The New York Jets have found a groove so far on the first 2 games of the 3 game home stand they are currently in. This week they face the Minnesota Vikings as they look to over .500. Let’s go through a preview for this matchup of long term against short term expectations in this week’s Let’s Get Weird.
Return of the Prodigal ‘son
The artist formerly known as the “MetLife Monster,” and former ‘son of anarchy, Sheldon Richardson, is making his return to the stadium he once called home for the first time. Richardson was a polarizing figure in his time in New York. He produced as much as anyone else on the Jets defense but he also had some negative off the field incidents. That being said, Sheldon Richardson was one of the few bright spots on the team at the start of the second rebuild under Maccagnan. He had 18 sacks in his 4 seasons with the Jets. At times he was their most consistent pass rusher. Richardson might downplay his return to the media, but there’s no doubt he’ll be motivated. The Jets offensive line has been on and off this season so far. We’ll see if they can contain Sheldon Richardson as he looks to prove a point this week.
Darnold Major Exam (Part 2)
Sam Darnold had his first major exam in week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It didn’t go too well. The Jaguars held the Jets offense to just 178 total yards. Darnold, himself, had just 144 passing yards. The Vikings defense has been inconsistent this season so far, but they are a big step up from the Colts defense the Jets faced last week, even without Everson Griffen on Sunday. Darnold has been victimized by ball hawking safeties quite a few times this season. Quadre Diggs (Lions), T.J McDonald (Dolphins), and Malik Hooker (Colts) have all had picks off of Darnold this season. This week, Harrison Smith, one of the best in the NFL, is in town along with Xavier Rhodes, one of the NFL’s top shutdown corners. Darnold will have his hands full, particularly with Quincy Enunwa out. This is a good matchup to assess his development.
Visions of Week 8, 2017 – Raaaaaaaiiiin doowwwwn (Thom Yorke voice)
The matchup this week is very similar to the Jets matchup in week 8 last season. That week, the Jets faced off against the Falcons at home in the rain. The rain was able to help slow the Falcons high powered offense a bit, as Matt Ryan had 3 fumbles, 2 recovered by the Jets. The Falcons pulled away late, however, as the Jets offense could only muster 3 points total in the second half.
This week, with rain in the forecast, the Jets will be hoping Kirk Cousins, who already has ball security issues, will put a few on the ground. I think the Jets will get their pass rush going again, after a quiet week against the Colts and cause the Vikings high powered offense some problems. Look for a game-changing strip sack from the Jets defense on Sunday. Hopefully, the offense scores more than 3 points in the second half and so the Jets pull out a win unlike week 8 last year.
Slow and steady
The Jets are scraping the barrell at wide receiver with the injuries they have suffered of late. The best case scenario for their offense against Minnesota is to keep the Vikings offense off the field and with long effective drives. Usually that means establishing the run but that won’t be easy against the 9th best run defense in the NFL. The Jets will rely on Sam Darnold to get it done on third down. I think Darnold converts 8 third downs and the Jets control time of possession game which, as a result, gives them a chance to win at the end.
Bowles vs. Cousins
The last time the New York Jets faced Kirk Cousins was in 2015 during the first season under head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan. Bowles’ defense gave Cousins a really hard time, forcing him to throw 2 interceptions (Darrelle Revis and Marcus Gilchrist) and holding Cousins to 191 yards passing. Cousins is of course now in a much better situation with the Vikings offensive skill players and the Jets have major questions in the secondary this week. But let’s see if Bowles will be able to tease out some of Cousins’ weaknesses like he did in 2015.