The New York Jets are a dangerous team. After starting the season with +700 odds to make the playoffs, the Jets find themselves as the current seventh seed in a very competitive AFC postseason race. They have been an afterthought most of the season, even in their own city. While coach Brian Daboll's early success with the Giants got all the attention, Robert Saleh continued to build something special week by week. One of the main reasons many, including myself, haven't given the Jets their due was the lack of confidence in QB Zach Wilson. Now that Saleh handed the keys of the offense to QB Mike White, it appears to have empowered the Jets to believe that they belong.
Carving up the Bears' defense and competing with the NFL's best teams are very different things, but last week's 31-10 win over Chicago showcased real potential on offense. New York will get a more challenging test this week as it travels to Minnesota as a 3-point underdog, and here's why it is the perfect underdog to back this weekend.
New York Jets (+3) at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have been pegged with the dreaded "overrated" tag as their metrics don't align with their 9-2 record. While I agree they have severe flaws on defense, they have the offensive firepower to make up for it against most teams. As crazy as it sounds, the New York Jets are not one of them.
Justin Jefferson has emerged as one of the league's best receivers this season. He has become a cheat code for Kirk Cousins, and his 1,232 receiving yards trail league leader Tyreek Hill by a single yard. Jefferson's rare combination of elite traits makes him the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card for Cousins when facing pressure. However, when teams have the talent in the defensive backfield to slow down Jefferson, the Vikings' offense struggles. In Minnesota's two losses this season, Jefferson averaged only 40 yards per game, and the Vikings were outscored 64-10.
The New York Jets have the No. 1-rated cornerback in the league in Sauce Gardner, along with a league-best 89.7 team coverage grade, per Pro Football Focus. So it's not important whether Gardner can solely eliminate Jefferson from the offense because the Jets only need to disrupt him enough for their pass rush to get home. Saleh's defense has done a great job of generating pressure, ranking seventh overall in sacks with 34 on the season. The combination of having PFF's No. 1 rated secondary paired with a pass rush that grades out fourth overall is enough to bring out the worst in Cousins. I'm not predicting a repeat of the Dallas game, but the blueprint is out there for teams like the Jets to follow. Nevertheless, Minnesota coach Kevin O'Connell has his work cut out for him, and I am confident the Jets' defense will have much more success than many expect on Sunday.
Defensively, the secret is out on the Vikings' secondary. The Patriots don't have the most prolific passing attack in the league, but they relentlessly torched Minnesota through the air on Thanksgiving. Mac Jones completed 72% of his passes while throwing for a season-high 382 yards against Minnesota's defense. As a result, the Vikings now rank in the bottom five in both pass defense DVOA (27th) and dropback EPA allowed (28th). Mike White doesn't come without flaws, but he is getting the most out of the Jets' young, talented receivers. Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore combined for 159 yards against the Bears, while the Jets' passing game had the third-highest success rate across the league in Week 12. Will White have the same level of success as he enjoyed against Chicago? Probably not, but I'm confident the Jets can get in the 24-27 point range. Minnesota has allowed 26 or more in four of its last five games.
Teams aren't scoring that much on New York and considering how the two teams match up, it's unlikely that Minnesota will. The Jets have held six of their last seven opponents to 17 points or fewer, including Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. New York fits the model of a road underdog worth backing. They are a better running team with a much better defense and should be highly motivated to make a statement against a team with the second-best record in the league. The Jets are 3-1 ATS as road dogs, covering the number by an average of 8.8 points this season. Capturing the key number of 3 is too valuable to pass up, but I also made a small play on the money line at +140.
Stats provided by pff, rbsdm (based on 90-10 WP), teamrankings, and football outsiders.