Game Preview: Vikings at Bills


Week 7 sees the Minnesota Vikings traveling to Buffalo to take on the Bills. The Vikings are 2-4 after losing their most recent game with the Detroit Lions last Sunday. The Bills loss to the Patriots last Sunday dropped them to 3-3 on the season. Week 7 begins a stretch of very winnable games for the Bills, and they need to start taking advantage of their schedule starting Sunday.

While last Sunday was certainly disappointing, it did nothing but put the Patriots only one game on top of the Bills for first place 6 weeks into the season. While defeating the Patriots would have been a huge victory for the franchise and fans, the Bills have an easier schedule than the Patriots over the next 6 weeks. If the Bills take care of their own business and win the games that they should than they could very well find themselves back in first place sooner rather than later.

The Vikings have had a strange start to their season. First they lost star running back Adrian Peterson for the season while he sorts out his child abuse allegations in court. Then starting quarterback Matt Cassell was injured, paving the way for rookie Teddy Bridgewater to be named the starting quarterback. Bridgewater’s first career start went well as the Vikings beat the Falcons, but his second start (after missing a game against the Packers with an ankle injury) went terribly. Last week Bridgewater was confused by the Lions defense and battered by the Lions defensive line. On the day Bridgewater was sacked 8 times and threw 3 interceptions. The Bills are hoping that their defense can force the same sort of rookie mistakes out of Bridgewater on Sunday.

It has now been 2 games since Kyle Orton was named the starting quarterback for the Bills and it seems that the Bills are still trying to find their offensive identity. For a team that boasts two star running backs like Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, many would argue that they have not been running the ball nearly enough, or effectively enough when they do. This, I believe, is due in part too terrible offensive line play. The Bills starting guards have been really bad the past few games making it hard to run inside and hard to pass protect for deep down the field strikes. Bills head coach Doug Marrone said that they will begin looking at just about everything to start getting the run game going starting this week. This week could be just what it takes for the Bills, as the Vikings have one of the worst run defenses in the entire NFL.

One huge criticism I have had this season is that the play selection and play calling by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been just awful. I still stand by that statement. At times it looks like he is putting it together, but then there are times when you are just sitting their shaking your head at the ridiculously stupid calls. Two weeks in a row the Bills did not get going on offense until the second half. Hackett needs to get the offense rolling earlier on in the games and that needs to start this week. Creativity instead of predictable plays would certainly be a start. If I see CJ Spiller take a hand off out of shotgun formation in the first series on Sunday I might start driving to Buffalo to take care of things myself. If Hackett can’t get the job done with the play calling it may just be time for Doug Marrone to take over the play calling responsibilities.

All in all this Sundays game is not only a very winnable game, it’s a must win game. The Bills need to win these games against inferior opponents if they want to challenge the Patriots for the division and fight for a playoff spot. Teddy Bridgewater is starting his first career game on the road and the Bills defense needs to confuse him, hit him, and force him into rookie mistakes and turnovers. At the end of the day on Sunday I fully expect to see the Bills sitting at 4-3. The next 6 games will make or break the season for the Bills and I fully expect a fired up Buffalo team to take care of business on Sunday.

Let’s look at 3 keys to victory for the Bills:

1) Get the running game going. The Vikings have one of the worst run defenses in the entire NFL. While the Bills have been struggling running the ball behind poor offensive line play, they need to take this week to get the running game sorted out. The weather may not be favorable and that could mean a heavy dose of the run game. If the Bills run the ball well they will control the clock and help keep their defense fresh.

2) Get Sammy Watkins involved and early. Last week Sammy Watkins was only targeted 4 times. That is not enough. The Bills need to look his way early and often Sunday. I would like to see Hackett call a few screen and slants for Sammy. While he played at Clemson he had some of his most explosive plays running these routes. The fact that Hackett has not called any is borderline criminal. The Bills need a big game from Sammy on Sunday.

3) Pressure Bridgewater into rookie mistakes. Teddy Bridgewater will be making his first road start of his career on Sunday in front of a sold out crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The crowd will be pumped and if the Bills defense can get after Bridgewater early, than a few rookie mistakes could soon follow. He was sacked by the Lions last week 8 times and threw 3 interceptions. There is no excuse why the Bills defense can’t do the same to Bridgewater. If they do, they win.

Now, onto my prediction for Sunday.  I full expect a fired up Bills team to take the field Sunday ready to avenge last weeks loss and start rolling during this 6 game stretch that will define the season. If they don’t I will be very disappointed. I expect a big day from the Bills defense and the Bills offense will start to get things figured out in Orton’s third start as a Bill. The Vikings aren’t a very good football team and the Bills need to win these games over poor opponents. I expect they will.