The Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have become all too accustomed to last place in recent years. That doesn't appear likely to change this season.
Minnesota looks to snap a three-game skid Sunday while Tampa Bay tries to avoid opening 0-4 at home.
The Vikings (2-5) sit in last place in the NFC North while the Buccaneers (1-5) occupy the South's cellar. Minnesota is looking to avoid a fourth fourth-place finish in five seasons while Tampa Bay is hoping to avoid finishing last for the fifth time in six seasons.
The Vikings continue to be plagued by an anemic offense. They rank 29th with 309.1 yards per game and their 17.1 points per game marks their lowest average since scoring a franchise-worst 16.2 per game in 1979.
They've totaled 29 points with eight turnovers during a three-game losing streak and settled for three field goals in Sunday's 17-16 loss at Buffalo. Teddy Bridgewater was 15 of 26 for 157 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Minnesota's 62.7 quarterback rating is the NFL's worst.
"I was overthinking things," Bridgewater said of his third start. "But as the game went on we found some consistency. There are going to be areas I can improve on to get the ball down the field and eliminate my negative plays."
The Vikings have limited opponents to 17 points in two straight games and rank 13th in total defense after finishing second-to-last in 2013. They forced four turnovers against Buffalo and had six sacks - including a career high-matching three from Everson Griffen - but surrendered a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive and lost on the extra point with one second remaining.
That drive included a 24-yard pass on fourth-and-20.
"We want the victory. It feels better when you get a victory," said Griffen, who is tied for the NFC lead with seven sacks. "The sacks don't mean nothing when you lose."
Tampa Bay has dropped four straight at home dating back to last season and comes off a bye following a 48-17 home loss to Baltimore on Oct. 12. The Buccaneers gave up touchdowns on each of Baltimore's first five possessions - all through the air - and their 38-0 halftime deficit was the largest for a home team in league history.
They're looking to get off to better starts defensively as their 72 first-quarter points allowed are the most in the NFL - 21 more than the second-most allowed by Minnesota.
"We are a better football team. That game didn't say that," coach Lovie Smith said. "But we're doing some good things, better things behind the scenes, and hopefully we're going to put it together and we'll eventually see that in a game."
Yet it's difficult to see much improvement in the Buccaneers, particularly from last season. Though their offense is averaging 29.8 more yards than a year ago, their defense has fallen from 17th to 32nd under former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. The Buccaneers' 34.0 points allowed per game is the worst mark in team history.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is considered the anchor of Tampa Bay's rebuilding defense, and signed a seven-year extension Saturday worth $98 million, making him the highest-paid player at his position.
Josh McCown returned to practice this week for the first time in more than a month after being sidelined with a thumb injury, but Mike Glennon is expected to retain the starting quarterback job. Glennon has thrown seven TDs with three interceptions in four games while McCown has two TDs and four picks in three contests.
Minnesota running back Jerick McKinnon provided a spark with 19 carries for 103 yards against Buffalo, which had boasted the league's top rush defense. The Vikings are the only team to record more than 100 yards against the Bills.
Tampa Bay has struggled to generate pressure against opposing offensive lines with only nine sacks. Da'Quan Bowers, who had started two games with one sack, will be serving the first in a two-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The Buccaneers have won six straight meetings, most recently taking a 36-17 win at Minnesota on Oct. 25, 2012. Doug Martin totaled 214 yards of offense with two TDs.
The Vikings have been outscored 190-105 while going 0-6 at Raymond James Stadium.