After squeaking out a 20-17 victory over the Washington Commanders, the Minnesota Vikings are 7-1 and have their largest division lead ever. The next test is their biggest since a Week Two loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles as they travel to Buffalo to take on the 6-2 Bills. The biggest story of the week has been questions surrounding Josh Allen’s availability after not practicing all week. Here are three keys to the Vikings winning their seventh straight.
1. Spread Out the Bills’ Defense and Run the Ball
The Buffalo Bills are a team that likes to live with a slot corner on the field which could bode well for the Vikings. Kevin O’Connell has shown that he likes to try to take advantage of these matchups in the run game which could result in a big day for Dalvin Cook. If the Vikings can live in 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers), the Bills will be eager to put lighter personnel on the field (a cornerback instead of a linebacker) which is favorable for the Vikings’ run game. If the Bills opt to not play a nickel defense to counter this you end up with one of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, or K.J. Osborn on a linebacker; a matchup that is always going to favor the Vikings.
2. Capitalize On Opportunities for Turnovers
There is not much that the Bills are bad at. Scoring Offense: 3rd, Total Offense: 1st, Scoring Defense: 1st, Total Defense: 4th, Margin of Victory: 1st, I could go on and on. The one potential weakness? Turnovers. They rank 28th in the league with just shy of two turnovers per game. That’s not good and one thing the Vikings’ defense has been good at this year is causing turnovers. While Josh Allen may not be playing, Case Keenum has been known to have a bit of a fearless mentality when it comes to throwing the ball so the opportunities for takeaways will be there no matter who is under center. So far this year the defense has been able to take advantage of these opportunities when presented (as long as Cam Bynum is not getting tackled by the back judge) and that is a trend that will need to continue against the Bills.
3. Adjust on Defense to the Last Second Call at Quarterback
By far the biggest storyline in this game which is chock-full of great storylines is the Josh Allen injury. Allen suffered a UCL injury last week against the Jets and was not present at practice until Friday, leaving his status for this game up in the air. As of writing this article, Allen’s status on the official injury report was questionable and his participation in this game is still very much unknown. With that being said, the Vikings’ defense needs to be prepared for anything with this decision potentially coming down to a few hours before game time. If Josh Allen does not go, the Vikings should be prepared to adjust to a Case Keenum-led offense. It could take a drive or two to adjust, but they have shown that they can correct on the fly in previous games like against the Miami Dolphins. Even if Allen plays, we could see an adjustment in the Bills’ offense with fewer deep shots and more intermediate passes, plus potentially more focus on consistently running the ball. No matter the circumstances, the defense needs to be ready for whoever is at quarterback.
The outcome of this game is so dependent on whether or not Josh Allen plays. Either way, the Vikings are in for a tough test as the Bills’ roster is stacked even without Josh Allen. Vikings 21, Bills 20 with Case Keenum at quarterback, or Bills 34, Vikings 24 with Josh Allen at quarterback.