Everything you need to know, plus what I’ll be watching for Sunday when the Buffalo Bills visit the Minnesota Vikings:
TV: CBS. Announcers: Jim Nantz (play by play), Tony Romo (color analyst).
Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play-by-play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
Series history: Vikings lead, 8-5. The Bills have won three of the past four against Minnesota. Buffalo will play in U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time.
Bills injury report: Out: DE Shaq Lawson (hamstring). Questionable: CB Taron Johnson (shoulder), CB Phillip Gaines (elbow), RB LeSean McCoy (ribs), WR Ray-Ray McCloud (knee).
Vikings injury report: Out: DE Everson Griffen (knee), RB Dalvin Cook (hamstring), CB Marcus Sherels (ribs), TE David Morgan (knee). Questionable: RB Mike Boone (groin).
Point spread: The Bills are 16.5-point underdogs at footballlocks.com. That’s the third-biggest underdog they’ve been in team history, according to records kept at pro-football-reference.com.
Did you know? Bills offensive tackle Conor McDermott and Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott are brothers.
Next up: The Bills stay on the road in the NFC Central, visiting Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.
Here are five things to watch against the Vikings:
1. What do the Bills get from LeSean McCoy (if anything)? The Bills’ top offensive threat spent the entire practice week in a red non-contact jersey as a limited participant. McCoy said he’s not worried as much about getting hit as he is the pain that comes from running full speed. Reports on Sunday said McCoy was unlikely to play, although a final decision won't be made until the Bills submit their inactive list. If he can’t go, Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy figure to split carries. Neither of those players are going to scare the Minnesota defense. McCoy needs eight points to become the sixth active player with at least 500 in his career.
2. What happens at cornerback? With Vontae Davis out the door, the Bills are down to starting Phillip Gaines opposite Tre’Davious White. The issue is, Gaines may not be healthy after dislocating his elbow last week against the Chargers. He’s questionable, as is rookie Taron Johnson, the Week 1 starter in the slot. That means the Bills could be down to players like Lafayette Pitts and Ryan Lewis against wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Yikes.
3. Can Josh Allen be more decisive? The Bills’ rookie quarterback has taken eight of the team’s 11 sacks this season. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said “more than half” of those 11 sacks shouldn’t be pinned on the offensive line. If that’s the case, Allen has to get rid of the ball sooner on some plays. That’s part of the maturation process for a first-year player. Given how loud it can get in Minnesota, Allen’s communication with his offensive line could get compromised. When that happens, he’s got to be decisive with where the ball is going and get it out of his hands quickly.
4. Is there a change coming along the offensive line? Coach Sean McDermott was noncommittal this week when asked if the same five who have started the first two games would make up the offensive line Sunday. One possibility for a change: Inserting Russell Bodine at center and shifting Ryan Groy either to the bench or to right tackle, meaning John Miller would take a seat.
5. Who is calling the defensive plays? McDermott said it would be a collaborative effort with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Of course, if Frazier was going to take the job back over, it doesn’t make sense why McDermott wouldn’t just come out and say that. It’s not like there is some competitive advantage to be gained by trying to keep it a secret. It’s worth noting that the Bills’ defense did look better in the second half against the Chargers, but Los Angeles could also afford to take its foot off the pedal. We’ll see if McDermott calling the plays results in more than just one good half of a blowout.
Story topics: Brian Daboll/ Chris Ivory/ Conor McDermott/ John Miller/ Josh Allen/ Lafayette Pitts/ LeSean McCoy/ Leslie Frazier/ Marcus Murphy/ Phillip Gaines/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Russell Bodine/ Ryan Groy/ Ryan Lewis/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Taron Johnson/ Vontae Davis