The “will he or won’t he” situation with the Buffalo Bills and star quarterback Josh Allen has lingered in the air over Bills Mafia since the end of their team’s most recent loss to the New York Jets. After two days without practicing, Allen was listed as “limited” on Friday’s practice report and shows up as “questionable” for Sunday’s 1 p.m. EST tilt against the Minnesota Vikings.
If Allen can’t go, a popular refrain is that a team should lean on its running game to control the game and minimize the loss of an elite quarterback. But the Bills aren’t really the team to do that, and the Vikings really aren’t the team to do that against.
The Vikings are ninth in the league in rushing yards against per game, ninth in opposing yards per rush, and 19th in defensive rushing DVOA. The Bills are actually fifth in the NFL in yards per rush, but that’s buoyed significantly by their leading rusher—Allen—averaging a career-high 6.3 yards per carry. And he’s the one who’s out in this hypothetical situation. Only eight teams have a worse EPA/rush than the Bills so far in 2022, and lead running back Devin Singletary is tied for a career low with 4.4 yards per rush.
Buffalo’s running game is not the kind you lean on, and Minnesota’s run defense is not the kind you lean against, regardless of who your quarterback is.
Stefon Diggs, however, is the kind of receiver you lean on. Since coming to the Bills, Diggs has proven himself to not only be a great receiver, but also the type of receiver you can run an offense through. That distinction is important. There are lots of good receivers in the league, but not all have the three-level ability to be a primary target down in and down out for a passing game. Mike Williams in San Diego is a good receiver worthy of his $20 million pear year contract. Marquise Brown had a breakout season for the Baltimore Ravens last year and was picking up where he left off with the Arizona Cardinals before his recent injury. But those receivers, while quantitatively effective, are not qualitatively as well-rounded as is necessary to have the passing game centered around them as a focal point week in and week out.
Diggs’ underlying relationship with Keenum from their time together in Minnesota should assist in this regard. In 2017, Diggs saw a 19.75% target share from Keenum, second on the team behind Adam Thielen—who was a Pro Bowler that year and still in his prime. Diggs was tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with another Pro Bowler in tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Keenum directed an offense with two pass-catching Pro Bowlers, and has one of his top Minnesota weapons and one of the best receivers in football here now in Buffalo. Now is not the time to play to your own weakness in the potential absence of Allen. Now is the time for Diggs to show the Vikings, along with the rest of the league once again, that he is him.
..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!