This week the 4-7 Minnesota Vikings play the 2-9 Buffalo Bills in a match up of two bad teams. The Bills were expected to be bad, but the Vikings had Super Bowl hopes prior to the start of the season. The Vikings are probably out of the play-offs at this point, but that doesn't mean they won't try their hardest to get back into the wild card hunt.
However, they can't expect the Bills to just lay down and take the loss. This is a team that is playing for pride and has actually been playing fairly well recently. Last week they took the Pittsburgh Steelers into overtime and would've won if not for a dropped pass in the end zone. Let's take a look at five key match ups for this game.
This should actually read Stroud vs. Loadholt and Ryan Cook. The right side of the Vikings offensive line is downright terrible and has been a weak point for at least the past two or three seasons. It might look worse because the left side has been an anchor for just as long, but I have no idea how Ryan Cook is still in the NFL. He is absolutely terrible and Loadholt, who has a lot of potential, but has yet to realize it, hasn't been that much better.
Stroud might not be quite as good as he used to be, but he could have a hey day against these guys. If he is able to get into the backfield and get after Brett Farve he might have a major impact on this game. Expect to see him getting chipped by a tight end or back for much of the game to help out the guys on the right side of the line.
With cornerback Terrence McGee questionable it may fall to McKelvin to draw coverage on Percy Harvin. McKelvin has lots of potential to me and could become a good corner in his own right, but currently he's just a solid nickel back.
Harvin, on the other hand, has cemented himself as one of the better slot receivers in the NFL. If he can get open against McKelvin on a consistent basis it will make it that much easier far Favre to get the passing game on track early.
The Vikings have been decent at best this year against the pass. This can be contributing to the loss of key starting cornerback Cedric Griffin. His job has been passed around to many different guys who just haven't been playing well. The majority of big passing plays against the Vikings have come against that side of the secondary. Asher Allen is the current guy starting opposite Antoine Winfield and will draw the coverage of Steve Johnson.
Johnson has quietly become a pretty good receiver during this season. He's put up nine touchdowns and is poised to get a few more against Allen this week. Expect to see Johnson getting double coverages most of the day to try off set the Vikings biggest defensive weakness.
Fred Jackson has been on a tear of late; running for 163 yards and a touchdown last week against a tough Pittsburgh team, so it wouldn't be crazy to see him trash the usually stout Vikings' run D. If anybody is going to be the first man to score a rushing touchdown against the Vikings in the Metrodome it's got to be Fred Jackson.
That said, if you've ever read anything I've ever written about the Vikes you know that I think Chad Greenway is the best player on this defense. I fully expect him to come out and continue to play at a Pro Bowl level; shutting down the Bills running game and making plays all over the field. Look for him to dominate against an offense that isn't anywhere close to the best in the NFL.
Right now it's up in the air as to whether or not Peterson will play on Sunday, but if he does he will be the number one person for the Bills to watch out for. I personally love Posluszny and his hard-hitting style of play, but I'm not sure if even a sure tackler like him can keep AD down for long.
If Peterson plays on Sunday I fully expect him to have a monster game and win this game with his legs in the fourth quarter. Even without him I still like the Vikes chances with a tough-running Toby Gerhart. Look for whoever starts at the running back position to have a big day for new coach Leslie Frazier.
Prediction: Vikings 28 Bills 14