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Bills-Vikings Scouting Report: Minnesota receivers pose tall challenge for Buffalo cornerbacks

When the Buffalo Bills run: LeSean McCoy had a 27-yard run, but was held to just 12 yards on his other eight carries against the Los Angeles Chargers. The running game being unable to pick up 4 or 5 yards at a time is putting the team behind the sticks in a big way. Overall, Buffalo ranks 25th in rushing through two weeks, averaging 83.5 yards per game. Quarterback Josh Allen has shown good mobility in running 12 times for 58 yards, mostly on scrambles. That puts him just 3 yards behind McCoy for the team’s rushing lead, which is not ideal. The Minnesota Vikings rank 13th against the run through two weeks, allowing an average of 94 yards per game. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph is the Vikings’ best run defender, with eight tackles this year. Safety Harrison Smith is also terrific in run support. He’s got 15 tackles through two games. EDGE: Vikings.

When the Bills pass: Josh Allen’s first career start produced 245 passing yards. That’s the most by a Bills quarterback in his first start with the team since Jim Kelly had 292 yards against the New York Jets on Sept. 7, 1986. The Bills have had very little success deep this season. On 13 combined passing attempts between Allen and Nathan Peterman that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, the team has just three completions. Until more of those start hitting, expect defenses to load the box to stop McCoy. Four of the Bills’ starting five offensive linemen have allowed five pressures this season, with the exception being left guard Vlad Ducasse, who has allowed only one. EDGE: Vikings.

When the Vikings run: Dalvin Cook left last week’s tie against Green Bay with what was reported to be a hamstring injury. He said after the game, though, that it was just a cramp, so he should be ready for Week 3. It’s been a slow start to the season for Cook, who is coming off a torn ACL. He has 26 carries for 78 yards in two games. Latavius Murray is the No. 2 back. He’s averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Bills coach Sean McDermott said the team’s run defense was strong up the middle last week, and the numbers showed that to be the case. According to charting from Pro Football Focus, the Chargers ran five times to the middle of the line. Those plays gained just 4 yards. It’s runs to the outside that are hurting the Bills. EDGE: Vikings.  

When the Vikings pass: Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been a solid addition so far. He ranks tied for third in touchdown passes (six), fifth in yards (669) and sixth in passer rating (108.7). He’s got a pair of dynamic receivers (Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs), a reliable tight end (Kyle Rudolph) and a running back in Cook who has nine catches through the first two weeks. Expect Minnesota to try and get Cook matched up on rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who struggled in coverage in Week 2. The Bills have a mess on their hands at cornerback following Vontae Davis’ in-game retirement. Both Phillip Gaines (elbow) and rookie Taron Johnson (shoulder) are nursing injuries, forcing the team to call up Ryan Lewis from the practice squad. Good luck against Diggs, Thielen and the rest. EDGE: Vikings.

Special teams: The Vikings will have a new kicker after rookie Daniel Carlson was cut Monday after missing three field goals against the Packers, including a chip shot that could have won the game. Carlson has been replaced by Dan Bailey, the former Cowboy has made 88.2 percent of his career field goals, the second-best percentage in NFL history. Vikings punter Matt Wile had a punt blocked last week that was returned for a touchdown. That’s the first blocked punt given up by Minnesota since 2014. New Bills punter Corey Bojorquez has been busy. His 13 punts are tied for second most in the NFL. The Bills have allowed 71 punt-return yards through two weeks, fifth most in the NFL. EDGE: Bills.

Coaching: You have to love Mike Zimmer’s answer when asked why the team cut Carlson. “Did you see the game?” he asked reporters. That’s straight to the point. Zimmer might be the ultimate “Football Guy.” He said before the Week 2 game against the Packers that he didn’t see Aaron Rodgers lead a comeback win in the season opener because he doesn’t own a TV. McDermott took over play-calling duties for the Bills at halftime against the Chargers – an indication of just how poorly things were going on that side of the ball. Whether McDermott keeps those duties Sunday will be interesting to watch. EDGE: Vikings.  

Prediction: Vikings 33, Bills 17

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