The Vikings are coming off one of the more impressive wins of their 2014 season, a complete performance in a 31-13 win over the Panthers. And then there's the Jets, who have won just once since Week 1 and are coming off a frustrating loss to the Dolphins on Monday night in a game that they controlled until the very end.
Here are three things to watch Sunday (1 p.m., CBS):
1. More ground and pound
Don't think that Monday night's game against the Dolphins, where the Jets ran the ball 49 times for 277 yards, is an anomaly. Expect more of that this weekend in Minnesota. The Vikings are among the worst teams in the league against the run, allowing 123.8 yards per game. Given the success the Jets had running the ball in Monday night's loss, the gameplan has to call for more of the same.
“Well, it’s easy to question it now,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “It’s easy to say we should have thrown it every first down. I understand that and every guy that’s watching will question those calls and you’ve got every right to question it and things like that. But, 67 yards, almost 70 yards rushing in a half is actually pretty good. You’d probably lead the league if you averaged 140 yards a game rushing, so it’s not that it was completely stopped. I think that’s kind of a misnomer.”
Do look for the Jets to establish the run to turn to the play action sooner. There could be options down the field if they can do this effectively.
2. Which leads us to Geno
Think that the Jets ran the ball as much as they did against Miami to mask the issues with quarterback Geno Smith, who was getting his first start since Week 8? It is a plausible theory as Smith has turnover issues and his pocket presence leaves plenty to be desired. The second-year quarterback says that he doesn't see this final month of the season as a tryout for next year.
“I’m not thinking about that,” Smith said. “It’s a team game. We’ve got to go out there and win the game as a team. One player’s not going to change that and we’ve seen that all year. I’m not thinking about what I have to prove to anyone else other than myself and the guys around me, proving that we can win the game and that we can do the right things to make those plays in critical situations that ultimately can turn the game for us.”
On Monday night, Smith threw just 13 passes.
3. Getting defensive
It hasn't been a great year for the Jets defense, which in preseason was supposed to be among the best in the league. And while they are seventh in the league in total defense, the deficiencies in the secondary have hurt the team.
“I think that [Ryan] has relied more on his front seven to really try to control the game,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think they were giving up some big plays earlier on in the year, and so it just seems like, I would never call Rex conservative, but he has been more careful with the backend a little more, maybe.”