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VIKINGS ON OFFENSE

Quarterback Warren Moon has been reborn after a trade to the Vikings and has rebounded from a slow start to complete 64 percent of his passes for 1,874 yards.

"He's starting to pick up the offense and is understanding it now," said Bucs defensive coordinator Floyd Peters. "At 38, he doesn't like pressure. They shield him pretty good and make sure you don't kill their quarterback because they have to go to nobody after him."

The Vikings offense ranked sixth overall and is bolstered by a strong running game behind tailback Terry Allen (4.3 average), who has recovered from reconstructive knee surgery.

Receiver Chris Carter is one of the league's best deep threats but has been used mostly in underneath routes, where he is second in the NFC with 55 receptions for 536 yards and four TDs.

VIKINGS ON DEFENSE

Defensive tackles Henry Thomas and John Randle anchor one of the NFL's best fronts and are quick getting to the quarterback.

The Vikings defense is allowing an average of 65 yards per game on the ground _ tops in the NFL.

Only Atlanta has more takeaways than the Vikings (17).

Randle, who is the brother of former Bucs linebacker Erv Randle, is developing into a Pro Bowl tackle and is tied for the NFC lead in sacks with 8.5 _ 2.5 more than the Bucs.

"He was always quick and strong," said Peters. "They called him Little Muscle because his body was just chisled. He's just a fierce competitor, like a pit bull. Now he's got experience."

QUARTERBACK

The Bucs turn back to Craig Erickson after the disastrous debut of rookie Trent Dilfer last week. But Warren Moon is of one of the best to play the position and still effective a month shy of his 38th birthday. Edge: Vikings

RUNNING BACKS: Rookie tailback Errict Rhett could get his first start and will certainly be in the game before the Bucs fall too far behind. The Vikings pass more than run but can do both well, especially with the return of tailback Terry Allen. Edge: Minnesota.

RECEIVERS: Lawrence Dawsey had trouble concentrating in his first game back last week in more than a year since knee surgery, dropping three passes. He starts faster today. The Vikings Chris Carter is one of the NFL's most underrated receivers. Edge: Vikings.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Even with Tim Irwin available, the Bucs will leave Scott Dill at RT and keep Charles McRae at left guard. Minnesota is better up front with RT Chris Hinton. Edge: Vikings.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Somebody put out an all points bulletin for DE Eric Curry. Today he has a chance to make an impact working against rookie Todd Steussie. The Vikings' Henry Thomas and John Randle are best tandem in the NFL. Edge: Vikings.

LINEBACKERS: Bucs linebacker Hardy Nickerson showed some rust in his return to the lineup a week ago, but still produced eight tackles. Vikings' Jack Del Rio will blitz if Bucs fall behind early. Edge: Bucs.

SECONDARY: Hard to argue with any part of a Vikings defense that ranks sixth overall. But Bucs think Minnesota's corners are vulnerable. S Thomas Everett is playing banged up. Edge: Bucs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Curtis Buckely provided a boost to the Bucs sagging kickoff returns a week ago and came close to breaking one. KR Vernon Turner will be active. Edge: Bucs.

COACH: Vikings coach Dennis Green is 16-4 against the NFC Central. Nuf said. Edge: Vikings.

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