The Vikings have a duo who lead the NFL in a crucial category
The New York Jets are in a totally different headspace than just one week ago.
Following the team’s soul-crushing loss to the Patriots and Zach Wilson’s subsequent benching, the Jets’ season appeared to hang in the balance. After Mike White‘s superb performance against the Bears, coupled with another bend-but-don’t-break effort from the defense and some strong offensive line, receiver, and running back play, the narrative has changed. Jets fans are (cautiously) optimistic that White can lead them to the playoffs.
The Vikings’ defense has been a sieve overall, allowing 276 passing yards per game, the worst mark in the NFL. They rank 27th in pass defense DVOA. Half their secondary is out with injuries, and the ghosts of Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith try to hold down the fort.
However, Minnesota has one ace up their sleeve, or rather two, who can wreck a game for an opponent. They come in the form of a lethal pass-rushing duo, Danielle Hunter and Zar’Darius Smith. The tandem lead the league in quarterback pressures with 105, 15 more than the second-ranked Patriots, and tied New England with a 14.5% pressure rate. They’re sixth in QB hits with 13, tied for second in sacks with 16, and first with 76 hurries, 21 more than the second-ranked Patriots pair.
The Jets’ tackle tandem, meanwhile, is suspect. Duane Brown is playing through a torn rotator cuff, and Max Mitchell returned to the active roster last week and was forced into action by a Cedric Ogbuehi injury. Although Mitchell and Brown’s combined pressure rate of 5.6% is tied for 18th in the league, which is not so terrible, it’s still below average and a rough matchup against the Vikings’ edge rushers.
Mike White is a weapon in neutralizing the pass rush, as he characteristically gets the ball out of his hands very quickly. Last season, his 2.52 average time to throw would have ranked sixth among 35 quarterbacks had he qualified. Against Chicago, White outdid himself, releasing the ball in an average of 2.38 seconds, tied with Tom Brady for the second-quickest in the league in Week 12.
As usual, misdirection plays are another good way to neutralize a pass rush. Mike LaFleur has shown his willingness to get dominant edge rushers running horizontally rather than vertically.
Still, the Jets need to be careful in this game. They do not want Smith and Hunter to ruin their offense.