Scouting Report: Vikings at Bills

Top 3 Individual Matchups

1 – Sammy Watkins vs. Captain Munnerlyn – The Vikings veteran cornerback will have his hands full Sunday with the dynamic Watkins. Munnerlyn has given up three touchdowns this season and opposing quarterbacks have a 138 passer rating when they throw at him.

2 – Jerry Hughes vs. Matt Kalil – Hughes has been playing some of his best football the past two games, and Kalil has not been at his best. Kalil has surrendered six sacks, three quarterback hits and 16 quarterback hurries.

3 – Cyril Richardson vs. Linval Joseph – Buffalo's rookie guard will need to use every ounce on his frame to neutralize the veteran defensive tackle. He'll likely get some assistance from Eric Wood, but Joseph has done well to push the pocket with three sacks and 11 QB hurries to his credit.

Bills Top 2 Advantages

Good advantage – Pass rush – Buffalo's defensive line has developed consistent pass pressure all season as they rank second in sacks. Minnesota has struggled in pass protection ranking 31st in sacks allowed per pass play.

Best advantage – Run defense – The Bills are tops in the league in run defense giving up just over 67 yards a game on the ground (67.5). Facing the Vikings without Adrian Peterson, Buffalo should had a very good chance of making Minnesota one dimensional on offense.

Bills Number 1 Must

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Rediscover run game**

In the last three games Buffalo has not only had less production running the ball, they also have called fewer run plays. In 2013 the Bills ran the ball more than 49 percent of the time. Over the last three weeks they've run the ball just over 35 percent of the time (35.5%). The offense has to get back to a more even balance to control the pace of the game, more effectively set up play action and finish off scoring drives.

Scouting Eye

Picking up the slack

With Adrian Peterson no longer a part of the equation in the Vikings ground game, Minnesota has turned to Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon to carry the load. Asiata is more of the hard-running back while McKinnon is the breakaway threat. McKinnon ranks second in the NFC among rookie rushers and is averaging five yards per carry. Asiata meanwhile has four touchdowns in the past five games.

Dropping the ball

Minnesota's wide receivers have faced heavy criticism of late from their fan base. Not getting consistent separation from defensive backs is a common refrain, but they're also dropping a good number of passes. In fact the Vikings lead the league in dropped pass percentage. They've dropped 12 percent of catchable passes thus far this season.

Protection issues

Playing a formidable defensive front last week in the Lions the Minnesota offensive line had trouble maintaining a clean pocket for rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings QB was sacked eight times in last week's loss and was hit another 13 times on 40 drop backs. The front they'll face this week in Buffalo won't be any easier.

Playing faster

Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater will be making his first career road start Sunday. He's coming off a difficult outing against the Lions last week where he threw for just 188 yards on 23-37 passing and tossed three interceptions. To his credit Bridgewater shouldered much of the blame for the offense's inefficiency citing a need to make quicker decisions and getting the ball out sooner. He also said he could improve his ball location on passes.

Field position woes

As difficult as it's been for the Vikings offense to extend drives on offense, their special teams hasn't helped them much in giving them short fields to work with. Minnesota's average drive start ranks 27th in the league (24.3 yard line) and on the road it's even worse. The Vikings average drive start in road games stands 29th in the league (23.1 yard line).

Minnesota's defense hasn't been helped much either. Their opponents are getting the seventh-best average drive start through the first six weeks of the season averaging better than their own 30-yard line (30.1).

Third and lengthy

The Vikings offense stands 29th in the league when it comes to first down efficiency as they gain four yards or more less than 42 percent of the time (42.8%). That combined with a second down conversion percentage of 29 percent has led to a healthy amount of third and longs.

Through their first six games 60 percent of Minnesota third downs have been 3rd-and-7 or longer. Not surprisingly, the Vikings' conversion percentage on those third and longs is just 21 percent (20.8%).

Buffalo Chips

Stat of the Week

With Kyle Orton at quarterback the Bills are perfect in the red zone on offense. Buffalo has scored touchdowns on each of their four red zone possessions over the last two games, including going 3-for-3 last Sunday.

Quote of the Week

"We only have 10 games left. We can't come in each and every week saying 'We have to fix this and fix that.' We have to do it quickly because sooner or later the season will be over. We want to make sure we're up and running when that cold weather hits here."

-RB C.J. Spiller

Milestones in reach

-Dan Carpenter needs two field goals for 175 in his career.

-Fred Jackson needs 31 rushing yards to pass Willie Parker for the third-most rushing yards by an undrafted player (5,378).

-Robert Woods needs 179 receiving yards for 1,000 in his career.

Final Note

-C.J. Spiller in his past six games against NFC opponents has 520 scrimmage yards (432 rush, 82 rec.) and three touchdowns (2 rush, 1 rec.)

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