The Minnesota Vikings started with an impressive 7-1 record into the season but now have to face the Buffalo Bills, whom most teams had as the favorite to win the Super Bowl favorites coming into the season, and a lot of people stuck with the team.
The Bills are the favorite at home on Sunday’s matchup to beat the Vikings, but the odds are shifting toward the purple team. What are the most important storylines?
Potential Super Bowl Matchup?
The two teams combine for a 13-3 record. Of course, it’s still too early to make reliable Super Bowl predictions, but the record doesn’t lie, and both teams are contending. The Vikings only faced one currently perceived as an elite team, the Philadelphia Eagles. That game on Monday Night Football in Week 2 was a disaster, and the Vikings would certainly like to forget about the game. The easy way to do that is by beating the Bills, who have already beaten the Chiefs, Ravens, and Titans this season.
Buffalo has a fantastic defense, first in points allowed, paired with an explosive offense, third in points scored, so they are a tough team to beat. However, they are beatable, as their record shows. The two losses came in Miami against the Dolphins in Week 3, who the Vikings took care of, and last week on the road against the Jets. Both of the games were losses in their own division. If the Vikings can hang with the Bills, they will prove they are a serious title contender.
Josh Allen’s Elbow
The superstar quarterback suffered an elbow injury right before the end of last week’s loss. However, on the next play, he uncorked a 70-yard pass right into the hands of Gabe Davis. Medical reports of the injury are rare, but they suggest he has a UCL sprain in his throwing arm. There are various levels to that injury, so it’s unclear if he’ll be available or if it’s a long-term issue.
Allen missed the practices on Wednesday and Thursday. The passer is one of the elite players in football and is in a position to win his first career NFL MVP trophy. He’s currently ranking close to the top in all passing metrics, and he’s a dangerous runner with the football. Allen has already scored 23 touchdowns in just eight games. Four of the were rushes.
Upcoming Revenge Game?
Wideout Stefon Diggs is one of the best players in recent Vikings history, but on Sunday, he’ll suit up for the Bills. Diggs requested a trade in the 2020 offseason, and former general manager Rick Spielman granted him his wish. Since then, Diggs has become one of the most prolific receivers in the league and even led the league in receiving yards in 2020. The Vikings used their first-round pick for Diggs for Justin Jefferson and somehow managed to replace an elite NFL player instantly. The Vikings also got the pick to draft Camryn Bynum in the trade. In retrospect, the Bills are happy because they brought in a top receiver, and the Vikings are happy because they replaced him with a younger and cheaper player with comparable production.
Another former Vikings player on the Bills is backup quarterback Case Keenum, who could be in line to start because of Allen’s injury. It would not be his first game against the Vikings, as he played his former team in 2019 with Washington. Keenum, of course, connected with Diggs for the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’ back in 2018 and gave Vikings fans one of the greatest moments in franchise history. Keenum later bounced around in Denver, Washington, Cleveland, and now in Buffalo, primarily as the backup.
The final big revenge game is from Bills’ defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. He was with the Vikings from 2007 to 2013 and had the position of head coach from 2011 to 2013 before the Vikings fired him and hired Mike Zimmer. Including his time as interim head coach in 2010, his record was 21-32-1, with almost half of his wins coming in the 2012 season behind MVP Adrian Peterson’s heroics. He’s certainly in line to get a second chance as head coach after coordinating a superb defensive unit in Buffalo.
Spotlight on Akayleb Evans
The rookie cornerback replaced starter Cameron Dantzler in the Vikings’ defense after the cornerback hurt his ankle last Sunday. He did a wonderful job covering Washington’s top receiver, Terry McLaurin. Dantzler didn’t practice on Wednesday and Thursday, so he’s in danger of missing the game. Evans would slide into the starting lineup.
The Bills could exploit the inexperienced player by putting Diggs on his side. No matter the result, Vikings fans will learn a lot about their rookie in the game. With a good performance, he can earn a more significant role in the future.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt