Former Vikings GM Jeff Diamond on three things to watch in Sundays matchup against the Jets

The Vikings defense must stop the run and get after another rookie QB

Jeff Diamond
October 18, 2018 - 8:15 pm

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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By Jeff Diamond, former Vikings GM, hosts The Players Show with Mike Max and Harrison Smith or Dalvin Cook live Mondays 5:30 at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan. Listen on WCCO 830 AM, register on Facebook to attend in person or subscribe via Google Play, Stitcher or iTunes. The show is presented by the Select Minnesota Buick GMC Dealers.

On Sunday the Vikings head to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets who have won two straight over Denver and Indianapolis, with the Vikings being their third home game in a row. It's probably good for Minnesota that last Sunday was when Joe Namath and the 1968 Super Bowl champion Jets were honored on their 50th anniversary.

Here are a few keys to gaining another needed win heading into the hyped-up Minneapolis Miracle revenge game for Drew Brees and the Saints the following Sunday night at home:

Continue the offensive balance

The Jets pass defense is not a strength (ranked No. 22 in the league) but they did intercept Andrew Luck three times last week and it's not an easy stadium to throw in with often tricky winds. So it will be important to be balanced offensively to keep Leonard Williams and the other Jet pass rushers from teeing off on Kirk Cousins. Will we see the return of Dalvin Cook to pair with Latavius Murray coming off his big game? 

The Vikings always will present problems with their dynamic duo of Thielen and Stefon Diggs if Cousins has time to throw. A decent running game helps a lot with coordinator John DeFilippo's play-action game and it's also a plus that Cousins and John DeFilippo have played plenty of games in the Meadowlands against the Giants in their NFC East days with the Redskins and the Eagles.

Vikings defense must stop the run and get after another rookie QB

The Minnesota D (now ranked 9th in run defense) flexed its muscles by holding a Pro Bowl back in David Johnson to 55 yards. They now face the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing team who are led by Isaiah Crowell (430 yards rushing, No. 9 in NFL and he ran for 219 yards against Denver two weeks ago). 

The Jets would love to run the ball to keep the pressure off Sam Darnold (the third rookie first rounder the Vikings have faced through seven games). Darnold has been up and down (9 TDs, 7 interceptions, 28th ranked with 83.7 passer rating). In their three wins, the Jets have averaged 41 points. In their three losses, they've averaged 14 points. 

The Vikings D needs to shut down the run and then bring Coach Mike Zimmer's blitz game and Danielle Hunter to disrupt Darnold and his fine receiving corps (with a talented threesome of Robby Anderson, Terrelle Pryor and Jermaine Kearse). It's unfortunate that first round corner Mike Hughes is out for the season with an ACL injury suffered last Sunday so there's more pressure on Waynes and Alexander to stay healthy and produce in the secondary.

Punt it out of bounds or high for fair catches or Andre Roberts can hurt you

Marcus Sherels had a nice 17-yard punt return last week for the Vikings but Andre Roberts is a bigger threat for the Jets. He ranks second in the NFL with a 21.5 yard average on 11 punt returns, including a 78-yard touchdown return in the Jets opening night win over the Lions. Matt Wile will need to continue his stellar punting from last week in a potentially windy stadium.

Prediction: it won't be easy but I'll take the Vikings 26-20. 

Around the NFL—a few observations:

1. Too bad the 49ers couldn't finish off the Packers in Lambeau as the opportunity was there with a seven-point lead late in the game. But at least the Bears fell to 3-2.

2. What a shootout in Foxboro between the ageless superstar Tom Brady and young star Patrick Mahomes as the Pats prevailed 43-40 over the Chiefs in what could well be a preview of the AFC Championship come January.  

3. Texans fans are thrilled and all NFL fans have to be happy for J.J. Watt, who missed 24 games over the past two injury-filled seasons, looked like his Pro Bowl days were done and now is the early leader to be Comeback Player of the Year. His seven sacks co-lead the league (with Danielle Hunter) and he has played a big role in the Texans' three straight wins. Watt is one of the NFL's class acts on and off the field (remember his $37 million raised for hurricane relief) and I hope his excellent play continues.