The Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1) head to MetLife Stadium to match up with the New York Jets (3-3). Here’s how the two rosters match up by position (all stats via Pro Football Focus and Pro-Football Reference)…
Vikings starter: Kirk Cousins
Overall Cousins has put together a very good first six games. He rates as PFF’s ninth highest graded quarterback and has the fifth most yards, 10th best passer rating and third best completion percentage. The Vikings have been forced into a quick-pass offense, which would explain Cousins ranking 20th in yards per attempt. Prior to last week’s game, Cousins was setting career highs against pressure, but that regressed when he threw an ill-advised interception against the Cardinals and gave Arizona a touchdown on a strip-sack. Cousins has generally been good over his career against the blitz (96.0 rating this year), giving him a good chance against Todd Bowles’ defense.
Jets starter: Sam Darnold
The 21-year-old rookie has had a typical rookie season for a highly-talented but inexperienced quarterback. His highs have been impressive, posting a rating higher than 110 in the opener against Detroit and his last game against Indianapolis. But the lows have been low. He managed just a 38.2 rating in a loss to Cleveland and has at least one interception in all but one game.
One area Darnold has been dangerous is on the deep ball. He’s 3-for-6 with 152 yards on passes that travel more than 40 yards through the air. He’s also picking up 9.3 yards per attempt on intermediate throws, but has three INTs between 10-20 yards passes.
Last week the Vikings dominated rookie Josh Rosen, so we can expect to see a good number of third-down blitzes again. However, Jeremy Bates is an impressive offensive coordinator whose counter punch is likely to be stronger than Mike McCoy’s.
Vikings starter: Latavius Murray
After five weeks of struggles to run the ball, the Vikings broke out against Arizona, picking up 195 yards on the ground, 155 of which belonged to Murray. The offensive line was able to create holes and Murray did the rest, picking up multiple explosive runs. Overall he averages 4.8 yards per carry this year, but against a tough interior defensive line, it will likely be harder for the Vikings to create big plays on the ground. Murray’s ability to pass protect could be a significant asset for the Vikings against blitz packages. However, they are still missing out on a major receiving weapon with Dalvin Cook sidelined.
Jets starter: Bilal Powell
One of the league’s most underappreciated players, Powell is dangerous on the ground and through the air. He has never averaged under 4.0 yards per carry and posted a career high 5.5 YPC in 2016, while also grabbed 58 passes that year. The Jets will need a big game from Powell as Isaiah Crowell (who averages 6.1 YPC) is questionable. Overall Gang Green has a very good running attack, which ranks seventh in the NFL. If Linval Joseph can’t play, they could have an impact.
Vikings starters: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Kyle Rudolph
Your update on the Thielen-Diggs combo: Still good. Between them, the two receivers have 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns this season and a QB rating when targeted of over 110. Thielen leads the NFL in receiving and it appears opposing defenses are going to allow him to pick apart their zone defenses. While lining up in the slot (60 percent of his total snaps), Thielen has 37 catches on 49 targets. Over the past few weeks, we have seen improvement from Treadwell, which could be helpful for Cousins as teams gameplan for Thielen and Diggs.
Jets starters: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Herndon
Normally the Jets have a nice pen of weapons for Darnold, but this week they will be without top receiver Quincy Enunwa and the team released Terrelle Pryor on Saturday. Still Anderson has become a premier deep threat, averaging 19.3 yards per reception.
Vikings starters: Rashod Hill – Tom Compton – Pat Elflein – Mike Remmers – Brian O’Neill
Aside from a strip-sack given up to Chandler Jones, the Vikings’ offensive line had its best game of the year against the Cardinals. O’Neill put on a strong performance in his first start, impressing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and Elflein was in the middle of almost every Murray explosive run. Overall there are still major concerns. The Vikings grade 29th in pass blocking by PFF and 18th in run blocking. Missing Riley Reiff for the second straight week could be an issue with the Jets sending all types of outside pressure.
Jets starters: Kelvin Beachum – James Carpenter – Spencer Long – Brian Winters – Brandon Shell
Pro Football Focus ranks the Jets 18th in pass blocking and 26th in run blocking, which could make for a long day for Darnold. The interior of the Jets’ line has struggled at times, giving up 21 pressures between center Spencer Long and guard James Carpenter. Going against a highly-motivated Sheldon Richardson could be problematic. Danielle Hunter will match up with Kelvin Beachum, who has only given up six pressures all year and is the Jets’ highest graded pass blocker by PFF.
Vikings starters: Danielle Hunter – Sheldon Richardson – Linval Joseph (?) – Stephen Weatherly
It seemed greedy to ask Danielle Hunter to take the “next step” after his impressive past two seasons but he has progressed into an elite pass rusher this year. Hunter is third in the NFL in QB pressures with 29 and sits second in the league in sacks with seven. Meanwhile Sheldon Richardson (revenge game!) is sixth among interior D-linemen in pressures. The Vikings’ D-line should dominate the Jets unless Joseph can’t play. Then they will have to turn to David Parry, who was re-signed this week. That could impact whether the Jets can effectively run the ball.
Jets starters: Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson, Nathan Shepherd
Williams is simply one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He’s registered four sacks, five QB hits and 12 hurries in the first six weeks. Anderson has also been effective, picking up three sacks, two hits and nine hurries. The Jets rotate in other defensive linemen like Shepherd, a talented rookie and Steve McLendon, a quality run stuffer. It won’t be quite the same challenge as Green Bay or Los Angeles on the inside, but the Vikings’ O-line won’t be in for an easy day.
Vikings starters: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon
Barr played his strongest game of the year against the Cardinals, ripping out a fumble and creating three hurries on nine pass rush snaps. For as much criticism as Barr received after the Vikings’ loss to the Rams, he has only allowed 18 yards passing into his coverage outside of that game. Kendricks’ season has been a rollercoaster, but he has only given up 32 yards in coverage over the last two weeks and may be turning a corner.
Jets starters: Brandon Copeland, Darron Lee, Avery Williamson, Jordan Jenkins
The Jets’ tandem of Lee and Williamson combines one of the NFL’s best cover linebackers and a solid run defender. Lee has allowed a high completion percentage into his coverage (as most LBs do) but has three interceptions and his opposing QB rating when targeted is just 72.0. Williamson leads the team with 17 run stops. From the outside, Copeland and Jenkins have combined for 27 QB pressures. Todd Bowles’ team is in the top five in blitz percentage, so expect to see the linebackers play a significant role in the Jets’ attack.
Vikings starters: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, George Iloka, Harrison Smith
Without Andrew Sendejo and with Mike Hughes out for the year with an ACL tear, the Vikings’ depth will be tested. Iloka played well in his first start as a VIking last week, splitting some reps with Anthony Harris. Pressure is now on Alexander, who has given up 21 catches on 24 targets.
Jets starters: Morris Claiborne, Darryl Roberts, Parry Nickerson, Jamal Adams, Doug Middelton
Normally the Jets have an impressive secondary, but against the Vikings they will be extremely shorthanded. Without corners Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine or safety Marcus Maye, they are vulnerable. Still Claiborne has had a terrific season, giving up just a 42.9 percent completion percentage on throws his way and Jamal Adams is becoming one of the best safeties in the NFL. The Vikings will need to keep an eye on him as a blitzer.