With a point spread hovering around -17 in favor of the Minnesota Vikings, the biggest threat in Sunday’s tilt with the Buffalo Bills may be overconfidence. Minnesota has a gargantuan matchup with the Los Angeles Rams looming on Thursday, giving Sunday the feeling of a classic trap.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine anything but a Vikings win in a building where they are capable of routing the league’s best teams, let alone the hapless Bills, who’ve been outscored 78-23 in their opening two losses.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the matchups.
MINNESOTA’S OFFENSE vs BUFFALO’S DEFENSE
The Vikings will try to match the Ravens and Chargers before them, who’ve led Buffalo 26-0 and 28-6, respectively, at halftime. Minnesota hit its stride offensively against Green Bay and now gets back on its home turf — sans, however, their leading rusher Dalvin Cook.
It seems like Cook will be back for Thursday’s game with the Rams, but in the meantime the world may get introduced to Mike Boone, who had the look of a hidden gem throughout the preseason. The Bills have given up over 100 yards on the ground through the first two games. Minnesota, though, is missing its top blocking tight end in David Morgan (knee).
TreDavious White and Phillip Gaines (limited with an elbow injury all week) will have the task of slowing down Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who are off to blazing starts. Both opposing quarterbacks have thrown for three touchdowns against the Bills thus far with a whopping 79 percent completion percentage, opening the door for Kirk Cousins to find the rhythm he ended with against the Packers. The Bills have two sacks in each game this year and boast a strong front four, but they’ll seemingly be without former first-round pick Shaq Lawson again (hamstring). Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott took over play-calling duties last Sunday, seemingly injecting some life into the Bills defense. Will they be able to carry it over?
The Vikings expect to play center Pat Elflein at some point, though not in a starting role. If Minnesota leads comfortably, they may ease their prize second-year player back into action to start preparing him for the test awaiting on Thursday.
MINNESOTA’S DEFENSE vs BUFFALO’S OFFENSE
The Vikings have historically feasted on young quarterbacks under Mike Zimmer, highlighted by their performances last year against Brett Hundley, Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky, who scored a combined 27 points at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Josh Allen will start his second career game against the last year’s top defense, though Minnesota will be without Everson Griffen at defensive end. Stephen Weatherly and Tashawn Bower will fill in and likely get matched up against tackle Jordan Mills a decent amount. We may see DT Tom Johnson get plenty of work, as well, in his first game back with the Vikings. Buffalo has given up 11 sacks through two games, while the Vikings have notched seven.
The Bills will reportedly be without LeSean McCoy (ribs), meaning Marcus Murphy and Chris Ivory will get additional work. The receiving corps for Buffalo is equally unheralded – no pass catcher has more than 31 yards besides Zay Jones, who tops the charts at five receptions for 89 yards. Tight end Charles Clay has just two catches so far, but the Vikings have struggled two straight weeks against tight ends. We’ll see if they have those issues cleaned up.
The Vikings would have to royally mess up to lose this game. Considering they missed three field goals and gave up a special teams touchdown the week prior, Buffalo might’ve missed its window of opportunity by one week. It’s hard to imagine Minnesota gifting the Bills, in essence, 16 points like they did against the Packers.
But what of the point spread? I’ve got Buffalo covering with a garbage-time touchdown. Vikings still win handily.
Vikings 27, Bills 13
Week 1: Vikings 21, 49ers 13 (Actual: Vikings 24, 49ers 16)
Week 2: Vikings 27, Packers 26 (Actual: Vikings 29, Packers 29)