With the Vikings' place in the division likely already set, so is (for the most part) their schedule for next year, which shouldn't be quite as intimidating. We take a look at that, along with the stats that preview today's game.
The national interest in the Vikings-Bills game likely isn't going to draw flies. Nor should it. A non-conference matchup between a 4-7 and 2-9 team isn't the kind of thing that garners a lot of attention. But perhaps there are no teams in the league more snake-bit than the Vikings and Bills.
They have both faced schedules that, while both were considered gauntlets from the outset, have turned in a Murderer's Row. Neither team has done anything to take control of their own destiny from the start, but the teams that have beat them have been among the league's elite.
The records of the teams that have beaten both teams is both troubling and impressive. The Vikings' seven losses have come to New Orleans (8-3), Miami (6-5), the New York Jets (9-2), Green Bay (7-4), New England (9-2), Chicago (8-3) and Green Bay (7-4).
Buffalo's nine losses have include defeats against Miami (6-5), Green Bay (7-4), New England (9-2), the Jets (9-2), Jacksonville (6-5), Baltimore (8-3), Kansas City (6-5), Chicago (8-3) and Pittsburgh (8-3).
Perhaps the moral of the seasons for both teams is that they have faced the league's elite teams throughout the season and, on regular basis, proved they didn't deserve to be among the league's elite teams.
Bills fans began looking to the 2011 season (if there is one) about the time they fell to 0-4, halfway into their 0-8 start. Vikings fans are closing in on that moment of resignation at 4-7. What's on the horizon?
As it currently stands, it is pretty certain the Vikings will finish third in the NFC North. As result, it is likely known who their 2011 opponents will be – with a backhanded reason to have any interest in the woeful NFC West. Next year, the Vikings draw the AFC West and the NFC South. As a result, their home games will be against Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Denver, Oakland and whoever finishes third in the NFC West – which could be any of them. The road schedule will include the Packers, Bears, Lions, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego and the third-place finisher in the NFC East – either Washington or Dallas.
To look at the teams on the 2011 schedule, there is reason for promise in the future. As loaded as the Vikings 2010 schedule has been, there's no way that the slate for 2011 can match up in quality of opposition.
VIKINGS-BILLS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 20th-ranked offense in the league (10th rushing, 19th passing) and the ninth-ranked defense (fifth rushing, 14th passing). The Bills have the 25th-ranked offense (18th rushing, 23rd passing) and the 26th-ranked defense (32nd rushing, 11th passing).
The Vikings offense averages 333.4 yards a game (213.2 passing, 120.2 rushing). The Bills offense averages 318.5 yards a game (208.4 passing, 110.1 rushing).
The Vikings defense allows 307.9 yards a game (215.2 passing, 92.7 rushing). The Bills defense allows 377.3 yards a game (209.9 passing, 167.4 rushing).
The Vikings had no turnovers last week and moved out of last place in the giveaway/takeaway ratio. At minus-12 (25 giveaways, 13 takeaways), the Vikings are 31st in the league – ahead of only Jacksonville (minus-13). The Bills are tied for 27th at minus-7 (19 giveaways, 12 takeaways).
Only one team (Denver, 11) has fewer takeaways than the 12 Buffalo has. They are the only two teams that have fewer takeaways than the Vikings.
While the Vikings are 10th in rushing and the Bills are 18th, in average per rushing attempt, the Vikings are ninth and the Bills are seventh.
The Vikings are 30th in points scored with 189. Only San Francisco (187) and Carolina (140) have scored fewer points.
The Vikings are third in field goal percentage, making 12 of 13 kicks. Buffalo is last, making 12 of 17 field goals.
The Bills are last in the league in defensive interception percentage with just four picks.
The Vikings defense is fourth in the league in first downs allowed, while Buffalo is tied for 30th.
The Vikings third-down offense is 24th in the league, making good on just 50 of 139 chances (36.0 percent). The Bills are much better at 14th, converting 61 of 151 third downs (40.4 percent). The league average is 38.8 percent.
Both defenses have stunk on third-down conversions. The Vikings rank 29th, allowing teams to convert 66 of 152 chances (43.4 percent). The Bills are even worse at 31st, allowing opponents to convert 72 of 160 opportunities (45.0 percent). Both teams are well over the league average of 38.8 percent
The Bills have allowed opponents to rush 396 times – 36 times a game – the most of any team in the NFL.
The Vikings offense is 28th in the league in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just 14 of 34 possessions (41.2 percent). Buffalo is tied for seventh, scoring touchdowns on 15 of 25 possessions (60 percent).
The Vikings are 31st in scoring percentage on offense in the red zone, with a scoring rate of 73.5 percent. The Vikings have had nine red zone possessions that resulted in no points. Only New Orleans has more with 10, but their 10 empty red zone drives have come on 46 possessions.
The Vikings defense is 23rd in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 17 of 29 possessions (58.8 percent). Buffalo is worse at 26th, allowing touchdowns on 22 of 36 red zone drives by opponents (61.1 percent).
The Vikings are the best and worst of special teams in terms of average starting possession in the league. The league average start following a kickoff is the 26.3-yard line. The Vikings offense is third in average starting position at the 29.9-yard line – behind only Seattle (31.3) and the Jets (30.1). But the Vikings defense is dead last, allowing opponents an average start of the 31.4-yard line.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has two 300-yard passing games. Brett Favre has just one. Both teams have allowed one 300-yard passer.
The Vikings have two 100-yard receiving games – both from Percy Harvin. The Bills have five – three from Steve Johnson and one each from Lee Evans and Fred Jackson. The Vikings have allowed four 100-yard receivers. The Bills have allowed three.
Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard rushing games, while Jackson has two for the Bills. The Vikings have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, while the Bills have allowed five.
Fitzpatrick is 20th in the league in passer rating (85.2). Favre is 30th with a passer rating of just 70.0.
Of the 33 quarterbacks that have thrown enough passes to qualify for QB rankings, the only QBs with a lower passer rating than Favre are Arizona's Derek Anderson, Oakland's Bruce Gradkowski and Carolina rookie Jimmy Clausen.
Fitzpatrick has a fourth-quarter passer rating of 79.4, but he has been the most erratic of all QBs. Not only is he tied for second in touchdowns with seven (behind only Philip Rivers with nine), but he is also tied for second with six interceptions, behind only Matt Moore (seven). Favre has a fourth-quarter passer rating of 61.0.
Fitzpatrick is a silent killer on third downs. He is fourth in the league in passer rating at 107.7 (behind only Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick and Tom Brady). Favre is 22nd with a passer rating of 69.2
Peterson is third in rushing with 1,016 yards. He trails only Arian Foster (1,147) and Jamaal Charles (1,021). Jackson is 20th with 621 yards to lead the Bills.
Johnson leads the Bills with 59 receptions, tying him for 11th in the league. Percy Harvin is tied for 26th with 51 receptions.
Johnson is 11th in receiving yards with 796. Harvin leads the Vikings with 627 yards, good for 27th in the league.
The Vikings will be advised to look for Johnson on third downs. He is tied for fourth in the league with 22 third-down receptions.
Johnson is tied with Peterson for sixth in the league in scoring among non-kickers with 54 points – both have nine touchdowns.
Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell is 27th in scoring among kickers with 61 points. Ryan Longwell is even lower. He's tied for 30th with just 55 points.
Peterson is third in total yards from scrimmage with 1,347 – trailing Foster (1,600) and Charles (1,380).
Jared Allen keeps climbing the sacks list. After an extremely slow start, he is currently tied for 14th in the league with 7.5 sacks. Ray Edwards is tied for 27th with 5.5 sacks.
Buffalo has been outscored 244-149 in the first three quarters, allowing 101 points in the second quarter and 84 points in the third. The Bills have outscored their opponents 80-51 in fourth quarter, but have been outscored 9-0 in overtime – resulting in three OT losses.
The Vikings have been outscored in all four quarters this season – 45-34 in the first, 75-50 in the second, 68-61 in the third and 51-41 in the fourth. They have a 3-0 edge in overtime, coming in their win over Arizona.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.