Both teams will be going for their third win in a row this week when the New York Jets host the Minnesota Vikings. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 21, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.
This week’s NFL betting odds show the Vikings as 3.5-point favorites on the road. That line has increased some after Minnesota opened the week as 3-point favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 47 points.
The Jets have been a little Jekyll and Hyde this season. But after losing three straight games with very little offensive output, they have won two in a row while scoring a total of 76 points. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is still going through some growing pains. However, the running game has taken center stage the past couple of weeks, taking some of the pressure off Darnold and allowing the New York offense to flourish.
Those two wins have gotten the Jets to 3-3, just a game behind both the Patriots and Dolphins inside the AFC East. For the moment, they have become relevant, although it’s important not to overlook that all three of their wins have come against teams with losing records. This week affords the Jets an opportunity to prove themselves against a quality team. A win over Minnesota and we may have to start taking the Jets seriously.
The Vikings are also feeling better about themselves following back-to-back wins that came on the heels of three straight winless weeks. It’s still tough to look at Minnesota and see the same team that was in the NFC Championship Game last season. However, a road win against the Eagles a couple weeks ago was a big step in the direction. The Vikings were also able to avoid a let down against Arizona last week. Now they have their sights set on a third straight win.
Despite the uneven start to the season, the Vikings are in the thick of the NFC North race. All four teams in that division are separated by a game or less, so a win this week could potentially lift Minnesota into first place. Of course, a loss could also see them fall into last place. In a division this tight, the Vikings can’t afford to have any off weeks, so they need to be at their best this week.
The Vikings of last year would have covered this game with ease, but I’m not so sure about this year’s squad. Admittedly, the Jets still have plenty left to prove after two straight wins. However, covering more than a field goal on the road is no easy task. I have enough concerns about the Vikings to scare me off. I’ll lean toward the Jets to at least keep this game within a field goal.
To Minnesota’s credit, they have one of the most intimidating passing attacks in the league. The receiving tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen is scary good. Even without much from their running game due to Dalvin Cook being banged up most of the season, Kirk Cousins is still having a lot of success moving the ball through the air. That’s one area where the Jets can be vulnerable, which Andrew Luck and the Colts proved last week.
The caveat is that Cousins hasn’t always taken care of the football. Through six games, he’s thrown three interceptions and fumbled five times, which is a problem. To be fair, the Minnesota offensive line hasn’t always done a good job of keeping him protected. But that doesn’t change the fact that Cousins has been too turnover-prone this season. This is of particular concern this week against a Jets defense that’s one of the best in the NFL at forcing turnovers, creating eight takeaways in the last three weeks alone.
If you remember Minnesota’s stunning loss to Buffalo earlier this season, it happened because the Vikings turned the ball over three times. Those turnovers gave the Bills excellent field position, making it easier for them to find the end zone. With the Jets being great at forcing turnovers, there could be a similar storyline this week. The Jets aren’t great offensively, but they will surely be able to capitalize off turnovers and good field position.
Darnold has been up and down this season, which isn’t unexpected of a rookie quarterback. His performance is usually contingent on the quality of the defense he’s facing. However, the Jets are more than capable of running the ball against most teams. If the tandem of Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell can provide steady production, the Jets won’t have to ask too much of Darnold, which will play into their hands.
To be honest, I’m a little worried that Minnesota’s passing attack will overwhelm the Jets and allow them to win comfortably. However, I’m more worried about the Vikings hurting themselves with turnovers. Between that and New York’s ability to control the clock with their running game, the Jets will make this a field goal game, which makes me comfortable picking the home underdog to beat the spread.