Last week’s pick, the Los Angeles Rams, took care of business by shutting out the Arizona Cardinals, 34-0. The Rams outgained the Cardinals 432 to 137 and held quarterback Sam Bradford to 90 yards passing.
This week, the Minnesota Vikings could be just as dominant against the Buffalo Bills.
Minnesota Vikings, 87 percent win probability
Five Vikings defenders were nominated to the Pro Bowl last season — end Everson Griffen, nose tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith — and the team hasn’t lost a step this season. Six players have at least one sack, and the unit has forced opposing teams to go three-and-out 42 percent of the time, tied for fifth-best. The Vikings are allowing just 22 percent of red-zone opportunities to result in a touchdown, second-best after the Tennessee Titans.
It’s unlikely the Bills will buck that trend. Their offense has scored 46 fewer points than expected through two games after accounting for the down, distance and field position of each play; running back LeSean McCoy suffered “cracked” rib cartilage last week and is questionable for Sunday; and rookie Josh Allen is the least-valuable qualified passer in 2018, per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating. Allen’s 17.9 QBR so far indicates his performance is only good enough for his team to post a 3-13 record over a full season.
The Vikings have no such issues on offense. New quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 425 yards against the Green Bay Packers, the fourth-most in a road game in franchise history, and he has star wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Thielen has exceeded 100 receiving yards in each of Minnesota’s first two games (one of three players in the NFL who have done so this season), and Diggs has caught at least one touchdown pass in his past five regular season games.
Those three surely will tax a Buffalo secondary that is dealing with injuries to cornerbacks Phillip Gaines (dislocated elbow) and Taron Johnson (shoulder). As it stands, the Bills' pass coverage is ranked second-to-last by the game charters at Pro Football Focus, and their defense has allowed 25 more points than expected to opposing quarterbacks after accounting for the down, distance and field position of each throw.
“They’re highly skilled, they’re a team that’s been where we’re trying to get to overall, and I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff,” Bills Coach Sean McDermott said of the Vikings. “They’ve got players that make plays on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a good defense starting with how they built it up front, so it will be a good challenge for us.”
Good challenge, bad ending.
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