Key matchup: Harvin vs. Vikings defense

Percy Harvin will be motivated to show up the Vikings and has a coach with a like mind. Since being traded away from Minnesota, Harvin has a history of the occasional big game. Will this be one?

Revenge is always a motivation for players, especially those with talent. When the New York Jets come to TCF Bank Stadium Sunday, they’re bringing Percy Harvin with them for his first return to Minnesota, making the Vikings defense game plan to stop Harvin this week’s key matchup.

Harvin is no stranger to trying to make the Vikings miserable. In 2013, he played just one game with the Seahawks and it was against the Vikings. He touched the ball just twice, bringing back a kickoff 58 yards and catching a pass for 17 yards. He ended up taking a big hit near the goal line that knocked him out of the game and he didn’t play again for the remainder of the regular season. But he made a point to get on the field to teach the Vikings a lesson.

Harvin wore out his welcome in Seattle due to many of the same attitude issues that made him expendable with the Vikings. At least Minnesota got a first-round pick for trading Harvin. Seattle merely got magic beans, shipping him and his contract off to the Jets five games into the season.

Harvin’s production was at a career low before being traded. In five games, he had 22 receptions, but they were for just 133 yards – 33 on one catch in the season opener against Green Bay and 100 yards on the other 21 receptions he had during the season. Given his lack of production and poor attitude, the Seahawks decided to cut ties with him and send him to the Jets.

Things haven’t changed much for Harvin since he arrived in New York. In five games with the Jets, he has caught 19 passes for 182 yards – 11 for 129 against Kansas City and eight catches for 53 yards in the other four games. But this is the Vikings and he is Percy Harvin. Those numbers will likely change this week, because not only will he be motivated to get some revenge against the Vikings, but he has a coach who is like-minded about rubbing someone’s nose in it.

Rex Ryan has a history of holding grudges and going against the grain. When he was told by general manager John Idzik that he had to start Geno Smith last week against Miami, Ryan accepted the edict, but refused to have Smith pass much. In the first 58:03 of Monday night’s game, prior to the Jets falling behind in the final two minutes, the Jets had run the ball 48 times and thrown just eight passes. Ryan agreed to the orders from above, but didn’t feel any need to give his quarterback a chance to do anything to help propel the offense.

With Harvin making his return to Minnesota, you can bet that Ryan, who still has to play Geno Smith against his will, is going to look to incorporate Harvin as much as possible. It won’t be surprising if Harvin is used extensively in the running game and will get more than his share of passes – both bubble screens and deep downfield passes. If the Jets use him like many expect he will, Harvin could touch the ball 15 times and be a threat to all three levels of the defense – running jet sweeps that will pressure the defense line, running short crossing routes that will impact the linebackers and running a few deep routes to test the secondary.

When Harvin arrived in Minnesota, Brett Favre made him an immediate star. Once Favre went away, Harvin’s production was much more sporadic. While his career has taken a downturn over the last couple of seasons, he is going to be motivated to make the Vikings pay for getting rid of him and his coach is likely going to try to make sure he gets every opportunity to exact his revenge, making the battle of Harvin vs. the Vikings defense a logical matchup to watch this week.


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