The New York Jets and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold own a great opportunity against what was offseason Plan A, Kirk Cousins.
- New York Jets (3-3)
- Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1)
- NFL, Week 7, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Oct. 21, 2018, FOX
- MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
This isn’t a Denver Broncos squad sleepwalking through a full 60 minutes. These aren’t your Indianapolis Colts who can’t seem to put anybody around star quarterback Andrew Luck. The team that walks into MetLife Stadium on Sunday is for real.
Despite their record, the Minnesota Vikings represent, by far, the New York Jets toughest challenge on this three-game homestand.
Despite the challenge, head coach Todd Bowles remains that even-keeled leader we’ve all fallen in love with, via Randy Lange of the Jets official website.
“You don’t get any special, extra wins for beating a team that’s been to the championship game. We’re trying to go to 4-3. They’re the next team on our list. So it’ll be just like beating the Colts and Broncos, but it will be 4-3 instead of 3-3.”
Remember, if the Jets front office had its way this past offseason, Kirk Cousins would be wearing green (for the first time since his Michigan State days).
Mike Maccagnan wanted Kirk. Jeremy Bates wanted and has a connection to Kirk. If hadn’t said no to the Jets, he’d be in New York for a cool $30 million a season.
On the plus side, New York would have been afforded the right to choose a non-QB at the No. 6 spot and would still own three second-round selections that were traded to the Colts for the right to move up to No. 3.
That plus doesn’t drown out the negatives.
When was the last time a free agent quarterback won the Super Bowl (other than Peyton Manning who limped his way to his second title)? It simply doesn’t happen.
Since the NFL Draft financial slotted system came into play (the year after the Sam Bradford contract), the Seattle Seahawks-Russell Wilson formula has built more title-contending teams than anything else. Darnold makes peanuts compared to Cousins and, therefore, the 53-man depth chart owns a better chance to dominance.
While most will now say, “It all worked out for the best,” I can’t get past the idea the Jets wanted to go the overpaid veteran route—something that rarely works.
Perhaps a victory over the Cousins-led Vikings will nudge the door a little closer to shut on the entire narrative.
Quincy Enunwa, Marcus Maye, and Buster Skrine are all out. Trumaine Johnson is officially listed as doubtful but will probably also miss his second straight contest. Again, the Jets will be incredibly hamstrung in the secondary.
The Vikings will be without stud running back Dalvin Cook and starting safety Andrew Sendejo.
So, yes, the true X-factor here will be the New York Jets pass rush. Without three of five starting nickel defensive backs, a pass rush against the Minny O-line and on Kirk Cousins will be crucial.
Also crucial will be Jamal Adams who’ll need to be superman if the Jets have any designs on victory.
Minnesota has not run the ball well this season. Most of their success has come via the passing game with stud Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Adams will need to make plays whether or not the pass rush gets home. He is that NFL All-Pro difference-maker yet? We may find out this Sunday.
Jeremy Bates/Todd Bowles
The Vikings have been much tougher against the run than the pass this season (ranked ninth in rush defense). It will be crucial that Jeremy Bates and Todd Bowles allow Sam Darnold to loosen up the defense early.
While facing a single-high on an early first or second down, a Robby Anderson nine-route needs to be utilized to strike early or, at the very least, put fear into the heart of the defense.
Aggression cannot stand. As solid as the Jets rushing attack has been over the last two weeks, they won’t find the ability to run the ball if the Vikings play their usual aggressive style of ball on defense.
Give me the Jets. The brain says Vikings all day long, but momentum cries Jets.
It’s the third game of a homestand but most importantly, something has happened within the locker room over the last two weeks. This locker room has gelled in a way that’s extraordinarily positive.
The Maye injury worries me, as does the conservative mindset coming back to haunt Bowles and Bates offensively. Usually, though, the bigger the game, the more epic the choke on the part of Kirk Cousins.
Sam Darnold puts forth his best game as a pro.