3 Key Bills/Vikings Matchups

The Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings will battle in Week 7. Buffalo will host Teddy Bridgewater in his first road start and will look to disrupt the signal-caller. To win the ballgame on Sunday, here are 3 key matchups that the Bills must win.

The Buffalo Bills (3-3) will host the Minnesota Vikings (2-4) in Week 7. Buffalo enters the game as a 7 point favorite, but will need to make plays on both sides of the ball to win. Here are the 3 key matchups in the Bills/Vikings game.

 

Matchup of the Week: DE Jerry Hughes vs. LT Matt Kalil

When the Bills watched film of the Minnesota Vikings, Jerry Hughes must have been licking his lips. This matchup screams mismatch.

Hughes has picked up where he left off in 2013 as a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. The defensive end has three sacks in the last two weeks and four total sacks on the season. Even if Hughes isn’t sacking opposing QBs, he’s making them get rid of the ball quickly. On the season, Hughes has been credited with 13 quarterback hurries and five quarterback hits per Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required). On Sunday, Hughes will be lined up across from Matt Kalil.

Kalil, a former top five pick, is coming off of his worst game of the season against the Detroit Lions. Detroit’s defense was able to sack Teddy Bridgewater eight times in Week 6 and three sacks were credited against Kalil. The left tackle was also responsible for three quarterback hurries. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Kalil’s play has been poor all season. According to PFF, the left tackle has been credited with allowing six sacks, three quarterback hits, and 16 quarterback hurries. Unsurprisingly, Kalil is the lowest rated offensive tackle on the analytics site.

Sunday will be Teddy Bridgewater’s first road game as starter. If Kalil’s struggles continue, it may be a game to forget for the quarterback.

RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson vs. Vikings Run Defense

Remember when the Bills ran the ball with success? It’s been a few weeks. In Week 6, Spiller and Jackson, Buffalo’s 1-2 punch, carried the ball 16 times for 45 yards and a touchdown (2.81 YPC). One week earlier, the duo combined for 20 rushes for 57 yards (2.85 YPC).

Neither back has been outstanding, but Spiller has certainly be the weak link of the two. In the two games, he’s rushed 16 times for 27 yards (1.69 YPC). Spiller isn’t completely to blame due to the struggles of the offensive line, but he does need to take some responsibility. In his fifth NFL season, Spiller still struggles to take the yards that are available to him. Instead of hitting running lanes and picking up 3-4 yards, Spiller will try to bounce the ball to the outside. Occasionally it works, and occasionally it leads to carries where Spiller loses yards.

This is a game where the Bills need to establish the run and also try to find ways to get Spiller the ball in space. Minnesota’s run defense allows an average of 118.2 yards per game, good for 19th in the NFL. This is a great opportunity for the Bills to get their RBs back on track.

Bills RT Seantrel Henderson vs. Vikings DE Brian Robison

Earlier, I mentioned that Matt Kalil ranked dead last among all offensive tackles on PFF. Seantrel Henderson hasn’t fared much better. Henderson is ranked 71st among all tackles with a -19.1 grade, only one spot ahead of Kalil. Buffalo’s rookie right tackle has been responsible for four quarterback sacks, eight quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries through six starts. Kyle Orton, Buffalo’s starting quarterback, can be described with many words, but elusive isn’t one of them. Orton is a pocket passer and not someone who does a good job of avoiding pressure. Simply put, Henderson needs to perform well on Sunday to give Orton time to pass. Against the Vikings, he’ll see Brian Robison.

Robison may not be a household name, but he can be a disruptive force. The Vikings defensive end has half a sack on the season, but has been credited with 15 quarterback hurries and two quarterback hits. Robison will give Henderson a challenge as a pass rusher on Sunday. Besides pass rushing, Robison is also solid in run support. The Bills have struggled running the ball, as discussed above, and Robison will surely present Buffalo’s backs with a challenge.

Henderson and Robison will each factor in to how successful the Bills are moving the ball on Sunday.


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