1:00 PM ET, September 11, 2005
Tampa Bay (5-11) at Minnesota (8-8), 1:00 pm EDT
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Daunte Culpepper no longer has Randy Moss to lean on.
After tiring of Moss' antics both on and off the field, the Vikings traded the controversial receiver to the Oakland Raiders on March 2 for linebacker Napoleon Harris and two draft picks, including a first-round selection.
Moss irritated teammates when he walked off the field in the final seconds of the Vikings' January 2 loss at Washington. Moss enhanced his bad boy image in the playoffs when he pretended to pull his pants down and motioned as if to moon the fans after catching a 34-yard touchdown pass in the Vikings' wild card win at Green Bay. He was fined $10,000 by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct.
By trading Moss, who had four years left on his eight-year, $75 million contract, the Vikings were able to make improvements in other areas, specifically a defense which ranked 28th in the NFL last season.
Culpepper also still has a major weapon at wide receiver in Nate Burleson, who emerged last season to catch 68 passes for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns. Veteran Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor and first-round pick Troy Williamson also will factor into the passing game.
Relying on a short passing game, Culpepper was superb in four preseason games, completing 36-of-44 passes for 520 yards and one touchdown with an interception.
Since winning the Super Bowl in 2002, the Buccaneers have gone just 12-20 the last two seasons under fiery coach Jon Gruden.
Gruden got the speed he wanted in the backfield when the Bucs selected running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams fifth overall in April's draft.
Gruden already has a playmaker at wide receiver in Michael Clayton, who enjoyed a stellar rookie season with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.
Brian Griese enters the season as the Bucs' starting quarterback. He played well in 11 games last season, throwing for 2,632 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
The game is a reunion for defensive tackle Chris Hovan, a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2000 who signed with the Bucs in the offseason. Hovan had 17 sacks in five seasons in Minnesota.
Matchup to watch: The 6-3 Clayton against 5-9 left cornerback Antoine Winfield.
Series: The Vikings lead against their old NFC Central rivals, 31-18.
Next week: Tampa Bay hosts Buffalo, September 18 Minnesota visits Cincinnati, September 18
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Life without Moss for Vikes
Life after Randy Moss begins in Minnesota on Sunday, and expectations couldn't be any higher. The window of opportunity is closing quickly for head coach Mike Tice and the Vikings. As we have found out during Tice's tenure; getting off to a fast start doesn't ensure a successful season. However, with new ownership and so much money spent in the offseason to upgrade an ailing defense, a win in front of the home crowd sure would help to ease the burden.
How good is the upgraded defense with five imported starters? Can QB Daunte Culpepper keep up his torrid pace without Moss as his go-to-target? Does anyone want to step up as the Vikings' starting running back? Sunday's opener should help to answer these questions regarding one of the 2005 favorites to win the NFC.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden is starting to feel some heat of his own. The Bucs are trying to shovel out of a big salary cap hole while also righting the ship following a 5-11 season. Young talent has been added at key offensive skill positions, but can Brian Griese really stay healthy for an entire 16-game NFL season?
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|Avg Points Allowed||13.0||24.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||TB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||TB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Tampa Bay leads 3-1|
|Nov 3, 2002||TB 38, MIN 24|
|Oct 28, 2001||TB 41, MIN 14|
|Sep 30, 2001||TB 16, @MIN 20|