Buffalo's Front Seven vs. Adrian Peterson
The Vikings head into Sunday's game with Buffalo with Adrian Peterson hoping to be at full speed with an injured ankle. Last week, when Peterson got injured, Toby Gerhart replaced him and helped run the Vikings to victory. The Bills have struggled like few other teams in stopping opposing running backs, making Sunday's battle between the defensive front seven of the Bills and Peterson (with perhaps an assist from Gerhart) this week's key matchup.
The Bills have been equal-opportunity hosts, allowing both single backs and running tandems to gash them for big yardage. Against the Patriots in Week 3, BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 16 times for 98 yards and a touchdown and, in the last two games they've played, Buffalo allowed Cincinnati's Cedric Benson to rush 25 times for 124 yards and a TD and Rashard Mendenhall a whopping 36 carries for 151 yards and a score.
While the Bills have struggled against single backs, they've been regularly gashed by running tandems. In Week 1 it was Miami's Ronnie Brown (13 carries, 65 yards, one touchdown) and Ricky Williams (18-62-0). In Week 4, it was the New York Jets and LaDainian Tomlinson (19-133-2) and Shonn Greene (22-117-0). In Week 5, it was Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew (19-84-0) and Deji Karim (15-70-0). In Week 7, it was Baltimore's Ray Rice (16-72-0) and Willis McGahee (11-64-1). And, worst of all, in Week 8, it was Kansas City's Jamaal Charles (22-177-0) and Thomas Jones (19-77-0).
The Vikings have made it clear that they intend to be a run-first team under Leslie Frazier. Even without Peterson for 40 minutes of last Sunday's game, Gerhart proved he could carry the weight of the rush offense. Given Brett Favre's failing physical health, the less strain the Vikings can put on him the better. The Bills have averaged allowing opponents to run the ball 36 times a game – an astoundingly high number – and 167 yards a game. Buffalo opponents have rushed 125 times more than the Bills offense – a disparity of more than 11 carries a game. The Vikings run as much as just about any team in the league, but, as a team, have 300 rushing attempts – almost one-third less than the Bills have allowed (396).
If the Bills have a typical type of game, they will allow the Vikings to run the ball early, often and at will. Considering that running plays rarely stop the game clock, the Vikings should be able to do what other teams have done, get an early lead and wear down the Buffalo defense due to dominating the time of possession. Most running plays take between 30 and 40 seconds off the clock. If the Bills can't stop the Vikings running attack, whether it be a steady dose of Peterson or a mix of A.D. and Gerhart, it will be a difficult mountain for the Bills to climb and should provide the difference.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Key matchup: Peterson vs. bad run defense
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