Minnesota Vikings Preview
Buffalo efficiently handled the Patriots last night, a win on Sunday for the Jets would help them keep pace with the Bills but put some space between the Patriots and us. Here’s how things stand in the AFC East today:
The Dolphins and Bills are playing well at the moment, but we do have games against both of them that will either see us fall behind or peg them back, let’s hope it’s the latter. That points-against column sure looks good for the Jets, the points for not so much, but with Mike White at the helm, I’m sure we’ll see that improve.
First, as always we’re going to get to some really quick throws. Yesterday a lot of players and coaches met with the media so we’re going to focus on some comments.
Jeff Ulbrich spoke about Mike White and how when he was running the scout team against the Jet’s first defense he always stood out and on occasions, he was better than the opposing QB they faced that week.
Ulbrich also stated that last week’s defensive performance against the Bears “wasn’t to our standard … Guys were not satisfied.” - I mean they started slow but then pitched a shutout for three quarters, so I love that desire for perfection.
Jets RB coach Taylor Embree said he spoke to James Robinson about his unhappiness about being a healthy scratch explaining it would always be by a committee in this system “I told him I’d be mad if you weren’t mad you weren’t playing. We want guys who want to play.”
Offensive line coach John Benton said that George Fant was getting really close to a return and that he was taking some reps during the week as they managed Duane Brown’s workload.
Finally Mike White gave a really good answer about the importance of connecting with his teammates and I wanted to share that in full:
I’m a little short on time today as I’m having to write this before I start my real job this morning, so forgive me for it being a touch shorter than usual. I just wanted to get some thoughts down.
Let’s kick off the preview of the Minnesota Vikings with the injury report for both teams. Michael Carter remained sidelined yesterday and at this point, I’d be surprised to see him play on Sunday, which means the running back position will be manned by Zonovan Knight, Ty Johnson and James Robinson. Not a bad trio considering it doesn’t include our top two running backs.
The big one for the Vikings is left tackle Christian Darrisaw who is still in the concussion protocol and having suffered two concussions in the space of 5 days, I think it would be malpractice for the Vikings to have him play on Sunday. Head injuries are no joke and his long-term future needs to be the priority, not winning a football game.
Darrisaw is one of the best tackles in football, PFF has him rated as the #2 overall offensive tackle this season, the 3rd rated run-blocking tackle and the #11 rated pass-blocking tackle having allowed 12 pressures all season. He’s key to that offensive line and if he can’t go then that gives the Jets and Carl Lawson a huge advantage, considering Kirk Cousins isn’t the most mobile QB in the world.
The Vikings are a very good football team, they wouldn’t be 9-2 if they weren’t. But they’re not a dominant football team in the way the Chiefs are on offense or the San Francisco 49ers are on defense. Here’s where they rank in several key categories:
Points per game: 23.8 (12th)
Rushing yards per game: 99.4 (26th)
Passing yards per game: 240.9 (7th)
Total yards per game: 340.3 (17th)
Points allowed per game: 23.4 (21st)
Rushing yards allowed per game: 114.6 (14th)
Passing yards allowed per game: 276.1 (32nd)
Total yards allowed per game: 390.7 (31st)
Total DVOA: -9.2 (22nd)
Offensive DVOA: -2.7 (20th)
Defensive DVOA: 5.4 (23rd)
Special Teams DVOA: -1.1 (20th)
Estimated Wins: 4.8 (22nd)
That last stat is pretty incredible. Using all the statistical measurements available, football outsiders have calculated that teams who have those ratings would be around 5 wins so far this season. The Vikings have 9, which shows they are punching above their weight at the moment, at least according to DVOA which is one of my favourite stats out there.
What this tells you is that the passing game is largely responsible for that 9-2 record. The fact that they allow more passing yards per game than any other team in football, yet have only lost twice this year is pretty staggering.
Justin Jefferson has 34 more targets than the next receiver on the Vikings (Adam Thielen), work out a way to slow Justin Jefferson down and you work out a way to stop the Vikings. Thielen is talented, as are T.J. Hockenson and K.J. Osborn, but the Vikings go when Jefferson goes, and boy does he go.
So far this season he’s been targeted 109 times and caught 81 passes for 1,232 yards and 5 touchdowns. But in the two losses to the Eagles and Cowboys, he caught 9 passes for 81 yards and 0 touchdowns. He also caught just 50% of his targets against the Eagles and 60% of his targets against the Cowboys, down from his season mark of 74.3% of all targets caught.
Jefferson is one of the best deep receiving threats in the NFL, he’s caught 72.2% of all 20+ yard passes thrown his way, in players who have had at least 10 targets that’s the 2nd best completion percentage in the league (Jaylon Waddle is #1). To allow those deep routes to develop, the QB needs time in the pocket and this is where the Jets pass-rush comes into effect, especially if Darrisaw is forced to miss the game. If the Jets can get consistent pressure on Cousins and force the ball out of his hands before the play has developed, then there will be turnover opportunities.
Look at the two games that the Vikings lost, pressure equalled turnovers. In week two, the Eagles generated 24 pressures on Cousins and he threw 3 interceptions. In week 11 against the Cowboys, he was pressured 26 times and while he didn’t throw any interceptions, he didn’t throw any touchdowns either. Against Buffalo in week 10 he was pressured 29 times, and while the Vikings won that game, Cousins through 2 interceptions and had two other turnover-worthy plays. There’s a common saying that pressure bursts the pipes, and that’s absolutely true when it comes to Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings.
This game is going to test the Jet’s secondary, and not just because the Vikings have Justin Jefferson. The Vikings throw the ball a lot, in terms of their run/pass split it’s heavily weighted to the pass at 63.8% of all plays, that’s the 3rd highest mark in football. If there is one positional group who can’t afford to have an off-day, it’s Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed and the rest of the secondary. Their performance will go a long way to winning this game for the Jets.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets are going to have a great opportunity to stack back-to-back offensive performances. Not only are the Vikings dead last in passing yards per game, but they’re 27th in passing defense DVOA which accounts for context, so by any measure they’re not very good at defending the pass. That’s not just on the secondary, that’s on the entire team. Jordan Hicks at linebacker has been one of the main culprits allowing 4 touchdowns and 399 yards after the catch. Exploiting the middle of the field will be the goal for the Jets and fortunately, we have a QB in Mike White that can do that.
The Jets don’t need to do anything different to what we saw last week, obviously, there will be tweaks in the game plan but the overall style of offense should remain the same. Get the running back going and get those quick-hitting slants, boots and digs going and then when the Vikings start to cheat down on it, hit them with a deeper drop and a longer shot, like the one we saw to Garrett Wilson against the Bears. That will keep the defense honest and the chains moving.
The Vikings do however have the third-best turnover differential in football at +6. That’s based on 12 giveaways and 18 takeaways, 9 of the 12 giveaways have come courtesy of interceptions (as we referenced earlier) but 10 of those takeaways have been interceptions as well, so Mike will need to protect the football and not give the Vikings a short field to work with.
Finally, I wanted to touch on something I haven’t touched on before in these game previews and that’s penalty differential. Basically the same as a turnover differential but for penalties, I tend to look at it most weeks to check on how disciplined we are in comparison to the opponent because flags can lose you games. This week is one of the biggest contrasts this season and we need to be aware of that. The Jets are 31st in the league in terms of penalty differential at -138 yards, the Vikings on the other hand are 2nd in the league at +163 yards. We get called for a lot and they rarely get called, we need to stay disciplined on Sunday.
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Can’t wait to see this Mike White Offense indoors against a mediocre defense. This is a 3-4 Defense with two outstanding Pass Rushers in Za’Darius Smith, & Danielle Hunter. Curious to see if the Jets can run Wide against this 3-4, if MW can continue to get the ball out in 2.5 seconds, and what adjustments will be made. Defensively, the backend needs to hold up , against a veteran QB, and an All Pro Receiver in Jefferson. The Jets have been tested by great WR’s , in Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs, but Jefferson is unique and has a better QB.. The Jets tackling issues will be put to the test by RB Dalvin Cook. The Jets Pass Rush was mediocre by Jet Standards against the Bears, Jets need to step it up. Getting Rankins back could be key, while the availability of LT Darrisaw could be devastating to the Vikings, their interior Offensive Line is below average, Cleveland, Bradbury & Ingram won’t be able to handle “Q” . The Defensive Line could have a six sack day, Rankins will be back if at all possible, DT’ s are going to eat.
I'm dating myself here but so what. I was so bummed out in 1970 when Namath was injured. We went going to the playoffs for sure. The Jets had a game against the Purple People Eaters of Minnesota. This was AFL vs NFL - I had to listen to it on a 'transistor;' radio as there wasnt any TV coverage in my state of Connecticut. Everyone said the Jets would get killed. Well, The Jets behind Al Woodall beat the mighty Vikings that day. It says here these Vilkings are not those Vikings but lets go beat them again up there !