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5 Players to Watch When Jets Play 'Meaningful December Game' at Minnesota

Vikings Offense Poses Challenges to C.J. Mosley & Run Defense, Sauce Gardner & D.J. Reed in the Secondary


The Jets' NFC North tour continues Sunday with their first game at U.S. Bank Stadium, the home since 2016 of the Vikings. And Minnesota could be the toughest of the North foursome, seeing that this game is in the Vikings' comfy indoor home and that they are 9-2 with the second-best record in the NFC and can clinch a share of the divison title with a win.

But the Jets have some trends that may be relevant, or not, when they play the purple team Sunday. They are 8-3 all-time vs. the Vikes, their second-best record against any NFL franchise. They are already 2-0 vs. the division with solid wins at Green Bay and last week over Chicago. And they are looking to go 5-1 on the road, which would be their best start since the 2010 team also opened 5-1 away from home.

Who might stand out in a winning effort against a tough interconference rival? Here are five players in green and white (and black) to train a spotlight on as the Jets attempt to move to 8-4 while playing in their first "meaningful December game," in the phraseology of GM Joe Douglas and others, since 2015:

WR Garrett Wilson — Wilson, after his two catches for 12 yards at New England, returned to the fore with a 5-for-95 game and two more TDs vs. Chicago, making him the first Jet with two games of two-plus scoring grabs as a rookie. He is very nearly on pace to become the Jets' first 1,000-yard receiver since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in 2015. But he isn't the only target for second-game starting QB Mike White, who also got WRs Corey Davis and Elijah Moore and former Vikes TE Tyler Conklin involved in the win over the Bears. And with the Vikings defense 32nd in the NFL in both net pass yards/game (276.1) and yards/pass play (7.77), this could be a productive air game for the Green & White.

See the top photos from Wednesday's indoor practice leading up to the Vikings game.

RB Zonovan Knight — The Jets have suddenly become Running Back U, Postgraduate Edition. Michael Carter got things rolling last year, then Breece Hall came in this season and lit it up until his season-ending injury. Against Chicago, all Knight did in his Jets and pro debut filling in for the injured Carter was gain 103 scrimmage yards — the only other Jet to do that in his first pro game in franchise history was Matt Snell in the Jets' 1964 season opener. So who does White hand off or check down to more Sunday, MC or Bam? And let's not forget about Ty Johnson, whose 32-yarder vs. Chicago was the longest scoring run by a Jets non-rookie RB since Isaiah Crowell's 77-yarder vs. Denver in 2018.

CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed —This has the look of a big game on the corner for the Jets. For the Vikings, Justin Jefferson is third in the NFL with 81 catches, second (by a yard to Miami's Tyreek Hill) with 1,232 receiving yards. Adam Thielen has 54 grabs for 553 yards. And in the Jets' last collision with the Kirk Cousins-to-Thielen connection, at MetLife in 2018, he had nine catches on 10 targets for 110 yards and a TD in the Vikes' 37-17 pullaway win. Gardner continues to lead the league with 14 pass defenses, and Reed is second on the defense with seven PDs. If the Vikes QB gets time, the Jets defense would have a tough challenge. If he doesn't, the Jets could add to their 12 INTs, tied for fourth in the league.

LB C.J. Mosley — Sure, pass rush is important vs. Cousins & Co., but to make them one-dimensional, Mosley, fresh off another 10-tackle game and his satisfyin first INT since his first game as a Jet in 2019, and his run defenders will need to tend to RB Dalvin Cook, the head chef of the Minny ground game. He's sixth in the NFL with 841 rush yards, averages 4.7 yards/carry, already has reached 1,001 scrimmage yards, and has run for six TDs, including a 53-yarder at Miami and an 81-yarder at Buffalo. If the Jets run defense allows Cook creases, the secondary's jobs become that much harder

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