In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It's hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I'm sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Bills preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.
With kickoff fast approaching, here are a few final thoughts on today's Vikings-Bills contest.
How to Take in Today's Game Game Time: 12:00 p.m. CT TV:FOXRadio:Vikings Radio Network; KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130Mobile:NFL Mobile (exclusively on Verizon)
Bills defensive line loves to play gamesThe Buffalo Bills defense enters Week 7 ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per carry (2.8) and per game (67.5), and they enter the week tied for second in the NFL with 19 sacks. This type of production is the result of good team defense, no doubt, but it's hard not to give a special nod to the front four.
How do they do it? Pure talent is one way – Dareus, Hughes and Maria Williams are all former first-rounders. But another reason they have been so disruptive this season is a tactic referred to as "playing games" or stunting. Sometimes it's DTs Dareus and Kyle Williams penetrating upfield at the snap and then DEs Hughes and Mario Williams looping underneath. Other times it's the reverse – the ends crashing inside and the tackles looping outside. And then other times it's a combination of these two games or even a different one altogether. When defensive linemen use stunts, it puts pressure on the offensive line to communicate well because they must adjust their protection calls. It will be important today for the Vikings offensive line to be sound in its communication and protection techniques to keep this disruptive and powerful defensive line from having success while playing games.
Expect Bills to emphasize run earlyDon't be surprise if the Bills place an emphasis on running the ball today against the Vikings. Buffalo ranks just 22nd in the NFL with a per-game rushing average of 101.0 and they haven't rushed for 100 yards as a team since Week 2, but Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone spoke this week about the importance of getting back on track in the running game.
"It's not one individual. It's easy when it's one individual, you just pull one out and put somebody else in," Marrone said, according to the team’s website. "But it's up front, it's hitting the holes, it's believing and trusting in the scheme, the perimeter. We've got to go back and get this thing again."
Bills RBs catchingWhen it is time for the Bills to put the ball in the air, though, it's still important for the Vikings to keep their eye on the running backs. The tandem of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller has combined for 43 receptions this season, and Jackson actually leads the entire team with 30 receptions.
The Vikings have had mixed results against running backs in the passing game this season. They've allowed 35 receptions on 45 targets for 289 yards and two touchdowns. Against New England's talented tandem of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, the Vikings were solid and allowed just three receptions for 23 yards. Teams like Atlanta (10 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD) and Detroit (7 receptions, 98 yards, 1 TD) had more success, though.
Cool subplot: Teddy Bridgewater-Preston Brown reunionWhen the Vikings offense and the Bills defense lineup against one another today, the two quarterbacks, so to speak, on the field will have plenty of familiarity. Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater was a first-round pick out of Louisville and Bills middle linebacker Preston Brown was a third-round pick out of Louisville this year.
Bridgewater and Brown, while leading their respective sides of the ball, guided Louisville to many wins together and they have a lot of respect for one another now that both are playing in the NFL.
"One of the big things with Teddy was he would always re-start the offense if they were having a bad series in practice," said Brown. "If anybody had a bad play we'd just re-start it and start the whole thing over. He really made sure that we got things going right because he didn't want to have any missed plays in practice show up in the games."
Said Bridgewater of Brown: "He looks pretty good. You wouldn't think he's a rookie the way he's flying to the ball and the way he's covering guys. He's looking like a guy in great form."
Brown is the Bills leading tackler and looks to be a gem found by the scouting staff in the third round.
Greenway ready to return?Speaking of gems at linebacker, the Vikings hope to have Chad Greenway (hand/rib) back for today's game. He's listed as questionable on the injury report but this feels as close to playing as the veteran linebacker has been since he missed the Week 4 game at home against Atlanta.
If Greenway does return to the lineup, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings go back to playing Anthony Barr at defensive end in some sub packages. With LB Gerald Hodges out for this game, the Vikings may elect to keep Barr and Greenway as the nickel linebackers, or the Vikings could look to Audie Cole or Michael Mauti to play nickel linebacker if they want to put Barr back at end in some situations.
Windy and cold for the game?At sunrise in Buffalo, temperatures were in the high 30s and by kickoff they are expected to "rise" to the high 40s or low 50s. More notable, though, may be the wind. The forecast calls for wind speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. The low temps are no fun, but the wind may have the most significant impact on the game. The good news is that there is no precipitation in the forecast.* *