in the grand scheme of things, as it came on a solid opening drive for Minnesota. He dropped Kirk Cousins for a loss of eight on third down, pushing the offense out of field goal range. And, as pointed out by our own David Harrison, who knows how Dan Bailey’s day might have turned out had he gotten onto the field and connected on a field goal to close that opening drive? Barrett’s second sack came on a 3rd & Goal at the 20. That pushed Bailey’s field goal attempt to a 46-yarder, which was another miss. On any other day, Barrett may have gotten the full five points for the standings. Instead, he gets four and jumps into the top five for the season.

1. Ndamukong Suh (Five points)

The front seven was nothing short of impressive for the Bucs on Sunday, and while the pressure off the edge made a huge difference, it was Ndamukong Suh whose day was the biggest. He was harassing Kirk Cousins all afternoon, constantly getting after him and creating problems. His line on the stat sheet was pretty significant, as he had a sack—his fifth of the season—and three quarterback hits. Beyond the basic stats, though, he was perhaps even more impressive. Per Next Gen Stats, Suh had nine pressures in the game, which was his highest total in a game since 2012 and tied for the third-most by any defender in the NFL this season. Plus, his 32.1% pressure rate was the second-highest by any player this season (minimum 25 pass rushes). It was a huge day for Suh against a team he has seen plenty of in his career, and it continued the veteran’s big season. With five points, he jumps all the way from 13th to eighth in the Bucs of the Week Season Standings.

2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 14:

  1. Ronald Jones II — 23 points
  2. Tom Brady — 16 points
  3. Devin White — 15 points
  4. Mike Evans/Jason Pierre-Paul — 14 points
  5. Lavonte David/Shaquil Barrett — 12 points
  6. Antoine Winfield Jr./Ryan Succop — 9 points
  7. Scotty Miller — 8 points
  8. Chris Godwin/Ndamukong Suh — 7 points
  9. Carlton Davis — 6 points
  10. Leonard Fournette/Jordan Whitehead — 5 points
  11. Rob Gronkowski — 4 points
  12. Mike Edwards/William Gholston/Jamel Dean — 3 points
  13. Vita Vea/Offensive Line — 2 points
  14. Sean Murphy-Bunting — 1 point

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