We won’t operate under any delusion here. Everything about this matchup is just plain brutal for the Buffalo Bills, on paper. We’re talking about a Minnesota Vikings team with one of the league’s best defenses squaring off against an offense that has managed to produce 23 points through their first two games. Oh yeah, and did we mention that it’s on the road? Fantastic.
Perpetual pessimism is exhausting, but any football fan with half a brain realizes that the 17 point spread on this game is actually kind toward Buffalo. No amount of positive PFF scores from Vlad Ducasse and the rest of the Bills’ ragtag offensive line will stop one of the best pass rushing teams in the NFL from acquainting Josh Allen with the turf at US Bank Stadium.
Make no mistake. This one is probably going to hurt to watch but hey, any given Sunday, right? Let’s dive into the factors that will contribute toward the eventual outcome in this one.
Purple People Eaters
Turning the clocks back to last season, the Vikings allowed the fewest all-purpose yards per game. They also allowed the fewest average points-against per game at 15.8, a full point below the second-ranked squad (Jacksonville).
While we’re showering you all with fantastic news, we should mention the fact that their tie against the Green Bay Packers last week marked just the fourth time in the last year where the Minnesota defense allowed more than 25 points. All four of those occasions occurred on the road. At home last season, the Vikings did not allow a single opponent to eclipse 20 points on offense.
Realistically, the Bills won’t be the team to buck that trend. The offensive line continues to be indistinguishable from a group of five amusement park turnstiles and it’s not like Buffalo is flush with offensive talent otherwise. Their top receiver has spent most of the first two games on autopilot, LeSean McCoy has been successfully thwarted on the ground (a result of a combination of age and poor protection), and their rookie quarterback is still very much getting his feet wet.
Either way, this matchup stinks and it may very well be the worst matchup for the blue-and-red this season. Buckle up.
Josh Allen’s First Road Game
This next part is important, and it’s particularly noteworthy since it’s coming from a well-documented Josh Allen cynic. We mustn’t crucify Allen if he struggles on Sunday. It doesn’t make him a bust, and it doesn’t indicate anything other than the fact that the Bills are essentially devoid of offensive talent. As futile as this request may be, please try not to overreact regardless of what happens.
We’re talking about a kid who is going up against one of the best defensive fronts in the last decade, in his first road game after receiving second-to-third team reps all throughout training camp (yes, we know he took a handful of first-team reps too, but come on).
It’s the worst offense in the NFL against the best defense. This would be a bad matchup for Peyton Manning in his prime, let alone a rookie from the Mountain West who is far from a finished product. It’s going to be ugly. Maybe not Nate Peterman’s debut ugly, but still pretty terrible.
The saving grace here for Allen is the fact that the pressure is completely off in this one. Nobody expects him to succeed and anything positive he accomplishes on Sunday will just be icing on the cake. Should he fail en route to a three-interception performance, most logical Bills fans will shrug it off given the circumstances, but if he lights it up, well…. All aboard the hype train!
McDermott the Play-Caller?
There was a noticeable difference between the Bills defense that took the field at the start of last week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, and the unit that came out for the second half. Through some social in-game sleuthing from our friends at Cover 1, fans were informed that the second-year head coach had taken over play-calling responsibilities from defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier.
McDermott calling plays? pic.twitter.com/PWSomSeL9i
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) September 16, 2018
McDermott confirmed the report, but did not confirm whether or not he would be the one calling the shots in Minnesota.
There is no question that the Bills’ defense was much better in the second half last week, allowing only three points from that point on. Up until then, the “improved on paper” Buffalo defense was just plain brutal. After allowing Joe Flacco and the Ravens to rain hell on them through the air in the season opener, Philip Rivers was able to do the same en route to 28 first-half points last Sunday.
Sure, they’ve been good against the run but who cares? When teams are passing in excess of 300 yards on you, they don’t need much of a ground attack. Whether or not the Chargers took their foot off the gas so to speak is unknown, but one way or another, McDermott needs to hold the play sheet this week, just to see if it helps. Kirk Cousins has been hot to start the year, and he’ll try to duplicate the performances of his veteran contemporaries. The Bills will have to get creative if they plan on slowing him down.
Hopefully, we see a rebirth of the Buffalo ballhawks from last season. Otherwise, this one could get out of hand in short order.
As previously stated, there is not a single matchup that favors the Bills in this game. The Vikings are superior in every conceivable way. It’s going to be bad. Accept it, cringe through it, and move on to next week where the team will once again be tested in a tough road game against the Green Bay Packers. Woof.
Vikings 31 – Bills 10
Editor’s babble: There’s no sugar-coating this game, that’s for sure. Anything short of complete annihilation will be considered a positive outcome. Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for easing our pain… again. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.