As is the custom leading up to each game, we're attempting to get a little intel from the SB Nation blog that represents the Minnesota Vikings' opponents this week. This week, that distinction falls to the folks at Buffalo Rumblings. I have exchanged questions with Brian Galliford, the lead blogger at Buffalo Rumblings, about the Bills and this weekend's game. I'll have a link to the questions Brian answered from me as soon as they're up and available. In the meantime, here are the questions that Brian answered for me.
1) We Vikings fans are no strangers to our team's situation being a bit tenuous. Now that the Bills have been sold to the Pegula family, how relieved are you all that it appears your favorite team will be staying in Buffalo for the long-term?
It's a really difficult feeling to describe, speaking personally. Quite frankly, it's what I remember what it feels like to win; I was but a youth (4-7 years old) when the Bills were in their Super Bowl heyday, and a mere 15 the last time they were in the playoffs. (I'm now 29.) I have therefore completely forgotten what it feels like for a sports team I love to achieve something worthwhile. But this outcome, with the Pegulas buying the team, is a monumental victory for Bills fans and for the region. These are very exciting times.
2) We're also not strangers to Florida State quarterbacks that may or may not have been drafted too high failing to meet expectations. The Bills benched E.J. Manuel for Kyle Orton (sans neckbeard) a couple of weeks ago. Do you think Manuel is a lost cause or does he still have a future in Buffalo?
Well, first thing's first: Orton may no longer have a neckbeard, but he still maintains an excellent mustache.
It's just my opinion, but I believe Manuel is a lost cause. It's tough, because he genuinely seems to "get it" from an intangibles perspective, and is obviously a very talented athlete, but he's just missing several key abilities that are necessary to play quality quarterback in the NFL - chiefly accuracy, pocket presence, and a fast processor. He may get another shot as the starter later this season if Orton can't keep them in the playoff chase, or if Doug Whaley and Doug Marrone manage to keep their jobs heading into next spring. He is tied to this regime, basically.
3) Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, Sammy Watkins was one of the most exciting players on the board. The Bills gave up a lot of capital, including their 2015 first-rounder, to move up and grab Watkins. What has the impression of Watkins been thus far?
Very favorable. It's frustrating to watch him spend an entire half figuring out, and then beating, Darrelle Revis, but not having the ball thrown his way. Buffalo's foundation on offense is very shaky; Orton is baseline-level on what is passable as a pro quarterback, and the offensive line outside of left tackle Cordy Glenn is a mess. Watkins falls into a Bills-wide problem of not having the foundation in place to make best use of their skill players, and watching both he and C.J. Spiller languish is, at times, agonizing. (Not nearly as agonizing, however, as watching an all-time Bills great, Fred Jackson, sacrifice his body and continue to produce within a mediocre offense.) But individually, Watkins has been as advertised. He is a very talented dude.
4) The Bills, like the Vikings, have really struggled offensively despite having some pretty good talent. Can the majority of the blame be placed on the offensive line as it appears it can in Minnesota?
Yeah, they would be the primary culprit, particularly since the better quarterback is now in the starting lineup. Glenn is one of the more underrated left tackles in the game, but he is getting beat more often than in years past. The team has regressed considerably at left guard, right guard, and right tackle from last year's shaky line, and center Eric Wood has been below-average, as well. They're doing a lot of things schematically to give Orton more time - max protections, end-around action, et cetera - and it's limiting what they can do.
5) Give us one guy that's a bit "under the radar" or that Vikings fans might not know of on each side of the ball that you think will play a major role for the Bills on Sunday.
On offense, it's receiver Chris Hogan; he's emerged as a favorite target of Orton's over the past two weeks, and may even start taking the majority of the slot reps away from the better-known (and more talented) Mike Williams. He caught five passes for 72 yards and a score last week against the Pats. On defense, linebacker Nigel Bradham has been outstanding when he's been in the lineup. You'll see him an awful lot on Sunday, as he is one of the fastest and most active linebackers in football working in the Jim Schwartz defense.
Bonus question: What do you suppose would happen if the Bills and Vikings ever met in a Super Bowl? Personally, I'm leaning towards some kind of meteor strike or something similar. Just because.
Zombie apocalypse. No question about it. An infected James Washington will wander into a practice at Bills team headquarters and gnaw the neck of their best player. For the Vikings, it'll probably be someone like Pete Banaszak doing the same.
Thanks to Brian for taking the time to answer our questions.