The Vikings (7-1) are heading into Week 10 riding a six-game win streak but will face a stiff challenge — stronger than any Calcutta Clipper — when visiting the Buffalo Bills (6-2) at noon (CT) Sunday.
Minnesota's streak is the second longest in the NFL behind only Philadelphia (8-0) thanks to the Vikings having claimed four victories after having trailed in fourth quarters this season, which is tied with the New York Giants for the most in the NFL.
According to NFL Media Research, 42 games this season have been won or tied by teams that trailed in the fourth quarter, a record through the first nine weeks of an NFL season.
Here is a predicted key matchup, along with five storylines for this week.
Matchup to watch: Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs
No, Jefferson and Diggs won't go head-to-head (J.J. will probably see a good bit of Stefon's brother Trevon with the Cowboys in Week 11), but their connection will forever be intertwined because the first-round pick Minnesota used to select Jefferson was acquired by trading Diggs to Buffalo before the 2020 NFL Draft.
The players have been tremendous for their respective teams in a rare but true "win-win" situation, with Jefferson ranking second in the NFL this season with 867 receiving yards and Diggs in third with 857.
According to Next Gen Stats from NFL Media Research, Jefferson (1,468) and Diggs (1,369) rank first and second in the NFL in receiving yards against man coverage since 2020.
NFL Media Research noted that the Bills have played man coverage on 44.1 percent of their coverage snaps since Week 6 (second in NFL), compared to 18.1 percent from Weeks 1-5 (30th in NFL). Buffalo has missed CB Tre'Davious White (Weeks 1-9), but he might be a go this week for his first game back since tearing his ACL last season. Jordan Poyer was inactive last week at the Jets, and rookie Kaiir Elam suffered an ankle injury last week. Safety Micah Hyde was placed on injured reserve in Week 3.
Diggs will be facing the team that drafted him in 2015 for the first time. He is tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdown catches and ranks third with 857 yards through the air on 60 receptions.
Diggs has caught at least five passes for 90-plus yards in each of his past four games, but the aerial threats posed by the Bills don't end with him.
WR Gabe Davis has 206 yards in two home games this season and has averaged 25.1 yards per catch (451 on 18 receptions), highlighted by 98- and 62-yard scores in Week 5 against Pittsburgh. Isaiah McKenzie has 182 yards and three touchdowns on 20 receptions.
The Vikings secondary — led by veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson (10 pass breakups — fourth in the NFL) and Harrison Smith (tied for second in the NFL with four interceptions, including one in each of the past three games) — will try to ground an attack that ranks third in passing yards per game (292.1) and passing yards per play (7.66), which has helped the Bills rank first in yards per game (416.4) and third in points per game (27.5).
According to NFL Media Research, the Vikings have used zone coverage on 85.8 percent of coverage snaps this season (second in the NFL).
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bills.
1. QB watch
All eyes will be on the status of Josh Allen. The Bills QB suffered an elbow injury Sunday in a 20-17 loss at the New York Jets.
In addition to already throwing for 2,403 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions (passer rating of 99.2) this season, Allen leads the Bills with 392 rushing yards (third among QBs this season), averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He has scored four of Buffalo's six rushing touchdowns, including a 36-yarder last week.
The Vikings know good and well that Allen's backup Case Keenum is more than capable of filling a void, given he helped Minnesota win the NFC North in 2017. Keenum is 2-of-7 passing for 8 yards (passer rating of 39.6) and has netted zero rushing yards on five carries in limited duty this season.
If it winds up being Keenum, he'd be the third former Vikings QB to face Minnesota since Week 6, joining Teddy Bridgewater at Miami and Taylor Heinicke at Washington.
2. Two Cooks in the kitchen
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will play in a game against a team featuring his younger brother James for the first time in their careers.
Both second-round picks, each Cook will try to provide the winning recipe for his respective team.
Dalvin has been heating up since Week 5, with five scrimmage touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in Minnesota's past four games. His scrimmage yards also have increased to 100.3 per game over the 81.5 he averaged from Weeks 1-4.
James has been used less frequently by the Bills but is averaging 5.3 yards per carry (147 on 28).
3. Heaping helping of Hockenson
At this point last week, we were wondering how quickly and how much of an impact T.J. Hockenson could make days after he was acquired in a trade with Detroit.
Turned out, he's a quick study and capable of translating that between the lines.
Hockenson recorded nine catches for 70 yards, the most receptions by an NFL player in his first game with a team after being traded during a season (stat tracked since 1960).
His debut included a 19-yarder on third-and-5 out of the gate and an 18-yard reception to open Minnesota's hurry-up drive at the end of the first half. He added an element to the Vikings attack that they had been looking for prior to his acquisition.
4. Can Harrison Smith extend streak to four games?
It took starts 149, 150 and 151 for Harrison Smith to do something the six-time Pro Bowler had never accomplished, but there's a first time for everything.
Smith enters Sunday's game with an interception in each of the past three games and the first time he can ever make it four consecutive games with a pick. If he were to do so, it would give him five for the season and match his previous career bests (2014, 2017 and 2020 seasons).
The franchise record for consecutive games with an interception is six, which was accomplished by Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Krause in 1968 and safety Brian Russell in 2003.
The Vikings are tied for third in the NFL at plus-6 in takeaways (14) to giveaways (8).
The Bills are tied for 13th at plus-1 in takeaways (15) to giveaways (14). Allen has thrown eight interceptions, tied for the second most in the NFL, but those have been offset by 19 passing touchdowns, which ranks second in the NFL.
5. Defenses can put teams under duress
The Bills defense ranks seventh in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt by an opponent (8.81 percent). The only team the Vikings have played with a higher rate is the Eagles, who claimed a 24-7 victory over the Vikings in Week 2.
Minnesota has been able to ramp up its frequency of sacks and now ranks ninth in the NFL at 8.60 percent. After combining for 11 sacks in the first five games, the Vikings "Edge Department" has totaled 13 in its past three contests.
The Jets recorded five sacks in their win over the Bills, becoming just the second team to record more than two against Buffalo this season. Miami totaled four in its Week 3 win.
Three Vikings opponents (Saints, Dolphins and Cardinals) have recorded three sacks this season. Washington totaled two but was able to land hit after hit on Vikings QB Kirk Cousins.
After a whopping seven against the Rams in Week 1, the Bills recorded three against the Steelers and Chiefs and two against everyone else.