The Minnesota Vikings can call themselves NFC North champions this Sunday if they win over the Jets, and the Jaguars defeat the Lions.
After a string of disappointing Viking seasons, new head coach Kevin O’Connell is looking to give Minnesota the division title for the first time since 2017.
Beating the Mike White–led New York Jets is certainly not an easy task for the Vikes, but it is undoubtedly a game that Minnesota is capable of winning. The Jets have one of the league’s strongest defenses – top 10 in almost every meaningful category including opponent yards per game (#5) and opponent points per game (#4). With a stacked defensive front, the Jets have a total of 34 sacks and 51 tackles for loss. Elite playmakers like Quinnen Williams, Quincy Williams, and CJ Mosley have been a nightmare at the line of scrimmage, limiting a lot of talented running backs, and have effectively minimized short passes across the middle of the field. The Vikings’ dangerously inconsistent offensive line can struggle a lot with this defense, and they can very well take over control of the game if Kirk is unable to jumpstart the air attack because we know how well NY can restrict the run game.
And if we are talking about playmakers, who would I be to overlook the unbelievably talented Jets rookie cornerback; Sauce Gardner? With the most pass deflections in the league, Sauce is seemingly the best CB in the NFL right now. After 11 games he has not given up a single touchdown when covering a receiver and has never allowed more than 4 catches in a single game. I don’t think I need to reiterate how earth-shatteringly well Justin Jefferson has been playing season, but he will certainly give Sauce his biggest challenge to date, and we will see if Jefferson and Kirk’s synergy can outmatch the NFL’s best corner.
The Jets’ offense got off to a blazing hot start after Mike White stepped in for Zach Wilson, putting up a near-season-high 31 points against the Bears; but it is hard to predict if White can replicate that performance a second week in a row. The Jets’ offense has been less-than-deadly all season (especially after the injury to RB Breece Hall), and have been unable to string together consistent positive offensive performances. Without a star running back or receiver, the Jets lack an offensive “game breaker” and it is slightly hard to believe that Mike White will be the key that opens up the Jets to an unstoppable offensive performance. And while the Vikings’ secondary– aside from Patrick Peterson –is nothing to be afraid of, the return of Dalvin Tomlinson can liven up the Vikes’ defensive front and lead to a surprising problem for the Jets’ offensive line.
While the Vikings should feel confident heading into their battle with the Jets, they still need some help from the Jaguars if they want to clinch the NFC North on Sunday.
This clash between Detroit and Jacksonville is a game between two 4-7 teams that certainly seem to be better than their record shows. After their 3-game win streak was snapped in a close game against Buffalo, the Lions will be hoping to get back on track with a rebound win against Jacksonville.
The Lions’ very poor rush defense is certainly an area of the game that the Jags will try to exploit as they have the league’s 9th-best rushing attack (130 yards per game) and Detroit’s 30th-ranked run defense has been allowing 154.76 yards per game. If the Jaguars’ Travis Etienne is able to return from his foot injury, he will be eager to put up plenty of points against a defense that has allowed the most opposing rushing touchdowns per game.
While the Detroit defense may be helpless against Jacksonville’s threatening ground game, the Lions will be hoping to outscore the Jaguars by means of their air attack which has been notably powerful in recent weeks. Jared Goff has been putting together a very impressive string of games; with the 9th most passing touchdowns in the league so far, and 6 touchdowns in the last 5 games, he has been working in perfect tandem with breakout wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, torching secondaries and putting points on the board. The Jaguars are a bottom-10 pass defense in terms of opponent yards per game and opponent yards per pass, and Detroit will certainly be looking to take advantage of the Jags secondary and look to Amon-Ra St. Brown to have a huge day.
This big-cat duel looks to be a close one and while Detroit seems to have the edge over Jacksonville, the Minnesota Vikings will be hoping the Jaguars can best the Lions so they can claim the NFC North title.