These are the things I’ll be keeping my eye on for tonight’s match up against the New York Jets.
Run To Pass Or Pass To Run? The Jets rank 3rd in rushing defense in the NFL but they haven’t faced a running back anywhere near Peterson’s capability. The Jets rank 23rd in passing defense in the NFL but Darrelle Revis and linebackers Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor are returning.
This one is tough to call but 23rd is pretty far down the line, so I’d guess the Vikings will test the Jets pass defense. To do so, I’d think Brett Favre will need to target Randy Moss deep early to put the fear of God into the Jets d-backs, if for no other reason than to open things up for the Peterson and for the underneath passes.
Teams typically roll a safety to Randy’s side which would leave one-one-one coverage for Bernard Berrian on the opposite side but whether it’s Revis or Antonio Cromartie assigned the coverage, I’m not super confident that Berrian can get open. Cromartie can play him some ball.
For that reason, I’d look for Percy Harvin to get a lot of looks. Randy commands the attention of a corner and a safety and we send Berrian on a go route on the opposite side, that might open up some room for Harvin to haul in some 15- to 20-yard catches. If I’m the Jets, I’d probably stick Jason Taylor on Harvin but I don’t know that even Taylor could keep up.
If the Jets bring the blitz with linebackers Calvin Pace and/or Bart Scott, as they’re likely to do, that should provide more opportunities for Harvin or Visanth(e) Shiancoe up the middle. I’d be surprised if the Jets brought any corner blitzes–definitely not on Randy’s side–because even Bernard Berrian can do some damage when he’s uncovered.
One thing I’ve been wanting to see since 2007: Adrian Peterson as a deep threat. I’m thinking Chuck Foreman old skool Vikings when Fran Tarkenton would hit Foreman long.
We’ve seen enough of Adrian catching the ball to know his hands are soft enough and you know he’s fast enough to run deep. Given the right play, I’d think it’d work wonderfully. What we haven’t seen is if Adrian can track and catch a ball over his shoulder. Imagine, though, if you could establish that threat?
Phil Loadholt vs. Shaun Ellis. Ellis is not exactly a speed rusher but with three sacks so far this season, he’s off to a nice start. Loadholt should be able to manhandle the 290-pound Ellis in the run game but can he protect? Can he recognize who he’s supposed to pick up?
Randy Moss. Randy Moss. Randy Moss. Not simply because I’m absolutely giddy over the fact that he has returned home; I’ll be watching him because all indications point to him having a big game. He’s got something to prove to the NFL, to New England, to Darrelle Revis, to Antonio Cromartie, to his new quarterback, to his teammates, and to Vikings fans. It’s Monday Night Football. Moss thrives on the big stage and Brett Favre will definitely want to put his new Ferrari through its paces.
Opening Drive: The Vikings have been pretty conservative during their opening drives this season, choosing to either hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson or opting for short passes. Will the Vikings try and take the Jets by surprise with a deep pass on their first offensive play from scrimmage?
Adrian Peterson. Will the Moss Effect loosen up the run game by preventing the Jets from loading the box? Ideally, the Vikings could stay on top of a dangerous Jets team by shoving Peterson down their throat until they get fed up and commit to stopping him, then turn to Randy to take advantage of that commitment.
LaDainian Tomlinson. Looks like he’s back. I thought the guy had lost a step but he’s done a stellar job for his new team thus far. Still, he hasn’t faced the Vikings run defense yet. The Vikings will need to disrupt the line of scrimmage in hopes of pushing Tomlinson back before he reaches the next level.
Jared Allen vs. D’Brickashaw Ferguson. If Vikings can shut down the run game then they will next want to put pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and make him uncomfortable, hoping he’ll make some mistakes. It would be a lot easier to do that if Jared Allen has a breakout game. He’s about due but that’s a tough order against the mammoth Furguson.
Kevin Williams vs. Matt Slauson. Our best bet for applying pressure with the front four will probably be with Kevin Williams collapsing the pocket by beating Matt Slauson.
Line Drives. Whether or not the Vikings front four ultimately brings Sanchez down, they will need to get their hands up to block his throwing lanes but more importantly, to possibly create some interceptions. Mark Sanchez has a tendency to throw low at the line, so the Vikes d-line and linebackers should be on the lookout for deflections.
The Jets appear to be returning to full strength just as they face off against the Vikings. Linebackers Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor should be back in the lineup and accompanying them will be standout cornerback Darelle Revis, who should be assigned to cover Randy Moss. The Jets will also welcome back wide receiver Santonio Holmes from a four-game suspension; Holmes will help open up the passing game for quarterback Mark Sanchez.
The Vikings have never faced Randy Moss as an opponent. The team has never played against Moss as either a Raider nor as a Patriot.