The Bills faced a tough loss in Week 9 to the Jets. Heading into Week 10, Buffalo has an opportunity to get back into the win column as they head home to Highmark Stadium to face the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings.
Here are 7 things to know for Sunday's matchup.
1. Stefon Diggs set to face his former team
Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs will face his former team in the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since becoming a Buffalo Bill. In March 2020, Diggs was traded from Minnesota to the Buffalo Bills with a 2020 seventh-round pick in exchange of a 1st round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (No. 22 overall), a 2020 fifth and sixth-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
With that No. 22 pick, the Vikings drafted wide receiver Justin Jefferson who was named a second-team All-Pro and received Pro Bowl honors in his rookie season.
Both Diggs and Jefferson have been extremely productive since joining their teams. Since 2020, Diggs has 290 catches (2nd in the NFL), 3,617 receiving yards (4th) and 25 touchdown receptions (tied for 7th). Over that span, Jefferson has 255 catches (5th), 3,883 receiving yards (1st) and 20 touchdown receptions (12th).
So far this season, Diggs has 60 receptions (t-3rd), 857 receiving yards (3rd) and 7 touchdowns (t-1st). Jefferson has 59 receptions (5th), 867 receiving yards (2nd) and 3 touchdowns through 8 games. It's definitely fair to say both Diggs and Jefferson have made a big difference and have been the reason for a lot of their team's wins over the last three seasons.
When making a trade this big and doing away with a first-round pick, general manager Brandon Beane explained GMs hope it works out for both teams but that's not always what happens.
"In that particular instance, I think that worked out well," Beane said of the trade. "I think Stef fit us well. The timing was good of where we were in our build of this team, and they got a fresh piece in Justin Jefferson, who's very talented and has jumped right in there and been one of the best receivers in the league. So, that's probably as win-win, as you would find."
2. Minnesota's hot streak vs. Bills looking to stay undefeated at home
The Minnesota Vikings are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. They've won their last six games and have the second-best record in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bills, on the other hand, had a nice win streak of their own going before they lost to the Jets in Week 9. We will see if the Bills can stop the Vikings in their tracks and spoil their streak as Buffalo tries to get back on track and keep their undefeated win streak going at home.
Minnesota's most notable win during their current streak is against the Miami Dolphins from Week 6. The Vikings beat the Dolphins 24-16. Their one loss of the season came in Week 2 against the Eagles.
Here are how the two stack up statistically heading into Sunday.
Points per game – Bills: 27.5 (3rd), Vikings: 24.13 (8th)
Total yards per game – Bills: 416.4 (1st), Vikings: 340.1 (15th)
Passing yards per game – Bills: 292.1 (3rd), Vikings: 238.1 (10th)
Rushing yards per game – Bills: 124.3 (13th), Vikings: 102 (24th)
Red zone efficiency – Bills: 53.6% (19th), Vikings: 64.5% (7th)
Turnover differential – Bills: +1 (tied for 13th), Vikings: +6 (2nd)
Points allowed per game – Bills: 14.75 (1st), Vikings: 20.13 (12th)
Total yards allowed per game – Bills: 299.6 (4th), Vikings: 368.1 (25th)
Rushing yards allowed per game – Bills: 104.9 (6th), Vikings: 111.3 (10th)
Passing yards allowed per game – Bills: 194.8 (7th), Vikings: 256.9 (27th)
Takeaways – Bills: 15 (t-4th), Vikings: 14 (t-6th)
Opponent red zone efficiency – Bills: 47.8% (4th), Vikings: 78% (32nd)
3. Getting the Bills passing offense back on track
Buffalo struggled to get their passing offense going against a talented Jets defense. Coming into the game the Jets ranked top 10 in total defense and led the NFL with 61 quarterback hits. Bills QB Josh Allen definitely felt the pressure from their defensive line as he was sacked five times and had a tough time linking up with receivers.
Allen finished the game 18 of 34 (52.9%) for 205 passing yards with two interceptions. Allen and Diggs connected for 5 catches and 93 receiving yards, but those 5 catches made up just half of Diggs' targets. The QB took ownership of the loss and admitted he didn't play a great game, but offensive struggles are never just on one player. The group will have a week to tidy things up.
In favor of the Bills, the Vikings pass defense hasn't been the strongest. They're allowing 256.9 passing yards a game (27th) and 7.91 passing yards per attempt (31st), both rank near the bottom of the NFL. We will see if the Bills passing offense can get back to their normal ways against Minnesota. Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said the offense lacked a rhythm against the Jets and believes they need to do a better job of getting the ball to multiple players.
"One of the things I'm the biggest fan of is when I look at the stat sheet and you have multiple guys with multiple targets," Dorsey shared. "I think that's important. It just creates issues for a defense when you can create multiple guys with multiple targets, especially when they're at different positions. So, I think that's going to be obviously a continued focus for us moving forward."
4. James Cook vs. Dalvin Cook – How the Bills can stop the run and get their RBs going
One of the big storylines in this game is the fact that Bills running back James Cook will face his brother, Vikings running back, Dalvin Cook. The two have had this game circled on their calendars since Cook got drafted by the Bills in April. The Cook brothers never got to play each other in college because Dalvin got drafted in 2017 and James didn't start playing college football until 2018.
When James scored his first NFL touchdown in Week 5 against the Steelers, Dalvin said he was excited for more to come.
"Happy for him," Dalvin said. "First of many, that's the first thing I'm going to tell him."
The Bills defense will have their hands full trying to limit Dalvin Cook on the ground as he has the 10th most rushing yards in the NFL with 608.
"When he gets the football, he can score from anywhere on the field, unlike some backs who may break a 15 or 20-yarder," Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of Cook. "I mean, he can take it 80, 90 yards from anywhere. He's an explosive back, and he is a good receiving back as well. He can catch the ball out of the back field. So he is multidimensional, they keep him on the field on third down.
"He puts a lot of pressure on your defense as a runner as well as his ability to be able to catch the ball on screens and other routes out of the backfield as well."
Heading into Week 8, the Bills had the best run defense in the NFL allowing under 80 rushing yards per game. But in the last two weeks, the Bills have allowed an average of 191 rushing yards per game.
Both the Packers and the Jets accumulated more than 100 rushing yards against the Bills in the second half of the game. Defensive players have noted that both teams started running the ball more in the second half when they were losing. The Bills know this is something they'll have to fix ahead of Sunday's game.
"There's no secret to it, there's no magic to it, when it comes to stop the run," Frazier explained. "It's about being physical, it's about being able to tackle, getting population to the football, being gap sound. It's all those things that we did well in the first six weeks, when we led the league in run defense. We need to be able to do that going forward, and we can. We're gonna work as hard as we can this week to get the ship turned in the right direction."
Switching to the offensive side of things, the Bills offense also wants to see more production out of their run game. After Sunday's loss, head coach Sean McDermott said he thought the offense got too one-dimensional at times. So far this season, the Bills are averaging 124.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 13th in the NFL. It's important to note that QB Josh Allen is also averaging 49 rushing yards per game, which are included in that 124.
"We definitely have to make sure we're doing a good job with the backs," offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. "Being creative in ways to make sure that we're getting them the ball and allowing them to do some of the things that they do extremely well."
5. Injury outlook
A couple injuries popped up ahead of the Jets game, and a few came out of the Jets game, so here's how the Bills stand on Tuesday afternoon.
The Bills didn't have linebacker Matt Milano (oblique) or safety Jordan Poyer (elbow) in Sunday's game against the Jets.
"The rest of the guys are really improving whether it's Tre White or Matt Milano, probably maybe some other names on your mind but those guys are all improving," head coach Sean McDermott said of the players who missed Sunday's game.
Defensive end Greg Rousseau suffered an ankle injury during the game and did not return. In addition to Rousseau, Josh Allen said that he did have some elbow soreness after the game.
McDermott announced on Monday that Rousseau has a high-ankle sprain and is week-to-week.
For quarterback Josh Allen, McDermott said they are still doing testing.
"We're just going through it, still evaluating," McDermott said Monday evening. "We'll see where it goes. I'll know more in the next 24 hours and then probably be able to check back in with you on Wednesday again."
6. Staying atop the AFC
Even though the Bills have two losses, they are still No. 1 in the AFC. The Vikings are No. 2 in the NFC behind the 8-0 Eagles. Both teams are the leaders in their division.
Behind the Bills in the AFC are the Chiefs, Jets and Dolphins. Buffalo's two losses this season are to the Dolphins and the Jets, but they'll have a chance at revenge against both teams come December.
We hear it all the time from Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, it's important to have the playoffs run through Buffalo. That means earning the one seed in the AFC. There are still nine games left in the regular season, but the Bills want to make sure they right those wrongs against the AFC East to try to give them the best chance to win the division.
The next game is always the most important, but an important one coming up is their next divisional game and that's not until December 1st when they face the Patriots on Thursday Night Football in Week 13.
7. Minnesota ties
We've mentioned Diggs and the Cook brothers but there's still some other ties worth noting in this matchup. We can't forget that former Bill, Harrison Phillips, is coming back to Highmark Stadium for his first game against the Bills since becoming a Minnesota Viking.
The Bills drafted Phillips in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft and spent his first four seasons in Buffalo. Phillips signed a three-year deal with the Vikings in March ahead of the 2022 season. It'll be a special sort of "homecoming" for Phillips because he did a lot for the community and became a fan favorite during his time in Buffalo.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was a coach for Minnesota from 2007 to 2013. Frazier served as their defensive coordinator for a few seasons before being named interim head coach and then later the head coach of the Vikings from 2011 to 2013.
Bills backup quarterback Case Keenum played for the Vikings in 2017. That season Minnesota finished 13-3 and made it to the NFC Championship Game.