Licking his chops: Randy 1-on-1 with Revis
On the national stage that is Monday Night Football, the two most talked about teams in the NFL will square off as the 3-1 New York Jets host the 1-2 Minnesota Vikings.
From Hard Knocks to the best corner in the NFL holding out to another go around of Favre Watch to a last second trade that puts Randy Moss in purple just in time to play the Jets for the second time this year, just to mention a few storylines surrounding these teams, this game has more of a professional wrestling feel to it than that of a football game.
Putting the spectacle of it all aside, however, there is still a game that needs to be played. And before it can be played, yours truly needs to weigh in on the matchup. So, let’s get started.
THE RUNNING OFFENSE
Despite the fact that the Vikings have already had a bye week, Adrian Peterson is tied with Darren McFadden as the third leading rusher in the NFL with 392 yards. Of running backs that have at least 50 carries, only Arian Foster and Ladanian Tomlinson (we’ll get to him later) have better averages per carry. Only Foster has more yards per game than Peterson. Peterson also is tied with Tim Hightower with the longest run of the year so far, following his 80 yard touchdown run against the Lions.
Perhaps most importantly, Peterson has managed to both stay productive and avoid the fumbling issue that has plagued him throughout his career.
The problem for the Vikings 5th ranked rushing offense is that to this point, they are pretty much a one trick pony, with Adrian Peterson being that one trick. Toby Gerhart, Albert Young, and Fahu Tahi have done very little to add to this run game. In fact, the most productive runner on this team outside of Peterson has been Percy Harvin who is averaging five yards gained on his three carries.
Perhaps the addition of Randy Moss will allow for more opportunity to call plays in which Harvin gets to run.
The general assessment of the Vikings offensive line in the run game is that Peterson deserves most of the credit for his production so far, but that this run blocking unit may be slightly improved over what we saw last year. Steve Hutchinson certainly looks to be playing healthier and with more dominance.
The Vikings are hoping that the addition of Randy Moss will help to keep defenses from zeroing in on Peterson. That plan may very well be a success, but it might not happen this week as Peterson prepares to take on the league’s fourth ranked rush defense.
In fact, so far this season the Jets have completely shut down some pretty solid running backs like Ray Rice and Ronnie Brown. This week, the jets are expected to get even stronger on defense with the pending returns of Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace.
I suspect that this could end up being Peterson’s first frustrating game of the season, as the offensive line matches up quite poorly against this defensive front.
Player to Watch:
As always, I should note that Adrian Peterson is the guy to watch week in and week out. However, I don’t want this section to get too repetitive over the course of the season, so this week I want to draw your attention to Steve Hutchinson. Hutch is known as one of the best guards ever to play the game, but last season struggled with injury and it showed in his game. This year, I have seen flashes from him that suggest he is back to his normal old, mean self and I am hoping to see more of that mean streak out of him. Perhaps we’ll see some of it rub off on his fellow linemen, as well.
THE PASSING OFFENSE
Brett Favre is reportedly dealing with tendinitis in his throwing arm. Additionally, he missed much of the preseason practices, Sidney Rice has not been available to him, Percy Harvin missed most of training camp and the preseason, Bernard Berrian has only 38 more yards receiving than Pat Williams does so far this year, Greg Camarillo and Hank Baskett have only had a small amount of time to gain some chemistry with Favre, Visanthe Shiancoe is hampered by a hammy injury, and Randy Moss will be playing his first game ever with Brett Favre on Monday Night.
Look at all the information in that paragraph and then try to wager a bet as to how the Vikings 24th ranked passing attack will fare against the Darrelle Revis and the Jets 22nd ranked passing defense. It isn’t easy, is it?
Even with the short-notice addition of Randy Moss to the passing game, there are more question marks here than there are on the Riddler’s costume.
While the Jets have given up their fair share of passing yards they can boast about the fact that through four games they have eight sacks a four interceptions, plus they’ll possibly be getting both Calvin Pave and Darrelle Revis back at full strength.
The Vikings offensive line has shown a certain amount of inadequacy in protecting Favre (see how I was being nice right there) and the rotation in the Jets front seven provide a good deal of challenge for the struggling unit. Whether it is Jason Taylor on the outside or Shaun Ellis on the inside, the Vikings offensive line is going to have to play at an elevated level if we want to see any Favre to Moss magic on Monday.
Player to Watch: If I told you the player to watch was anyone other than Randy Moss going head-to-head with Darrelle Revis… well, you would probably call for my resignation.
THE RUN DEFENSE
A late-career resurgence from Ladanian Tomlinson, decent production out of Shonn Greene, and the occasional outburst from Brad Smith has provided the Jets with the league’s second ranked rushing offense.
Tomlinson has been running the ball like the older version of himself and currently is averaging a whopping 6.1 yards per carry. His production has gone a long ways towards keeping the pressure of their young quarterback Mark Sanchez, controlling the time of possession, and coming into week five with a +8 turnover ratio.
Tomlinson has been the leading rusher in all four of their contests so far this year, and that includes running backs of the opposing team. It should be noted, however, that nearly all of the production on the ground for the Jets came last week against the woeful Bills.
In the other three games, neither Tomlinson or Shonn Greene had put up 100 yards, but both were able to cross over 100 yards against Buffalo.
The gaggle of rushers in New York could have some trouble against the 9th ranked Vikings run defense which has not allowed over 80 yards to any running back so far this year. The WilliamsWall and EJ Henderson continue to provide tough going for opposing run games.
While Tomlinson and Greene pose a significant threat, Brad Smith cannot be forgotten about, and the Jets offensive line remain a very stout unit I have little doubt that the Jets will struggle to run the ball with any consistency against this well rested Vikings defense.
Player To Watch: When the Vikings are winning, we hear very little jabber out of defensive tackle Kevin Williams. In the midst of recent struggles, however, Williams has been more vocal than usual and has somewhat called out his teammates to get their act together and start playing better football on gameday. Williams is typically going to lead his team through his actions on the field instead of by talking. The fact that he did choose to speak up, suggests to me that he’s a little angry and will be playing his heart out this Monday Night. Watch for K-Will to be around the ball every time the Jets run… and he’ll be gunning for Sanchez, too.
THE PASS DEFENSE
The Vikings actually have a higher ranked pass defense (8th) than they do run defense which is one of the very few pleasant surprises how this season has gone so far. The Jets, on the other hand, have the 25th ranked passing offense.
A big part of the Vikings defensive success has been the elevated play out their starting safeties Madieu Williams and Husain Abdullah.
Through three games, the Vikings defense has given up very little but have also taken very little. They have only managed four sacks and two interceptions.
On the flip side, Mark Sanchez and the jets passing game has been very cautious. Sanchez has only been sacked five times and has yet to throw any interceptions.
However, I expect at least one of those statistics to take a major hit on Monday. So far, the Jets have been able to rely on their strong defense and running game to keep them in the game. Given that the Vikings should be able to put up some points and the running game will be stifled by the Vikings defense, I suspect that Sanchez will be forced outside of his comfort zone more consistently than he has so far this year.
If the Vikings can get their pass rush rolling, then this matchup could spell disaster for the young quarterback, despite the presence of his new toy Santonio Holmes and the absence of Chris Cook.
Player To Watch: Despite a lack of a pass rush and only having three healthy corners for the first two weeks, the Vikings pass defense has been very stout. Now it is time to take it to the next level, and the guy that is in the position to take it there is Jared Allen. In the first three games, Allen only has one sack (and it was a lame one) and I get the feeling that he is going to be hungry. Under the bright lights on Monday Night Football, expect Allen to be trying to find a way to unveil his new standing version of his “rope a calf” sack celebration.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
I’ll say it right now: I think these two teams are evenly matched on special teams.
Neither team is spectacular, but both have competent veterans at kicker, both have decent punters, both have shown flashes in the return game, and competence in coverage.
As we saw last Monday night, special teams can make or break a team’s chances at victory, but by all appearances neither of these teams have a foreseeable edge over the other.
Player to Watch: Greg Camarillo came into his own as a punt returner against the Lions last week when he broke off big yardage almost every time he was given the opportunity. He would have had even better stats in this area had the special teams not been penalized on multiple occasions, nullifying his returns. Was it a fluke or is he the real deal? Monday night will probably give us an indication.
The Jets have owned the Vikings historically, boasting a 7-1 record. Brett Favre is one touchdown away from throwing the 500th of his career. Also, if he can muster up 74 passing yards (hey, nothing is a given) he will be the first player ever to throw for 70,000 career passing yards.
Visanthe Shiancoe needs six receiving yards to pass Jermaine Wiggins as the fourth most yards caught by a tight end in franchise history.
I think we are in for another defensive struggle in which the victor will be the team that commits the fewest turnovers and penalties. I expect both offenses to struggle and both coaches to play it somewhat safe, outside of occasional shots downfield to their respective big play receivers.
Jets 13, Vikings 14