Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Leodis McKelvin vs. Percy Harvin –Two of the fastest players on the field will butt heads on Sunday. McKelvin isn't likely to be covering Harvin the whole game as he's moved around a lot by the Vikes on offense, but it's an intriguing matchup due to Harvin's quick cutting ability and elusiveness.
2. Donte Whitner vs. Visanthe Shiancoe –The Vikings tight end helped carry the receiving load the first half of the season when Sidney Rice was out of the lineup. Shiancoe is another athletic tight end. Buffalo's cover men, beginning with Whitner who will draw him as a primary assignment, have to demonstrate improvement in shutting down opposing tight ends from earlier this season.
3. Andy Levitre vs. Kevin Williams –After a slow start this season, Pro Bowl DT Kevin Williams is picking up the pace, playing arguably his best game of the year last week against Washington. Williams is the playmaking counterpart to interior clogger Pat Williams. Keeping Kevin Williams out of the offensive backfield will be a must.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage –Kick return – Since Leodis McKelvin has been put on returns he's been inches away from taking one the distance and would've last week had he not tripped on a teammate's leg. McKelvin is expected to maintain his kick return role as he's helped lift that unit to 12th best in the league, while C.J. Spiller will handle punts. Minnesota's kick coverage is a subpar 27th in the league and they've allowed a 96-yard return for a touchdown this season.
Best advantage -3rd down offense –* *Buffalo's third down conversion percentage has been ranked in the top half of the league almost since Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the lineup in Week 3. The fourth-highest rated third down passer in the league, Fitzpatrick should be able to anticipate and diagnose defenses quickly and make plays against the league's 29th ranked third down defense.
Bills Number 1 Must
Win the red zone –Buffalo has slipped slightly in recent weeks to seventh in the league in red zone touchdown percentage, but their offense inside the 20 is still considerably better than Minnesota's (28th – 41.2%). And though the Bills red zone defense ranks just 26th, Minnesota's is less than three percent better ranking 23rd. If the Bills can convert TDs on the majority of their red zone chances (2 out of 3, 3 out of 4) they stand a good chance of pulling off a mild upset.
New man at the topVikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier took over as interim head coach last week after Brad Childress was shown the door, and posted a victory in his first game at the helm 17-13 over the Redskins. Frazier showed a distinctly different approach on offense to his predecessor as the Vikings ran the ball 38 times. Frazier explained Minnesota's new, old offensive M.O. this week.
"What we've done in the past when we were successful is we've been an outstanding run defense," said Frazier. "That has been our history. We've been able to run the football on offense. That has been our history. And we had kind of gotten away from that. So I really wanted to emphasize those two areas."
The approach has taken more of the offensive load off Brett Favre presumably in an effort to cut back on turnovers (see below – Ball Out).
Harvin hurting opponentsNo other Vikings players is deployed is as many ways as WR Percy Harvin. Whether he's lining up in the offensive backfield, catching passes or returning kicks, the multi-dimensional Harvin is a threat whenever the ball is in his hands. The second-year player leads the Vikings in receiving and has a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown. He's also the only player in the NFL this season with a rushing, receiving and return touchdown.
Ball outThe Vikings are the worst team in the NFC in turnover differential with a minus-12 mark thus far this season. Only Jacksonville is worse at minus-13. Minnesota has 25 giveaways on the season including a league-high 17 interceptions. Favre is responsible for an astonishing 22 turnovers in 11 games this year as he has fumbled the ball away five times as well. Their defense also struggles to get takeaways as they have just one more than the Bills defense (12) this season (13).
Pass rush picking upMinnesota led the NFL last season with 48 sacks in 2009. In 2010 the production wasn't as consistent in the early going. The Vikings had just six sacks in their first seven games. Things have changed however, over the past month for the Purple pass rush. In their last four games Minnesota has posted 15 sacks. Three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Jared Allen leads the team with 7.5 sacks. The Vikings do anticipate being without their other starting defensive end Ray Edwards Sunday due to injury.
Going greenOn a defense where the Vikings front four gets the bulk of the accolades, LB Chad Greenway has been lost in the shuffle. It's been a bit harder to ignore him this season. The team's leading tackler, Greenway leads the NFC and is third in the NFL in tackles. The strong side linebacker also leads the team in tackles for loss and has a forced fumble and a sack to his credit this season.
Young on the cornerEver since CB Cedric Griffin went down with a season-ending injury in Week 4, Minnesota's starting right cornerback spot has been manned by a couple of youngsters. Second-year corner Asher Allen and rookie Chris Cook have largely handled the role, but they have been targeted a lot by opposing quarterbacks and victimized at times with steady veteran Antoine Winfield on the other side. Minnesota has given up 18 passing touchdowns this season.
Quote of the Week"Yeah I've been able to put it behind me. I haven't forgotten about it, but I'm ready to move on from it. I'll be back to my same old self. I'm going to be the same Stevie Johnson as the guys know."
--WR Stevie Johnson
Stat of the WeekSince Week 7 the Bills rank second in the league in third down conversion percentage, moving the sticks almost half of the time (48.9%). Buffalo has converted 46-94 third downs over that six-game span. Only Atlanta has been better (52.6%).
Milestones in reachRyan Fitzpatrick needs one touchdown pass to become the fifth quarterback in franchise history to throw 20 or more TD passes in a season.
Fred Jackson looks for his fourth straight game with 100-plus yards from scrimmage and fifth straight with a touchdown.
Steve Johnson needs two touchdown receptions to tie a franchise record for most in a season (11 – Bill Brooks 1995).
Rian Lindell needs four points to reach 800 in his Bills career.
Final NoteThe Vikings are 0-3 against the AFC East this season.