Everyone has the person in their life that's the consummate one-upper. No matter what you achieve in life, this person is quick to tell you that they achieved something even better. Just got a promotion and raise at work? That's cool, but this person was already making a little bit more before their better promotion. Did you hook up with that cute girl after the party last weekend? Good for you, because this guy already did a few weeks ago. Set a personal best running the half marathon? Great! But this person beat that time by five minutes and only trained for like a week. No big deal. These one-uppers are the real life version of the Kristen Wiig's Penelope character from Saturday Night Live.
It's completely maddening, especially when the one-upper is actually...you know, right. Just when you think you have achieved something worth being proud of, along comes the one-upper to let you know that you aren't really that special.
When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills, the one-upping tends to go in the opposite direction. Everyone knows that these are two of the most tortured fan bases in the history of the NFL. (Yes Cleveland, we see you. You're definitely in the mix as well.) It has gotten so bad over the years that Vikings and Bills fans alike almost wear their teams' failures as a masochistic badge of honor.
For example, the Vikings lost 4 Super Bowls in a decade. But the Bills can easily one-up that: they lost 4 Super Bowls IN A ROW.
Minnesota has made the playoffs once in the past four (about to be five) seasons. The one time they did make the playoffs, they had to start Joe Webb at quarterback. Buffalo fans scoff at that, because they haven't made the playoffs THIS MILLENIUM. There are TEENAGERS walking this Earth that have never been alive for a Buffalo Bills playoff appearance.
And it looks like that streak might continue because Buffalo just benched their ineffective first-round Florida State quarterback (E.J. Manuel) and replaced him with a formerly-neck-bearded-but-now-mustachioed journeyman (Kyle Orton).
Of course Bills fans aren't going to get any sympathy on our end. Our team made their ineffective first-round Florida State QB (Christian Ponder) the third-stringer because he was so bad. Then they started a journeyman without cool facial hair (Matt Cassel). Then they put their other first-round QB (Teddy Bridgewater) in after the journeyman broke his foot into a million pieces. Then after the rookie got hurt, they were forced to put in the aforementioned Florida State guy to get embarrassed on national television. And now we're back to our second first-round QB of the past four years...and we're just praying that he isn't as bad as he was last week. And remember, THIS ALL HAPPENED IN THE FIRST SIX WEEKS OF THE SEASON.
Even if our rookie quarterback is good--we think he is, but we all know how quarterbacks usually work out in Minnesota--he might get himself killed behind our atrocious offensive line! They're ranked 28th in pass blocking and 18th in run blocking by Pro Football Focus. According to the PFF ratings, Minnesota is the proud owner of the worst tackle in the NFL (Matt Kalil) and have allowed 22 sacks, which is second-worst in the league.
Not so fast, say Bills fans. Their offense is ranked 31st in pass blocking and 29th in run blocking by PFF. Buffalo is the proud owner of the second-worst tackle in the NFL (Seantrel Henderson). They're averaging a paltry 3.9 yards per carry (0.6 less than the Vikings) with a 1-2 running back combination (C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson) that should be MUCH better than the likes of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.
And to make things worse, Buffalo had to deal with questions surrounding new ownership after Ralph Wilson passed away. Questions about a possible relocation of the franchise swirled around the Bils all summer. And to make things worse than that, Jon Bon Jovi's name was tossed into the ring as a member of a possible new ownership group, which meant Bills fans had to deal with two straight months of horrible Bon Jovi puns. (I'm sure jokes like "The Bills give love a bad name!" and "Buffalo better hold on to what they got! It doesn't make a difference if they make it or not!" got old in a hurry in upstate New York.) It also looked like second-year coach Doug Marrone may have been losing the locker room before the season even started, getting into very heated public battles with players in the preseason.
Of course, the Minnesota Vikings can one-up all comers when it comes to off-field distractions. That whole threat of relocation thing? Yeah we're well aware of how that works. And at least your new owner wasn't convicted of civil fraud like the Wilfs were. And then there's that whole thing about the Vikings getting arrested more than any other team since 2000. And then there's that whole thing about the team's best player and face of the franchise being exiled from the team due to charges of child injury.
Buffalo might be able to stake a claim to one-upping Minnesota when it comes to historical misery. But when it comes to pain inflicted on fans this season, Vikings fans can one-up Bills fans all day.
At least the Vikings aren't losing in the last minute like they did all the time last year. In fact, they are one of two teams (along with the Giants) that haven't had a game decided by less than double digits this season. So if the Vikings are down by a couple of scores early, feel free to get some yard work done. Lately it looks like some of Minnesota's supposed leaders would rather be doing yard work rather than playing football as soon as things go south. Look at these fine examples of leadership displayed by Greg Jennings last week:
Ducking tackles instead of fighting for first down yardage and dropping easy passes because you're about to get hit aren't exactly going to help your rookie quarterback. (Seriously, I don't get that first one. You deliver a stiff arm but just run out of bounds short of the marker anyway? Sure looks like he could have cut back instead of letting his momentum carry him out of bounds.) Of course these were from the last couple meaningless drives of the game, but Jennings' body language was bad all day. The Vikings need his play on the field match his charisma and personality off the field--big, bold, and positive.
Jennings wasn't the only receiver that didn't appear to be at full speed last week. Just look at this blazing kickoff return from Cordarrelle Patterson:
Maybe his hip is bothering him more than the team is letting on. Maybe there just wasn't a hole. (There would have been if Marcus Sherels hadn't whiffed on his block.) But if you really want to avoid being a "drama queen" and get the ball more, you might wanna take it out of second gear every once in a while.
Of course the wide receivers could have jet packs on and still be invisible with how the offensive line has been blocking. Just look how Charlie Johnson and Matt Kalil handled the double team against former Viking castoff George Johnson:
Look, we get it. Being 2-4 is frustrating. The fans are frustrated. The players are obviously frustrated. Mike Zimmer is obviously even more frustrated. But moping around, being late for meetings, and being undisciplined isn't going to make things any better. Hopefully Zimmer will light fires under the appropriate asses and we'll see a better team effort in Buffalo on Sunday.
Even if the Vikings get their collective poop together this week, yards are still going to be at a premium. Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, and Marcell Dareus are as tough as it gets when it comes to the first line of defense. Even though Tom Brady lit the Bills up last week--because that's what Tom Brady does--Buffalo still made it extremely difficult for the Patriots to run. The Bills lead the NFL in both rushing yards allowed per game (67.5) and per attempt (2.8). They haven't allowed a single rushing touchdown through the first six games of the season. They get off the line well, they stay in their gaps well, and they finish tackles well:
So if you're thinking about starting McKinnon or Asiata in fantasy, you might want to think again. (I also send my sympathies on your 1-5 record if you were seriously considering starting a Vikings running back.) Mario and Kyle aren't the only two Williamses on the Bills defense that can stop the run either. Defensive backs Aaron Williams and Duke Williams also have a positive run defense rating from PFF. In other words, the Vikings should avoid running at anyone named Williams on Sunday.
But passing? Yeah, the Vikings might be able to do that. If they can manage to keep Bridgewater upright--and I can't emphasize enough how huge that "if" is--there should be some good passing windows downfield. Buffalo has rotated their defensive backs around in a lot of different positions on the field. Last week against the Patriots Corey Graham, usually a nickel or outside corner, started at strong safety since Aaron Williams was out. Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore had a tough time getting their coverage straight, as evidenced on this completion to Julian Edelman. Edelman's motion seems to disrupt Buffalo's Cover 3 and Gilmore leaves him uncovered for the easy out pattern:
Hopefully Norv Turner will be able to cook up an offensive scheme that can create confusion in Buffalo's defensive backfield and find some quick reads for Bridgewater to exploit. Again, this is predicated on the notion that Bridgewater isn't running for his life all day.
On offense, Buffalo isn't nearly as interesting. We have already touched on Buffalo's offensive line woes that haven't freed up much space for Jackson or Spiller. (For what it's worth, Jackson is faring much better than Spiller in every aspect of the game this year.) Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins has shown flashes of brilliance but has only really had two good games thus far. Robert Woods and Mike Williams? Meh. Tight end Scott Chandler can create some mismatches in the passing game but won't be confused with Jimmy Graham anytime soon. Whether it's Orton or Manuel under center, this offense hasn't wowed anyone yet.
Even if Buffalo doesn't make the scoreboard light up like a pinball machine, it's hard to see the Vikings being able to muster enough points against Buffalo's impressive defense. This holds especially true if they spot the Bills a touchdown on their first or second drive, like they have done for their opponents the past five weeks. Unless the Vikings force The Artist Formerly Known as Neck Beard into a bunch of turnovers and actually hold onto the ball themselves, I see the Vikings sputtering one step closer to irrelevance in 2014 and a top-10 pick in 2015.
It's too bad that Buffalo doesn't play in the NFC North this season, because they're about to go 3-0 in the division. What a bunch of one-uppers.
Prediction: Bills 17, Vikings 13
And now for the rest of my Week 7 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
PATRIOTS over Jets
After last week's unexpectedly entertaining Thursday night game, it's good to see that the league will get back to its usual boring blowout this week.
RAVENS over Falcons
My Survivor Pool pick of the week, even though I'm officially eliminated after Dallas upset Seattle last week. THANKS A LOT, DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS. Atlanta is 0-3 on the road this season including an ugly loss to the lowly Minnesota Vikings. I mean, how could the Ravens lose?
BEARS over Dolphins
Can anyone explain either team to me? Each of them have some of the biggest wins and some of the most perplexing losses of the early season. You should probably just pick against me here.
COLTS over Bengals
Because...um, A.J. Green is out? Why do I have to have a snarky comment or joke for every game? Let's just do the Gratuitous Picture of the Week to distract you from my lack of humor.
I'm as bouncy in the sand / As Andy Dalton's wedding band! (image via colts.com)
Browns over JAGUARS
Cleveland has the league's two remaining winless teams in the next two weeks. Are you prepared for the 5-2 Cleveland Browns, without Johnny Manziel? If you aren't, don't worry. This is still Cleveland we're talking about after all. They could easy drop one or both games.
LIONS over Saints
We have seen both teams play the Vikings this year. We know which team is better.
PACKERS over Panthers
Last week I predicted the end of the Packers game almost flawlessly:
Written on Thursday. Pretty damn close. pic.twitter.com/TDef0mSUMV— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) October 12, 2014
I can't predict a Packers loss since I'm kind of on a roll the past two weeks, but how about this?
Green Bay will win this game but Aaron Rodgers will suffer a season-ending injury by tearing ligaments in his elbow attempting another fake spike. Also Eddie Lacy will finally get going and run for 150 yards and 4 touchdowns.
(Sorry, that last part was thrown in to help my terrible 1-5 fantasy team that has Lacy.)
REDSKINS over Titans
When it takes a last-second blocked field goal to beat the worst team in the league at home, chances are I'm not picking you to win on the road the following week. Even if it is against Washington.
Seahawks over RAMS
Face it, St. Louis. This just isn't your year. You're probably going to be the only team that had to face Adrian Peterson this year and you'll probably be the only team that has to face the defending champs the week after they lost at home.
CHARGERS over Chiefs
I almost picked the upset here until I learned that San Diego was rocking the gorgeous powder blue unis on Sunday. Look good, play good. (Which might explain why the Buccaneers are playing so poorly this year.)
COWBOYS over Giants
Keep feeding DeMarco Murray the ball that much, Dallas. Make sure he gets 100 yards every game at all costs. I'm sure that's 100% sustainable.
RAIDERS over Cardinals
Last week I picked a winless team to upset their opponents at home. It didn't quite work. But if at first you don't succeed, right? Actually the numbers don't back up Arizona's 4-1 start and Oakland looked pretty frisky at home last week. So what the hell, let's try it again.
BRONCOS over 49ers
I'll take the most overexposed quarterback over the most overexposed coach. (And note that the Vikings are in the top 10 in both!)
Texans over STEELERS
I love when J.J. Watt plays nationally televised games. It's like everyone I follow on Twitter is reduced to high school girls writing love notes to their crush. "Did you SEE that play J.J. just made?! OMG he's SOOOOOO dreamy!!!"
Last week: 11-3-1
Season so far: 56-34-1