In a proverbial “statement game,” the Vikings head to New York as 6.5-point underdogs to face the 6-2 Buffalo Bills this Sunday. The statement will hopefully lead to a Vikings’ win, but at the very least, I want to see our guys go toe-to-toe with a team many have already penciled into a Super Bowl berth.
Let’s Not Bury The Lead
Josh Allen did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday this week due to an elbow injury. His status is up in the air, and I have to believe the Bills will err on the side of caution. However, the Bills have already proven they are one of the AFC’s top contenders, and their schedule after the Vikings is a list of games they should win.
Not to mention that list is eight games long, with four games against their division and only two games against NFC opponents. I want the Vikings to play the Bills with Josh Allen, for what it’s worth. I fall into the camp that says, “You have to beat the best to be the best,” or something to that effect. I’d tell you to monitor this situation closely, but my guess is it will be harder to avoid hearing updates about his injury than to miss whether or not Allen is going to play Sunday.
Diggs Versus Jefferson
Bills WR Stefon Diggs began his stellar career as a Minnesota Viking, and this matchup will be his first game against his former squad. Although he left on bad terms, he had an impressive career in a run-first offense. Diggs tallied over 4,600 receiving yards in his five years in purple, and that’s good enough for ninth all-time in franchise receiving yards.
He helped a little on his way out, as the pick the Vikings received in the deal was used on Justin Jefferson. Jefferson only trails Diggs by about six hundred yards on the all-time Vikings receiving chart in two and a half fewer seasons. Nevertheless, both players have cemented themselves as elite NFL receivers, and I think we are in for a fun back-and-forth this weekend, with both players putting up big numbers. I would love a Vikings blowout, but I have to think this game will be settled after a lot of points are scored, so why not have an epic WR1 shootout?
Run The Ball!
After all of those “run-first” years under Mike Zimmer, I cannot believe that I am clamoring for the Vikings to be more consistent on the ground. And while I don’t want the Vikings to become run-first, they have to run the ball better to keep this winning streak going.
The running game was horrendous against Washington last week, as Dalvin Cook only mustered 47 yards on 17 carries. That’s under 2.8 yards per attempt, and it caused some issues for our offense. It wasn’t the only contributing factor, but it was partially to blame for the number of 2nd/3rd and longs the Vikings faced throughout the day. Now, I’ll credit the Commanders’ defense because their defensive line was especially disruptive all day, but we are the division-leading team. We need to establish that run. And if we need to sacrifice some of our playbook? Let’s take a break from screen plays this week.
More Opportunity For Akayleb Evans
With Cameron Dantzler expected to miss Sunday’s game, rookie CB Akayleb Evans is in line to start. Evans came in and made some big plays in the relief of Dantzler last week, and I’m excited to see him get another opportunity.
The above play was the definition of clutch, so it is highlight-worthy. However, I enjoyed, even more, his open-field tackling. He stuck some guys on plays perfectly in the scheme of his containment duties, and he looked like an experienced playmaker. At the moment, he is allowing the coaching staff to feel better about missing Dantzler, and in the future, I think we are looking at a starter at the bare minimum. So let’s see you build off last week, Akayleb, and channel your inner Antoine Winfield!
Least Important Game Of The Season?
For the record, I’ll remind you all I want us to play the best and beat the best, so I want the Vikings to make a statement on Sunday. But just when I thought everyone shared my opinion, I found quite the opposite take on Reddit. Ah, the Internet, where we can all learn so much.
The Redditor brought up how this is a road game against the AFC, so it does not carry too much weight by way of tiebreakers. Further, I don’t believe there will be many too upset if we can’t pull this one out. The Bills have proven they are elite; if we hang with them but lose, sometimes that happens against other great teams. And I think we’re a great team, so I’d like to see us assert ourselves against one of the best. But I’ll thank this Redditor for helping me see the other side of the story.
Adam Thielen returned to full participation for the Vikings, and Garrett Bradbury was a limited participant. Hopefully, both of those guys are ready to go. Dalvin Tomlinson still did not practice, though, and is in danger of missing another game. Last, Cameron Dantzler did not participate, and it looks like he’ll be sidelined again.
For the Bills, notable “DNPs” at Thursday’s practice were S Jordan Poyer, LB Tremaine Edmunds, DE Greg Rousseau, and QB Josh Allen.
One Reason Why We’ll Win
The Bills have the best offense in the league to go along with a top-five defense. I could nitpick a bunch of specific things, but looking at how the Jets beat them last week, we’ll win if our defense shows up.
To be a bit more specific, Za’Darius Smith, Danielle Hunter, and our full complement of pass rushers will need to take over this game. When Smith and Hunter are spelled, D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones, and everybody else will need to be flying all over the place. They are going to tackle Josh Allen a lot on Sunday, and we need to do it a bunch in the backfield. If he doesn’t play, then I would call on our DBs to lock down Stefon Diggs. We would need to make Case Keenum try to force it to his top receiver.
One Reason Why We’ll Lose
Three-and-outs. They are so frustrating to watch, and the Vikings need to develop good consistency in moving the ball on offense. We can’t have streaks of drives ending in punts, as it is going to tire out our defense.
We will be in for a long afternoon if the Vikings’ offense cannot sustain drives. Maybe I’ll mention it again, then, let’s run the ball effectively and avoid screen plays that create third-and-longs. The Vikings have averaged seven punts per game over their last three contests, and that number needs to shrink if we are to have success against the Bills.
Final Thoughts And Prediction
No matter who the Bills have at quarterback, this is going to be a tough game. The Vikings are going on the road to a well-coached team with a top-five defense led by Von Miller. I am looking for the Vikings to compete well, run the ball, and try to keep the Bills offense off of the field.
I think our defensive front shows out in this game with at least a few sacks, and I think the Vikings will get a couple of turnovers. The Bills will not fold easily, however, and there will be a lot of points put up by both teams. I’ll take our Vikings to win this one 34 – 29. SKOL!