Vikings LB Pace Jr., CB Murphy Jr., WR Osborn look ahead to Sunday’s game vs. Tampa

Vikings Pace Jr., Murphy Jr., Osborn ready for Sunday vs. Tampa

The Vikings hope to move to 7-1 in all-time home openers at U.S. Bank Stadium. They host Tampa at noon on Sunday in Week 1 of the NFL season.

KSTP Sports spoke with rookie LB Ivan Pace Jr., CB Byron Murphy Jr., and WR K.J. Osborn this week in the locker room.

***Click the video box above to watch those conversations***

Below is a preview of Sunday’s game, courtesy of the Associated Press:

TAMPA BAY (8-10 in 2022) at MINNESOTA (13-5 in 2022)

Sunday, 12 p.m. Central

OPENING LINE: Vikings by 5½

SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead 33-23.

LAST MEETING: Buccaneers beat Vikings 26-14 on Dec. 13, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Buccaneers minus-2, Vikings plus-2.

BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Baker Mayfield is making his debut with Tampa the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft’s fourth team in 15 months. He’s replacing Tom Brady after winning the job over third-year pro Kyle Trask. Mayfield has 16,288 passing yards and 102 touchdowns with 64 interceptions in five pro seasons and is 31-38 as a starter. He went a combined 2-8 last season with the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams.

VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Alexander Mattison has become the featured ball carrier for Minnesota after four seasons backing up Dalvin Cook. In five career games with 20-plus carries, Mattison totaled 522 yards and two touchdowns on 114 rushes and 207 yards and two scores on 22 receptions.

KEY MATCHUP: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Buccaneers DBs. The Tampa Bay secondary features CBs Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean and S Antoine Winfield Jr., the son of former Vikings CB Antoine Winfield Sr. Jefferson led the NFL last season with 128 receptions and 1,809 yards.

KEY INJURIES: Buccaneers LB Shaquil Barrett is back after missing much of last season with an Achilles injury, bolstering a pass rush that produced 47 sacks last season to tie for seventh in the NFL. Winfield was sidelined for part of training camp (calf), but returned to practice this week. First-round draft pick Calijah Kancey (calf), who’s listed as a starter on the defensive line, sat out the entire preseason and was a limited participant in practice on Thursday. Center Ryan Jensen (knee) will miss his second straight regular season, with Robert Hainsey again taking his spot. … Vikings kickoff returner Kene Nwangwu (lower back) was placed on injured reserve prior to the season. Ty Chandler, who will back up Mattison, will return kickoffs.

SERIES NOTES: The Bucs and Vikings were long-time division foes before realignment in 2002 landed Tampa Bay in the NFC South. They’ve only played eight times in 21 seasons since then, and the Bucs have won six. They lost their only previous visit to U.S. Bank Stadium, a 34-17 victory for the Vikings in 2017.

STATS AND STUFF: The Bucs repeated as NFC South champions last season, despite finishing with a losing record. … Mayfield signed a one-year, $4 million contract in free agency and hopes to jump-start his career in a system installed by first-time offensive coordinator Dave Canales. Canales is the former Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach who helped QB Geno Smith revive his career last season. … Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are one of five sets of teammates who each had more than 1,000 yards receiving in 2022, finishing with 2,147 combined yards. The only tandems with more were Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle (3,066) and Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith (2,692). … The Bucs offensive line has a new look this season with All-Pro Tristan Wirfs moving from RT to LT, Luke Goedeke stepping in at RT, free agent acquisition Matt Feiler taking over at LG and rookie Cody Mauch slotted as the RG. … The Vikings are 6-1 in home openers at U.S. Bank Stadium, losing only in 2020 when no fans were admitted because of the pandemic. … Kirk Cousins will pass Daunte Culpepper for sole possession of third place on the Vikings’ all-time list for games started by a QB. … Cousins and Jefferson have connected for 25 TD passes in three years, fourth most by a QB/WR duo in Vikings history and one behind Warren Moon and Cris Carter for third place. … The Vikings have five new starters on defense, including free agent acquisitions CB Byron Murphy Jr. and DL Dean Lowry.

FANTASY TIP: Evans has a stellar track record, regardless of who’s at QB for Tampa Bay. He’s the only receiver in NFL history to begin a career with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Since 2014, he has the third-most receiving yards (10,425) in the league and has scored 81 TDs.