After starting the season with a 0-2 record the Buffalo Bills will travel to Minneapolis to face the 1-0-1 Vikings. It’ll be another very difficult game in this brutal early-season schedule that still features a trip to Green Bay next week. The “Josh Allen era” couldn’t have started in much more of a tumultuous way, and it’ll be interesting to watch how the rookie fares in this enormous challenge. With that said, let’s look at how the Bills’ offense match up against the elite Vikings’ D:
The Vikings have everything to make the Bills’ offense’s day one to forget. The talented defensive unit already has seven sacks on the season, led by defensive end Danielle Hunter with two. Another two came from defensive backs Harrison Smith and Mackensie Alexander, showing Mike Zimmer can and will throw all types of exotic looks and blitzes at the Bills’ rookie QB, just like the Chargers did last week. The Bills’ offensive line is doing a decent job picking up those blitzes and giving their QB a shot at least, but Allen will need to show improvement from last week to be able to diagnose the coverages and get rid of the ball more quickly.
The Bills’ wide receivers will have difficulty getting open versus the very good Vikings cornerbacks. For the passing game to have a shot, the tight ends and running backs will need to win their battles versus the Vikings’ linebackers in coverage. Anthony Barr is great, but if Bills OC Brian Daboll can scheme things up to exploit middle linebacker Eric Kendricks in isolation versus Charles Clay or LeSean McCoy in coverage, Buffalo can find some success. It was the Chargers’ strategy against Tremaine Edmunds last week, one the Bills should try to replicate.
Josh Allen will need to be very careful with the ball, keeping an eye on Harrison Smith all game. He’s one of the most dangerous safeties in the NFL and will try to take advantage of Allen’s inaccurate passes or bad decisions. If the Bills need to rely too much on the passing game, it’s going to be another long game this Sunday.
This is the area through which the Bills have the best shot to keep the game competitive. They might establish the run early, to maintain long drives, give the defense time to rest on the sidelines, and take away the burden from Allen’s shoulders. To be able to do that, the offensive line will need to do a way better job than what we saw in the first two games. The run blocking has been awful so far, and on the few big gains the team had on the ground, penalties killed the drives.
Former Bengals center Russell Bodine split reps with struggling incumbent Ryan Groy during the week and may start his first game as a Bill on Sunday. If so, the change should help the running game, since Bodine is the best option in this area. Using Allen as a threat on the ground is another important wrinkle Brian Daboll may need to employ, as well. Defensive linemen Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter are going to be a tough challenge up front, so Buffalo will need to be very creative to overcome the talent gap between the teams and make it a close game. The area in which the Vikings could do a bit better than in their previous games is stopping the run, and the Bills need to take advantage of this apparent weakness to have any chance.
We’re talking about the arguably best defense in football. The Vikings had the number one D in 2017 and are coming from a game in which, despite conceding 29 points, they allowed just one TD to the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense. That’s an impressive feat, and the Bills really have almost no chance in this game, with their rookie QB making his first away start in a hostile environment. If Allen can manage to eke out a positive game, gain some yards, move the chains, and avoid turnovers, it will be considered a major win. Few offenses match favorably against this Vikings’ D, and obviously this work-in-progress Bills unit isn’t one of them.