After a week spent attempting to heal from another torching by Tom Brady while trying to figure out whether their last-string wide receiver wants to be traded or not and how to get C.J. Spiller past the line of scrimmage with the ball in his hands, the National Football League schedule provides the Buffalo Bills with a reminder that things could always be worse.
The Minnesota Vikings arrive in town
fresh off two comprehensive defeats by NFC Central opponents, having lost to Green Bay and Detroit by a combined 59-13. If that’s not demoralizing enough, all Minnesota’s points in those two games came in the fourth quarter, after the offenses of the Packers and Lions were done scoring for the day.
Despite putting up 558 total yards — 317 of them through the air by Teddy Bridgewater in his first NFL start — in an inexplicable-in-retrospect 41-28 upset of Atlanta in Week 4, the Vikings rank 28th in total offense and 30th in passing.
Even their No. 13 ranking in rushing offense is deceptive, since 241 yards came against the Falcons, who apparently forgot they had a game that day. They compiled another 185 during their only other win, a 34-6 runaway in St. Louis on Opening Day.
Of that total, 67 came on a reverse by Cordarrelle Patterson, who has done nothing of substance since. Adrian Peterson had another 75 in his only game before his parenting techniques became public.
Arithmetic tells us that means the Vikings have averaged 73.3 rushing yards in their four losses, or a shade more than Buffalo’s top-ranked run defense has given up.
Of course, that status is a bit misleading, too. San Diego and New England did not need to run the ball to overwhelm the Bills, given the liberties Philip Rivers and Brady took with Buffalo’s secondary.
Not that the Bills don’t haven’t posted misleading stats of their own. The pass rush has piled up 19 sacks, the second-highest total in the league, but had no impact in the second half of the losses to the Chargers and Patriots.
Buffalo figures to make the sack numbers more gaudy on Sunday, as Detroit dumped Bridgewater eight times in last week’s 17-3 grinding of the Vikings.
If those match-up trends continue and the weather forecast calling for a cool, windy afternoon in Orchard Park plays out, the Bills could dominate to a level that renders their offense just about irrelevant.
Which, given its performance for all but a quarter here and there, would be Buffalo’s best-case scenario. Just as Minnesota’s offensive problems present a perfect fit for the Bills’ defensive strengths, the Vikings defense offer Kyle Orton an ideal opportunity to dissuade the thought that Doug Whaley should be searching in quiet desperation for any other ambulatory quarterback before the Oct. 28 trade deadline.
The Bills are 1-1 since Doug Marrone replaced E.J. Manuel with Orton. They would be 0-2 if, two weeks ago, Detroit had employed even the second-worst kicker in the league.
On Sunday, they host a team with no discernible strengths, one playing with a rookie quarterback making his second professional start and without their best player.
The Bills, of course, have a few problems of their own. The 37-22 beating by the Patriots was their third loss in four games, a stretch during which they have looked more like a team that is unraveling than one getting its act together. This week’s turmoil, centering around who, exactly wants Mike Williams traded and who decides whether Spiller and Mario Williams are on the field, and when, does not help.
Minnesota’s visit opens a string of six straight games against highly mediocre opponents, with four of them at home.
Before anybody starts thinking about winning streaks or Buffalo’s record heading into a Dec. 7 game at Denver, though, they have to prove they can put together a complete game against the likes of the Vikings.
Otherwise, a season that started out so promisingly turns out just like the previous 14. And it will be time to start wondering if both, or either, of the Dougs will be around to see the end of it.