After falling to the New York Jets last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills face a 7-1 Minnesota Vikings team in Week 10 that offers up an interesting thought experiment for people who preview the matchup. That is: whether Minnesota represents a grave threat to, or a cure for, what ails the Bills at the moment. The answer depends entirely on where the previewer is looking.
In Minnesota’s Favor
The Bills turn the ball over a lot. They are fourth in the NFL in giveaways with 14, and all three of the teams in front of them (the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, and the New England Patriots, all tied at 17 giveaways) have started backup quarterbacks thus far in their season. To add to that fact, the Bills themselves may be starting a backup quarterback if the Josh Allen elbow injury keeps him sidelined for this game.
The Vikings are good at taking the ball away. They’re tied for sixth in the league with 14 takeaways.
In Buffalo’s Favor
The Bills have struggled in the low red zone this year. Within the five-yard line, the Bills are dead last in the NFL in offensive touchdown rate at 25%, and are 19th in the league in touchdown rate in the red zone as a whole at 53.57%. Minnesota has the worst defense in the league in regards to stopping touchdowns in the red zone, giving up six points a staggering 78.95% of the time. It’s the completely stoppable force versus the incredibly moveable object.
In Minnesota’s Favor
Buffalo has been gashed in the run game over the last two weeks, giving up 208 rushing yards to the Green Bay Packers before following it up by allowing 174 yards to the New York Jets. There are very different reasons behind each of those games’ totals, but if the Bills decide to put their foot down this week and go all-out to stop running back Dalvin Cook and the Vikings’ zone-based rush scheme, they may be putting themselves in harm’s way.
Kirk Cousins has the eighth-highest passer rating in the NFL when using play action among passers with 250-plus dropbacks. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and only one interception using the concept. The Bills deciding to stop the run at all costs against this particular team could open them up to getting hit with meaningful plays in the passing game, and enriching a strength of the Minnesota quarterback.
In all three situations, we find a strength of one team lining up with a weakness of the other team. Who knows whether this game will end up being a great or poor matchup for the Bills, but I know what factors I’ll be watching most closely.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!