The Buffalo Bills (3-3) are looking to bounce back this week, as the Minnesota Vikings (2-4) come to Ralph Wilson Stadium this Sunday for a 1:00 PM (eastern) kickoff.
National TV: FOX and NFL RedZone
Radio: Sirius XM, Locally on WGR550 AM in Buffalo
Here is what I am most interested in looking for come Sunday.
Teddy Bridgewater against Buffalo’s Defense
Last week Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took a step back from his 317-yard performance the week before and turned in a dud against a very good Detroit Lions defense.
The Lions made the young quarterback look like someone who was playing in just his third career game and forced three interceptions and a forced fumble against the rookie signal-caller.
He will face a lot of pressure from Buffalo’s defense again this week, as the Bills already have 19 sacks this year. Their defensive line is one of the best in football and is looking to bounce back from an up and down game last week against the New England Patriots. They will be pinning their ears back against a Vikings offensive line that just allowed eight sacks the week before.
I like Teddy Bridgewater as a young developing quarterback, but I don’t think that the Bills offer him a very good matchup in this one.
They are very stout against the run (the best rated rush defense only allowing 67.5 rushing yards to opponents per game), and I imagine them stacking the box early on in the game, making the Vikings go through the air and put all of the pressure on the rookie quarterback to make the offense tick. If they turn one-dimensional into just passing the ball, it will be a long day at the office for the Minnesota offense.
Unlike last week against Tom Brady, this is a good week for the Bills to just rush four and drop everyone else back in coverage. They are going to be able to generate good pressure from just their offensive line and Bridgewater has tended to hold onto the ball just a little too long in the pocket so far this season.
I don’t see the Vikings offense having much success in this one, as turnovers should be aplenty for an opportune Buffalo defensive unit.
Bills Rushing Attack against Vikings Front Seven
The Buffalo Bills rushing attack has been on the free-fall for sometime now. The 2nd ranked group from last year started off the year strong but has now fallen to 22nd in the league in rushing offense, averaging slightly over 100 yards per game.
Fred Jackson has looked like the more productive between him and CJ Spiller (who is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on his 68 attempts). It isn’t fair to put all of the blame on the running backs, as the Bills offensive line has been downright dreadful in opening up holes.
It seems that even when the hole might not be there, Jackson still dives ahead for 3-4 yard carries every carry (as his 4.4 yards per carry would illustrate).
Spiller is such an explosive player but the problem is the Bills haven’t been able to get him in enough space. Coming out in shotgun and running dive plays for Spiller up the middle is not something that he is going to have a lot of success doing. Some screen plays along with some stretch plays to the outside will allow Spiller to get the ball in space and allow him to try to make some guys miss, something else he hasn’t been all that successful in doing this year.
Minnesota is 19th in the league in rushing defense and has allowed opposing teams to rush for 118.2 yards per game against them. There will be some openings for the Bills backs to try to take advantage of this weekend.
The only encouraging thing about the running game is that the team hasn’t gotten away from it despite the struggles. It is still very much a part of their offense and while it doesn’t look great now, not giving up on your running attack is going to pay off great come late November and December when snow starts to hit and it is your backs that will play a big role in those crucial, late-season ball games.
Kyle Orton against the Vikings Secondary
If the Bills rushing attack can’t get going, the Bills will look for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton to lead the offense again.
In his first two starts, Orton is averaging 303.5 yards passing per game but will be facing the league’s 6th best passing defense (a group that allows only 213.8 yards per game).
He will have to make sure he is careful with the football, as the Vikings have five interceptions on the year, and are lead by safety Harrison Smith who is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions.
I have been very impressed with Orton so far, as he really has just started to get back into the schedule of starting football games again. Minus a few bad throws (mostly just a bad interception and costly fumble last week), Orton has really looked pretty sharp in running this Bills offense and is giving them much more consistent play than EJ Manuel was delivering.
The flow of the offense along with the right reads being made on plays has also seen an increase for the better.
Even with the touch matchup, I expect the Bills to be able to move the ball through the air again this week.
If the running game doesn’t show up, they won’t have a choice.
Buffalo’s Secondary Attempting to Slow Down Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson
On paper, the Minnesota Vikings have two good wide outs in veteran Greg Jennings and youngster Cordarrelle Patterson.
The results haven’t been the same on the field so far this year.
Jennings has 20 catches for 268 yards and a touchdown in six games this year but just five catches for 64 yards the past two weeks. Patterson hasn’t fared any better, and hasn’t gone over 61 yards receiving in any game so far this year. He has just 6 catches for 61 yards over his last three games played.
It isn’t all their fault, as the Vikings have already been through two quarterbacks, lost their starting tight end, been without Adrian Peterson, and don’t feature a lot of other talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bills still need to make sure that these guys are covered as Jennings can still move the sticks and Patterson has the game breaking speed to turn a pass into the flats into a 80-yard score if contain is lost on him.
I see the Bills defensive line making it tough for Bridgewater to have a lot of time in the pocket. If this is the case, expect another below average game from the two wide receivers.
No Goodwin for Buffalo
Buffalo will be without deep threat Marquise Goodwin, as the wide receiver has already been ruled out for this weekend’s game.
The Bills use Goodwin as their field-stretcher, so look for the starting wide receiving group to now consist of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Chris Hogan in third-wide sets.
We could also see a receiver return to the lineup after being a healthy inactive just the week before with this development.
Will WR Mike Williams be Active?
With the injury to Goodwin, I believe that Williams will make his way back into the lineup as the Bills fourth wide receiver, even with the limited practice time that he has received so far this week.
It should be a good move, as what Williams lacks in speed lost by Goodwin, he makes up for in size and jump ball ability.
In limited times this season we have already seen the playmaking ability of Williams with his 8 receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown (good for a 17.8 yard per catch average).
A fired up Williams could be what the Bills need to help them make plays downfield and turn a couple red-zone trips into touchdowns.
Is Another Breakout Day for Sammy Watkins on the Horizon?
It is well documented by now the troubles that the Buffalo Bills had in getting rookie Sammy Watkins the ball last week against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots secondary.
In review of last week’s game, it didn’t seem like the offense revolved around getting Watkins the ball, as he was a lot of clear out routes for other receivers on the team.
You didn’t draft the young talent fourth overall to be your decoy receiver week in and week out.
I think the Bills will realize the mistake they made and will look to work Waktins over the middle again, an area he has had some great success in early in the season.
While the go-route (streak) is great, I would like to see Watkins running a lot more crossing and dig like routes that utilize getting the ball in his hands as he is reaching top speed.
It is no denying that the talent is there. The Bills need to make sure that they get Watkins the proper amount of targets this week. It will make it that much easier on everyone else in the offense.
The Bills look like the better team coming into this game, and need a win to try to stay on pace with the leading New England Patriots in the AFC East and the rest of the AFC playoff picture. An early road game in a hostile environment, against a very good defense, will make it a forgettable week for Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings. Buffalo wins this one 31-17.
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