After splitting two games at home against rookie QBs, the Vikings will face Sam Darnold on the road Sunday. The Jets likely will try to simplify things for Darnold against the Vikings defense, but Minnesota will slow down New York’s run game, harass Darnold and come out with the win.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Cousins faces his would-be suitors
Quarterback Kirk Cousins could hear a few catcalls from Jets fans after choosing to sign with the Vikings for $84 million, passing up the Jets’ $90 million offer and detailing the process in his NFL Network documentary. Cousins’ decision led the Jets to trade up for the right to pick Darnold third overall.
One more vs. a rookie QB
For the third time in five weeks, the Vikings will face a rookie quarterback. This time, it’ll be Darnold, who has thrown for nine TDs against seven INTs in six games. The Jets likely will look to get Darnold out of the pocket to keep the pass rush off-balance.
Murray gets the call again
With Dalvin Cook missing his third straight game because of a hamstring injury, Latavius Murray will start at RB once again for the Vikings, after rumbling for 155 yards on 24 carries last week against the Cardinals. Murray ran for a team-leading 842 yards last year, after Cook tore his ACL, and will get his opportunities again Sunday.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings’ offensive line vs. Jets DT Leonard Williams
The Vikings had an impressive day opening space for Murray on downhill runs a week ago, and their primary challenge Sunday will be dealing with Williams, the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft who has three sacks this season. Williams typically lines up on the left side of the Jets’ line, meaning Mike Remmers and Brian O’Neill will see plenty of him.
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Jets WR Robby Anderson
Rhodes could find himself shadowing Anderson, the 6-3 receiver who caught three passes for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns two weeks ago in a victory over the Denver. Anderson led the Jets in targets and yards a year ago, and could be Darnold’s preferred target Sunday with Quincy Enumwa out and Terrelle Pryor being released.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
25.0The percentage of third downs the Vikings have allowed opponents to convert, which is the lowest percentage in the league after the team set an NFL record with a 25.2 conversion percentage last season.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They’re able to find big plays downfield against a defense that’s allowed 29 plays of 20 yards or more this season, while stopping the Jets’ seventh-ranked run game and putting Darnold in the kinds of difficult down-and-distance situations that could lead to the rookie making some bad decisions.
THE JETS WILL WIN IF…
Their defense, which has forced the third-most turnovers in the league, can capitalize on Cousins’ fumbling issues and set up a few short drives with takeaways, while their run game is successful enough to keep the Vikings’ pass rush off-balance.
Prediction: Vikings 23, Jets 17
Win Probability: 60 percent