The biggest obstacle facing the Minnesota Vikings this week may be mental.
The Vikings have to shake off the effect of a tie that felt like a loss after kicker Daniel Carlson missed a pair of field goals in overtime in the 29-29 stalemate against bitter rival Green Bay.
Minnesota also has to avoid the temptation of looking past the visiting Buffalo Bills, who arrive in the Twin Cities off lopsided losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers in which they were barely competitive.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was steadfast in saying his team will not take the Bills lightly, even though they are the lowest-scoring team in the AFC with 23 points and look light years removed from last season’s postseason squad.
“I see a very talented defense. I believe the results in the first two weeks were more predicated on them starting with lousy field position and had nothing to do with their defense,” said Cousins. “More than the actual outcome had to do with their defensive front holding up. I think they have a very good front and I think they showed that last year having been a playoff team and taking the (Jacksonville) Jaguars all the way to the final play in the playoffs.
“So, we have great respect for them and we know we’re going to have to be at our absolute best to have a chance because it is a really good front and they’re a very attacking and aggressive defense.”
This is not the same Buffalo team as a year ago. Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was traded in the offseason and his replacement, Nathan Peterman, was yanked in the season opener, losing the job to rookie Josh Allen.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bills in last week’s 31-20 drubbing by the Chargers. Veteran cornerback Vontae Davis quit the team at halftime, changing out of his uniform and leaving the stadium before later announcing his retirement via Twitter.
“Never have seen it. Pop Warner, high school, college, pros, never heard of it, never seen it,” said Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander of the bizarre sequence. “Completely disrespectful to his teammates. He didn’t say nothing to nobody. You know as much as I know. I found out going out for the second half of the game. They said he’s not coming out, he retired. That’s it.”
Davis’ retirement could have a major impact on Sunday’s matchup against the Vikings. The Bills are already thin at the position with cornerbacks Phillip Gaines and Taron Johnson practicing on a limited basis for the second straight day on Thursday.
That doesn’t bode well for a Minnesota offense that finally found its stride in the fourth quarter by erasing a 13-point deficit against the Packers.
Cousins, the marquee free-agent acquisition of the Vikings in the offseason, threw three of his four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and finished with 425 yards on 35-of-48 passing.
Adam Thielen had 13 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown while fellow wideout Stefon Diggs had nine catches for 128 yards and two fourth-quarter scores, including a 75-yard strike. There’s also tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had seven catches for 72 yards.
“Offensively they’ve got some weapons in Thielen, Diggs and Rudolph,” said Buffalo free safety Jordon Poyer. “It’s going to be a task. With the second half going the way it did last week, it’s something we want to build off.”
Minnesota could be without starting running back Dalvin Cook, who did not practice again Thursday due to a hamstring injury. Latavius Murray would get the nod if Cook is unable to go.
The Bills also could be without their top running back and best offensive weapon. Sean McCoy has been limited by a rib injury in practice, another setback for a punchless offense that ranks 31st in yards per game (223.0) and passing yards per game (139.5).
Allen, the No. 7 overall pick out of Wyoming, was 18 of 33 for 245 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in his first career start. He added 32 yards rushing on eight carries.
“Big arm. Really athletic, moving in the pocket, scrambling,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “I think he looks to throw when he’s scrambling. He moves well in the pocket, but will definitely pull it down in the run.”
Former Dallas kicker Dan Bailey will make his Vikings debut after he was signed to replace Carlson, who was released on Monday.
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