Game Preview: Jets (2-10) @ Vikings (5-7)

It has been a season of painful losses for the Jets and last week was no different as they dropped a heartbreaker to the Miami Dolphins 16-13. But on the bright side, each week is another opportunity for the Jets to escape this season’s long funk and while a win won’t make up for this string of unbearable losses, it may for a moment let fans forget about what a tough season this has been.

This week the Jets travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. The Vikings, led by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater are 5-7 on the season which is somewhat of a surprise due to the absence of their star running back Adrian Peterson due to off the field issues.

After losing five of their first seven games, the Vikings have rebounded and are winners of three of their last five and a lot of that has been due to the improved play of Bridgewater.

“He’s improving every week,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “The big thing he’s doing I think is moving in the pocket. He’s starting to extend plays a lot better. He’s doing great in the two-minute, four-minute (and) end of the fourth quarter (situations)… he’s been better.”

The Jets on the other hand continue to struggle. They have yet to put a complete game together. In the Jets’ two victories this season against the Raiders and Vikings they were in complete control for the first three quarters but almost gave away the game in the fourth.

Last week the Jets played well on offense and defense but were putrid on special teams, which according to Ryan cost them the game.


Maybe this week will be the week the Jets put it all together.

WHEN: Sunday, December 7 @ 1:00 PM EST. (T.V.-CBS, Radio-ESPN)

WHERE: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Minnesota

INJURY REPORT

JETS- TE Jace Amaro (Concussion) DNP, TE Jeff Cumberland (Illness) DNP, K Nick Folk, (Right Hip) DNP, WR Jeremy Kerley (Illness) DNP, Greg Salas (Hamstring) DNP, DB Josh Thomas (Illness) DNP, DL Muhammad Wilkerson (Toe) DNP, Willie Colon (Shoulder/Knee) Full, RB Chris Johnson (Knee) Full.

VIKINGS- RB Jerick McKinnon (Low Back) DNP, LB Anthony Barr (Knee) DNP, CB Jabari Price (Hamstring) DNP, TE Rhett Ellison (Ankle) DNP, Sharrif Floyd (Knee) DNP, TE Chase Ford (Hamstring/Foot) Limited, TE Kyle Rudolph (Abdomen/Groin) Full.

GAME KEYS

Stick with the run- Some may criticize the Jets offensive game plan against the Miami Dolphins last Monday Night but it was incredibly effective. The Jets ran the ball 49 times for a 277 yards. That averages out to almost six yards per carry.

Like the Dolphins, the Vikings are very good against the pass. The Vikings give up only 219 passing yards a game, which is good for sixth in the NFL . But like Miami, Minnesota does not have a run-stopping defense.

The Vikings allow on average over 123 rushing yards a game, which ranks 24th in the NFL.

The Jets are at their best when they run the football and control the clock. That strategy has proven to be their most successful offensive formula.

What the Jets can’t do however is rely solely on the run like they did on Monday night. They need to establish the running game early so it will open up the play-action passing game later in the game, which hopefully for the Jets will lead to scores.

Improve the pass protection The Jets only attempted 13 passes against Miami but quarterback Geno Smith was sacked twice and hit five other times.


When the Dolphins were daring the Jets to throw by putting eight men in the box, the offensive line that did so well in run blocking, failed miserably in protecting Smith.

The Vikings are an even better pass rushing team than Miami. The Vikings 35 sacks ranks fourth in the NFL .

The Jets struggle against solid edge rushers and will face another challenge in Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen who has 11 sacks this season.

Say what you want about Smith as a quarterback but no quarterback can succeed when they constantly have to run for their lives. You especially can’t be successful when your quarterback gets hit more than half the time he drops back to pass.

The Jets pass protection has been downright terrible this year. They have given up the third most sacks (38) and the third most quarterback hits (79).

The Jets can’t take advantage of the play-action passes that their running game facilitates because they can’t protect the quarterback.

The lack of pass protection forces Smith to accelerate his reads in the pocket and not allow the play to fully develop, which can lead to turnovers—something the Jets will need to avoid to beat Minnesota.

Improved special teams play- This may be an odd key to the game but after the horrible performance by the Jets’ special teams play last week, it needs to be emphasized this week.

Last week the Jets had four special teams penalties including a ten-yard defensive holding penalty on Saalim Hakim that gave the Dolphins fantastic field position and ultimately led to the game-tying touchdown.

In addition to the penalties, for the second straight week the Jets gave up a blocked punt and apparently the poor play rubbed off on the sure-footed Nick Folk who missed two field goals last week after missing only two through the first 11 games.

To put it plain and simple the Jets poor special teams cost them the game last week and while Nick Folk’s struggles may have something to do with a hip injury, the penalties and the blocked punt is inexcusable.

While the Jets struggled on special teams last week, the Vikings thrived. They blocked two punts, both of which were returned for touchdowns in their 31-13 win against the Carolina Panthers last week.

With their offense struggling to put up points, the Jets simply can’t afford to have miscues on special teams that give the Vikings strong opportunities to score.

X-FACTORS

Percy Harvin- The former Vikings first round pick will return to the Gopher State to play the Vikings for the first time since he was traded to the Seahawks in 2013. Harvin has faced his former team once before but that game took place in Seattle.

Other than a 225 all-purpose yard performance in week nine against the Chiefs, Harvin has not had a tremendous impact on the Jets, in part due to their shaky quarterback situation and has failed to register a touchdown.

I think that changes this week. Harvin has a flare for the dramatic, (see his Super Bowl performance last year) and he is primed for a break out game against his old team.


I believe the Jets will get Harvin involved early and often whether it be in the running or receiving game. Harvin is capable of hitting the homerun play and I think he will definitely have a strong impact in Sunday’s contest.

Greg Jennings - The Vikings, even without Adrian Peterson have no shortage of playmakers and the aforementioned Jennings is one of them

Even for a strong secondary, Jennings would pose a strong challenge and with the Jets secondary being a major weakness, it could spell trouble.

While Jennings may not be the same receiver he was with the Packers, he still has 546 receiving yards and four touchdowns. And his experience and understanding of how to manipulate cornerbacks and get open is a major asset to the Vikings.

“He has a lot of wisdom (and) a ton of knowledge,” said Teddy Bridgewater of Jennings. “He understands the position so I’m glad to have a guy like him on our receiver unit.”

With the regression of big-play threat Cordarrelle Patterson who didn’t play an offensive snap in the first half last week’s win against Carolina and failed to register a catch, Jennings has emerged as one of Bridgewater’s favorite target as he leads the team with 45 receptions.

Nick Folk- It may be weird seeing a kicker as an x-factor but when one of your best players has an injury that affects his performance it is a huge deal no matter what position he plays.

Folk did not look like the same guy who was connecting on 90 percent of his field goals. Even in warm ups against the Dolphins on Monday night, Folk was struggling to connect from past 45-yards.

Folk missed two field goals last week and really should have missed three as one of his main field goals hit the bottom of the goal post as it went through the uprights.

Folk did not practice on Wednesday and the Jets did work out Andrew Furney who was cut in the preseason.

Ryan says he feels good about Folk kicking on Sunday but as we saw Monday night the margin for error in an NFL game is so thin that one or two missed field goals can turn a win into a loss quickly.

The Pick- With a win in week one against the Raiders, Ryan improved his record to 8-3 against rookie quarterbacks as Jets head coach. I think that record will improve again.

Say what you want about Ryan offensively but he is perhaps the best defensive mind in the NFL today and will be able to disguise his coverages and throw in some exotic blitzes that will confuse Bridgewater and hopefully for the Jets’ sake lead to some turnovers.

I also like what I saw from the Jets offensively in terms of running the ball. The Vikings are bad against the run and I think they will be able to somewhat duplicate their performance against the Dolphins. And unlike last week I think the Jets will be able to take advantage of play-action opportunities that will lead to scores.

All of this will result in the Jets winning their first road game of the season.

Jets win 24-17


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