Bills at Vikes Preview: No Time to Get Buffaloed

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.

The “undefeated” Vikings return to U. S. Bank Stadium on Sunday to take on the un-victorious Buffalo Bills. The betting line on this game opened at 16.5 points and has since increased to 17, meaning that not many are anticipating a Bills victory—and with good reason. Well, the last thing the Vikings need is to overlook a home opponent, particular on the heels of the frustrating tie game they experienced last weekend. The Vikings need to get back on the winning train and that starts with Buffalo on Sunday.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to like the Vikings in this one and that begins with the Bills. This past week, the Bills’ best player, running back LeSean McCoy, suffered a rib injury. It is not yet known if he will play nor how effective he will be if he does. Last Sunday’s 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers saw the head coach Sean McDermott take over defensive play calls for his defensive coordinator (former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier) to reportedly give his team a spark. But that didn’t prevent cornerback Vontae Davis from retiring from the team at halftime of the game—an unprecedented that added to the dire straits the team finds itself in.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have a had a busy week wading through issues of their own that certainly aren’t what the Bills are going through, but have provided some minor upheaval. After three missed kicks versus the Green Bay Packers on Sunday (any of which could have won the game), rookie place kicker Daniel Carlson was given his walking papers. The Vikings then signed former Dallas kicker Dan Bailey to replace him.

In addition, receiver Laquon Treadwell, who scored his first career touchdown, had three bad drops against the Packers, and the Vikings personnel people reportedly got on the phone after the game to sign veteran receiver (and former Washington teammate of Kirk Cousins) Aldrick Johnson and beef up the receiving corps (which also saw the release of wideout Stacey Coley). While Treadwell remains on the team, this move certainly changes things in the wide receiver room (stay tuned to that as the week progresses).

Finally, the Vikings also brought back defensive tackle Tom Johnson, who they lost in free agency to the Seattle Seahawks during the offseason. Johnson became available when the Seahawks waved him earlier in the week.

“We obviously didn’t want to let [Johnson] go, but Tom’s a good football player,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s been great for us in the time that we’ve been here, so that’s all been good.

The Vikings released defensive tackle David Parry (who collected a sack of Aaron Rodgers last weekend) in a corresponding move, and they showed that they are not content to sit pat on their 1-0-1 record. Looking like a mid-country version of the New England Patriots, the Vikings have been aggressive this season in personnel moves.

The moves were abrupt and pointed for a team a that just experienced a 29-29 tie with their arch-nemesis, and it showed they clearly weren’t satisfied by it. Changes during a season that are done for performance reasons rather than injuries can have a substantial effect on a team.

After the game, the players all rallied around their rookie teammate Carlson and said the right things, but you have to believe there were moments when, as they strode off of Lambeau field, that their thoughts weren’t so charitable toward their teammate. We can’t read minds, but in this instance, we really don’t need to, as Zimmer, always a good one for the emotional, unvarnished truth, said the decision was “pretty easy” to make when speaking in his Monday morning press conference. It’s brutal to cut Carlson after two games, but it was the correct decision for a team with playoff/Super Bowl aspirations, and now it feels like it came a game too late.

But it was a tie which is not a loss, and the value of that sister kissing should grow as the season goes on (granted the Vikings keep winning). Like the bartender in Hudson, Wisc., told me on Tuesday night, the Packers coughed up a home victory and now have everything to lose (the season series, divisional tie-breaker and potentially the division) when they come to Minnesota in late November. It is hard to argue with that logic.

But what does that all have to do with Sunday’s game with the Bills? Nothing and everything. For this tie to fall in Minnesota’s favor, they have to continue winning football games (they have done it once this season), and that begins with not kicking away a home game in which you are the prohibitive favorite.

That shouldn’t be a major problem, but we all know in the NFL that if you overlook an opponent, particularly one who’s season is already on the brink, you can easily get beat. That shouldn’t happen to the Vikings this week, however. The Bills, now behind rookie quarterback Josh Allen, are 31st in the league in yards (223 per game) and points (11.5 per game). Meanwhile, their defense holds the same positional rank for points, giving up a whopping 39.0 per game—they just happened to be tied with the Detroit Lions for last in the league.

The Vikings offense should be able to feast on those numbers, as they put up 22 points in the most recent quarter of football they played. The Bills defense gives up 113.0 rushing yards per game (ranked 21st), so the Purple may even be able to get their running game going.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings should be able to get back to their dominating self, as Allen will be easier to confuse than a gimpy Aaron Rodgers. Allen, who took over for Nathan Peterman in game one, currently has one touchdown pass, two picks and a quarterback rating of 61.0. With an ailing McCoy and a learning Allen, the Vikings should be able to put away the Bills early and easily. But then Allen can move more than a hurt Rodgers, also.

“Big arm, really athletic moving in the pocket and scrambling,” Zimmer said of Allen. “I think he looks to throw when he’s scrambling. Moves well in the pocket but will definitely pull it down and run.”

Perhaps a better comparison for Allen is the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who the Vikings saw in Week 1.

“They got a lot of misdirection things, similar to a lot of the things San Francisco did,” Zimmer said. “[Allen] could keep the ball off of some of the option stuff and some of the RPOs.”

It’s nice for the defense to have already seen some of that. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL—but this one comes pretty close. The team (and the head coach) all have a bad taste in their mouths lingering from last week (and that taste has nothing to do with kissing their sisters). You hear them say it constantly: every game in the NFL counts. There are no gimmes. You have to go out and do your job no matter the opponent . . .  and a lot other clichés. Well, the Vikings will do so with this one. The drama may be gone quickly, but that’s okay, because we are all still reeling from last week.

Minnesota—31, Buffalo–9