clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Matchup Index Week 14: Vikings vs Jets

New, comments

The Daily Norseman dives deep into statistical trends and player grades to highlight match up advantages and disadvantages for the Minnesota Vikings.

Xavier Rhodes has a great matchup this week.
Xavier Rhodes has a great matchup this week.
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Is it really December already?  We've entered the final quarter of the Football Season.  We had a tough first quarter where we lost nearly half of our offense, but still managed to go 2-2.  We followed that up with a horrendous second quarter, going 1-3.  All hope seemed lost during an up and down third quarter of another 2-2 outing.  And here we sit at 5-7, facing the fourth and final quarter ahead of us.  The playoffs are an unrealistic expectation for our Minnesota Vikings, but they are not technically out of it, mathematically speaking.  They must essentially win the rest of their games in the fourth quarter of the season, and hope that a few other NFC playoff hopefuls collapse in epic fashion.  A similar scenario played out for the Vikings in 2012 when they were sitting at 6-6 and won their final 4 games of the regular season to squeak into the playoffs at 10-6, edging out the Bears on tiebreaker rules for the final wildcard spot.  They will need a bit more luck this time around, and it all starts this week as they finish the third game of a long 3-game home stand by hosting the New York Jets at TCF Bank Stadium.  Perhaps the Matchup Index can shed some light on what to expect in this week's game.

The New York Jets offense is struggling, arguably worse than the Vikings offense.  They generate only 311.5 yards of total offense per game (ranked 29th), but also only average 15.8 points per game (ranked 30th).  This is an offense that just can't seem to get it into the end zone.  It's not because of a lack of opportunity, because their time of possession averages 30:34 per game (ranked 13th most) and they run an average of 66 plays per game (ranked 9th most).  It's mostly the fact that they don't take care of the football on offense (their -12 turnover margin is 2nd worst) and they are undisciplined in their assignments (7th most penalized).  They also struggle to move the chains consistently, as they convert only 40% of their 3rd down attempts (22nd best).  All of this leads to a depressing fact for the Jets offense that, despite plenty of opportunity, they are one of the least efficient in the NFL overall, averaging only 4.7 yards per play (ranked 31st).

Looking a little closer at the offense will reveal that their passing game is the primary culprit for their failures on offense.  They have the lowest yards per attempt average in the league (and it's not particularly close) at 5.6.  In short, Geno Smith and Michael Vick have been awful running the Jets passing game, combining for a 66.3 passer rating on the year.  They average only 215 passing yards per game and, as a team, they have the lowest passing touchdown total in the league at only 10 passing touchdowns in twelve games.  The Jets haven't been throwing the ball much this year (averaging only 32.2 attempts per game) and last week they only attempted 13 passes.  This is a team that has a quarterback problem, and they know it.

On the ground though, this team can dominate.  They average 148.2 rushing yards per game (2nd most) and average 4.8 yards per carry (2nd most).   This is a team that not only runs the ball well, but also runs the ball a lot: averaging 30.8 carries per game (4th most)!  Still, for as efficient as they are running the ball and for all the rushing opportunities they have, this team only has 9 rushing TDs on the year (tied for 12th most) and they aren't particularly explosive.  The Jets only have 8 runs of more than 20 yards (ranked 12th) and only 2 runs of more than 40 yards (tied for 7th).  This is still pretty good, but represents a bit of a drop-off from the 2nd overall rushing rank.  Still, the undisciplined character of their offense in general creeps over to the run game too, as they have a total of 8 fumbles (tied for 4th most).

The Jets offense is fundamentally prone to make mistakes and turn the ball over.  This is something that our defense can hopefully take advantage of.  It appears as though Geno Smith will be starting at quarterback for the Jets again, as Michael Vick did not represent an upgrade for them.  This should also bode well for the Vikings defense.  The Matchup Indices below will start, as they always do, in the trenches with a look at the Jets passing game, followed by their running game.

Matchup Index: Jets Pass Blocking vs Vikings Pass Rushing

Jets Player

RT Breno Giacomini

RG Willie Colon

C Nick Mangold

LG Oday Aboushi

LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson

PFF Grade

-0.6

+4.9

+6.9

-6.1

+4.4

Vikings Player

LE Brian Robison

DT Shariff Floyd

DT Linval Joseph

RE Everson Griffen

PFF Grade

-5.5

+5.7

-1.9

+7.8

The Jets offensive line has been historically very good, led by veterans Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.  They added Willie Colon of Steeler's fame before the 2013 Season, but their two new players this season Giacomini (free agent from Seattle) and Aboushi (2nd year, 4th rounder) have struggled as pass blockers.  Pro Football Focus ranks them 14th overall in pass blocking efficiency, and Football Outsiders ranks them 29th in adjusted sack rating, having allowed 38 sacks on the year (3rd most).  Some of that could be on the quarterback, but this is an offensive line that is not nearly as dominate as it once was.

The Vikings defensive line, meanwhile, is ranked 4th best in adjusted sack rating allowed by Football Outsiders and have the 3rd most sacks in the NFL with 35.  Unfortunately, our best pass rushers appear to be matched up against their best pass blockers, and vice versa.  Everson Griffen might have a slight edge over Ferguson and Aboushi, but not by much, and Nick Mangold has a sizeable advantage over Linval Joseph.  We may have to employ extra pass rushers to pressure the quarterback as our defensive line doesn't seem to match up exceptionally well against the Jets offensive line.

Matchup Index: Jets Run Blocking vs Vikings Run Defense

Jets Player

RT Breno Giacomini

RG Willie Colon

C Nick Mangold

LG Oday Aboushi

LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson

PFF Grade

-1.5

-5.6

+18.0

+4.6

-4.5

Vikings Player

LE Brian Robison

DT Shariff Floyd

DT Linval Joseph

RE Everson Griffen

PFF Grade

-1.3

+11.8

-0.8

+13.9

Nick Mangold is a beast as a run blocker, and he is Pro Football Focus's top rated center in run blocking.  He is the lynchpin to the Jets success running the ball, and this does not bode well for the Vikings.  It's surprising that the Jets have found so much success on the ground when 3 out of their 5 lineman grade "in the red" as run blockers.  Football Outsiders ranks their offensive line 10th best in "Adjusted Line Yards" though, which measures the effect of the offensive line in running success independent on the running back.  So, despite the poor individual blocking grades, they make-up for it as a unit.

It seems that Shariff Floyd could be back in the lineup this week, and we will need him as he is one of the better run blockers on our defensive line.  Linval Joseph continues to be poorly graded as a run blocker, although he has been much improved in the previous 7 games, than he was during the first 5.  In the first five games of the year, four out of the five times PFF graded him "in the red", whereas in the last 7 games he has 3 out of 7 "in the green" and none in the red.  Still, he will face maybe his toughest test all year going up against Nick Mangold.  The Jets would be wise to run the ball right up the middle over and over again, especially if Floyd is out, or not quite 100%.  Still, our defensive line struggles against the run and is ranked 31st in Adjusted Line Yards allowed.  Our defense overall allows 123.8 rushing yards per game (24th best) and 4.4 yards per carry (tied for 23rd best).  Our inability to stop the run is also a reflection of our linebacker's ability to make tackles in the open field, which they have increasingly shown they are not able to do as of late.  Anthony Barr has the most missed tackles of any 4-3 outside linebacker (22 on the year) while Chad Greenway has the 7th most missed tackles (10 on the year).  Even Harrison Smith has 10 missed tackles on the year (23rd most out of 86 safeties).  Last week, running back Chris Johnson went wild for the Jets, breaking tackles and making guys miss all over the field.  If the Vikings defense is not fundamentally sound in tackling this week, things could get ugly.

Matchup Index: Jets Receivers vs Vikings Defensive Backs

Jets Player

WR Percy Harvin

WR Jeremy Kerley

TE Jeff Cumberland

WR Eric Decker

PFF Grade

-0.5

-7.4

-7.8

-2.5

Vikings Player

Xavier Rhodes

Robert Blanton

Harrison Smith

Captain Munnerlyn

PFF Grade

+6.3

+0.8

+2.9

+3.0

Blaming the passing woes entirely on the Jets quarterbacks would be a mistake, as none of their wide receivers grade out positively either.  In fact, three out of their four primary pass catchers grade "in the red".  As many know by now Harvin was traded mid-season to the Jets from the Seattle Seahawks and he is still acclimating himself to the offense.  But he is their best pass catching option and you have to believe he'll be motivated to take on his former team.

I do think our secondary will be up to the task however, as all four of our primary defensive backs grade positively in pass coverage, with three out of the four "in the green."  I haven't seen a more lopsided table in favor of the Vikings secondary all year.  Our passing defense allows only 219.1 yards per game (6th best) and 7.1 passing yards per attempt (12th best).  Part of this high ranking in yards allowed is due to the fact that teams just aren't throwing the ball at us very often, only 32.8 times per game (6th fewest).  And, we have allowed nearly twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, which is why our allowed passer rating of 92.1 is only 14th best.   Still, our passing defense is light years ahead of where it was the past 3 years under Leslie Frazier, and the addition of Munnerlyn, growth of Rhodes and sliding Robinson back to his more natural outside CB position is paying huge dividends, not to mention having Harrison Smith back and healthy.

The Vikings offense continues to be ineffective, although game situation with two blocked punts returned for touchdowns last week certainly contributed to the lack of statistical production.  Never-the-less, our offense only generates an average of 300.8 yards per game (30th most, one spot behind the Jets).  Unlike the Jets however, this lack of yardage can be partially attributed to a lack of opportunity: our time of possession is terrible at 28:35 (ranked 27th) and we only average 61.5 plays from scrimmage (25th most).  To make matters worse, when we finally do get a chance on offense, we're not very efficient, don't take advantage of the few opportunities we have and struggle to sustain drives.  On third down, we convert only 35% of our attempts (ranked 27th), which limits opportunities, and overall we average only 4.9 yards per play (ranked 29th).  We've shown signs of improvement in this area recently, but overall for the season we've been poor.

Like the Jets, our struggles on offense are due primarily to our failures in the passing game, although for totally different reasons.  We have actually been taking care of the football on offense lately (+1 turnover margin), and are generally disciplined with only 79 penalties on the year (13th fewest).  We are just inefficient and prone to mistakes: things I attribute to a young quarterback and young receiving corp along with a poor offensive line that allows too much pressure to those young players.  We average only 186.2 passing yards per game, ranked 30th most.  This low total is due mostly to a lack of efficiency as we throw the ball an average of 33.2 times per game (22nd most), but only average 6.2 yards per attempt (30th most).  We have a terrible TD-INT ratio of 11-13 on the year and a poor overall quarterback ranking as a team: 73.0, although Teddy Bridgewater has been below that average mark only twice in 9 games this year and he himself has a QB rating of 79.0 on the year.

The Vikings running game continues to be effective though, as we average 114.5 yards per game (13th best) and 4.5 yards per carry (8th best), all this without Adrian Peterson and a banged up Jerick Mckinnon and Matt Asiata the last couple of weeks.  I would still like to see the Vikings run the ball more often than only 25.2 times per game (24th most), because they are one of the more explosive run teams in the league: more opportunities means more explosive runs.  The Vikings have nine runs of more than 20 yards (tied for 8th most) and three runs of more than 40 yards (tied for 2nd).  We take care of the football too, with only 3 fumbles on the year (tied for 3rd fewest) so the risk of turnovers with more attempts would be minimal.  The indices below start in the trenches by first looking at the Vikings pass blocking, and then run blocking.

Matchup Index: Vikings Pass Blocking vs Jets Pass Rushing

Vikings Player

RT Mike Harris

RG Joe Berger

C John Sullivan

LG Charlie Johnson

LT Matt Kalil

PFF Grade

-1.8

-2.2

+0.4

-8.8

-18.3

Jets Player

OLB Quinton Coples

LE Leger Douzable

NT Damon Harrison

RE Sheldon Richardson

OLB Calvin Pace

PFF Grade

-1.4

-1.4

-4.6

+10.8

-9.5

How much more can be said about our offensive line struggles this year?  It certainly doesn't help that we've lost 2 starters on the line, but if I haven't mentioned it before, Matt Kalil has graded positively from Pro Football Focus as a pass blocker in only 3 out of 12 games, and only once "in the green" (against Washington).  He has been "less bad" the past two games avoiding a "red" grade on the virtue of not having allowed a sack the past 2 weeks.  But I wouldn't qualify the Packers or Panthers defensive lines as power houses either.  Mike Harris has avoided being a downgrade over Phil Loadholt as a pass blocker as his first full game as a starter earned him a -0.9 grade as a pass blocker, a higher grade than 5 out of Loadholt's 12 pass blocking grades.  It's a short sample size to be sure, but he appears to be no worse than Loadholt as a pass blocker.  Pro Football Focus ranks the offensive line 30th overall in pass blocking efficiency and Football Outsiders ranks them 27th in adjusted sack rating, with their 37 sacks allowed tied for 5th most.

Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets best defensive lineman (and arguably their best player period) missed last week's game with a turf toe injury, and it remains to be seen if he'll play this week.  I put his replacement Leger Douzable in the index above, and he is a sizable downgrade.  Both Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are formidable pass rushers that has led to their #5 overall ranking by Football Outsiders in adjusted sack rating.  The Jets 30 sacks on the year is ranked 11th best.  Normally this would be a pretty strong mismatch for the Jets to take advantage of, and if Wilkerson plays they should be able to wreak havoc on the Vikings offensive line.  But without Wilkerson, the Vikings only need to account for Sheldon Richardson, as Calvin Pace is beginning to slow down (at age 34) and the young Quinton Coples has more developing yet to do.

Matchup Index: Vikings Run Blocking vs Jets Run Defense

Vikings Player

RT Mike Harris

RG Joe Berger

C John Sullivan

LG Charlie Johnson

LT Matt Kalil

PFF Grade

-1.9

+4.6

+5.0

-2.6

-7.8

Panthers Player

OLB Quinton Coples

LE Leger Douzable

NT Damon Harrison

RE Sheldon Richardson

OLB Calvin Pace

PFF Grade

-2.8

+3.4

+15.7

+15.7

-1.1

While the drop-off from Loadholt to Harris at right tackle is minimal in pass blocking, it's a major loss in run blocking as Harris looks outmatched.  Still, Sullivan and Berger grade out respectfully as run blockers, and as mentioned above, the Vikings are pretty efficient running the ball. This efficiency is largely thanks to an average Adjusted Line Yards ranking (17th) from Football Outsiders and an above average ranking by their running backs in Open Field Yards (13th best).  In other words, the Vikings owe more rushing success to their backs, than their line.

The Jets have an exceptionally good run defense, and while the loss of Wilkerson would again impact them negatively, his replacement, Leger Douzable, is a decent defensive tackle at run blocking, as evidenced by the small sample size of grades from Pro Football Focus.  The Jets allow an average of only 85.2 rushing yards per game (3rd best).  This is not simply a matter of teams choosing not to run on them though, as opposing teams have run on the Jets an average of 24.4 times per game (tied for 24th most), but they only allow an average of 3.5 yards per carry also tied for 3rd best.  Football Outsiders ranks their defensive line 13th best in Adjusted Line Yards allowed and they are exceptionally good at avoiding "2nd level" and "open field" yards.

Matchup Index: Vikings Receivers vs Jets Defensive Backs

Vikings Player

WR Greg Jennings

WR Jarius Wright

TE Kyle Rudolph

WR Charles Johnson

PFF Grade

-3.3

-4.4

-2.5

+0.3

Jets Player

CB Marcus Williams

S Jaiquawn Jarrett

S Dawan Landry

CB Darrin Walls

PFF Grade

-1.9

+3.8

+1.2

-5.9

With Patterson banged up and dealing with family bereavement last week (and missing at least 2 days of practice), he saw only 3 snaps last week.  The past three weeks he has played only 71 out of a possible 166 snaps (43%).  It remains to be seen how much of this is injury/family related or how much of it is production-related.  This week should provide some clarity, but in the meantime I've listed Jarius Wright as the third receiving option (they have nearly identical receiving grades anyway).  Charles Johnson continues to be our best looking pass catcher, and the only one graded positively by Pro Football Focus.

The Jets secondary has dealt with its fair share of issues this season.  After benching rookie safety Calvin Pryor in week 10 for repeatedly missing team meetings, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett has exploded, garnering the highest coverage grade of any starter in the secondary.  Their safeties look like a solid tandem as a result.  That said, the Jets cornerbacks look suspect and the Vikings receivers should be able to take advantage of them in one-on-one matchups.  On the whole, a first glance reveals that the Jets defense only allows 236.8 passing yards per game (13th best), although this is partially due to the fact that teams haven't throw on them all that often, only 33.5 times per game (24th most).  When teams do throw the ball though, they tend to be pretty efficient as the Jets allow 7.6 yards per attempt (tied for 20th best), and they have an absurdly lopsided allowed TD-INT ratio at 27-4.  Because of that, the Jets actually allow the 2nd worst passer rating in the league, an average of 106.6.

When it is all said and done what we have once again are two bad teams going at it.  Like the Vikings, the Jets have a bad offense and a better defense, which leads me to believe this could be a low scoring game.  The Jets have a decent running attack, and our run defense is mediocre so the Jets should find success on the ground especially if they commit to running it up the middle.  But I doubt that will be enough for them to outscore their per-game average of only 15.8 points per game.  Our defensive line could struggle to generate a pass-rush with their front 4 though, as the individual matchups don't' really favor the Vikings.  Hopefully this won't matter as Geno Smith hasn't proven to be a good quarterback, even with decent pass blocking.  On the flipside, the Vikings offense will hopefully find success against an overall poor Jets defense that allows 26.6 points per game (ranked tied for 25th).  While Bridgewater will likely face consistent pressure once again, the Vikings receivers should be able to get open and find success through the air.  The Vikings running game though could struggle to get much going against one of the tougher run defenses in the league, especially if Jerick Mckinnon misses time.  Still, if Muhammad Wilkerson doesn't suit up that should improve our offense's chances considerably.

Thanks to a pair of punt blocks for TDs last week, the Vikings pulled away from the Panthers with a final score of 31-13 (although the offense/defense battle was much closer than the final score implied).  Still, I am predicting another close game with both offenses struggling, although the Vikings offense struggling just a little less than the Jets with a final score of 21-14 with the advantage going to the home team.

To close, I’ve decided to do something new this week. I’m going to highlight one Viking player that looks to me to have the best "Matchup Advantage" based on all of the players I’ve looked at. And this week’s winner is: cornerback Xavier Rhodes.  Here's to hoping he can have as good a game as his matchup index numbers imply.