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7 Points: Jets & Darnold vs. Minnesota & Cousins

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When the Vikings came to town back in the day, it wasn't usually good for the town. But when Minnesota's Vikings come to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, it could be very good for the Jets.

The Green & White have the opportunity to achieve a few things with another win:
■ Win their third straight game to rise above .500 at 4-3 for the first time this late in the season since Todd Bowles' first year as head coach in 2015.
■ Post their first undefeated three-game homestand since Joe Namath's last great stretch of football at the end of the 1974 season.
■ Notch their first home win over an NFC North foe since their 29-20 success against the then-Brett Favre Vikings on MNF in 2010, and do it with the rookie QB they drafted in Sam Darnold against the veteran QB that "spurned" them in free agency in Kirk Cousins.

One way to get it done is to keep everything in perspective. As Bowles explained: "You don't get any special, extra wins for beating a team that's been to the championship game. We're trying to go to 4-3. They're the next team on our list. So it'll be just like beating the Colts and Broncos, but it will be 4-3 instead of 3-3."

Here are seven more points of interest on the Jets-Vikings interconference contest, set for kickoff shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

1. Green vs. Purple
This infrequently contested AFC-NFC rivalry has gone the Jets' way overall — the Green & White are 8-2 — as well as in the friendly confines — they're undefeated at home against only two NFL opponents and one of them is Minnesota at 5-0 (the other: Tampa Bay at 7-0). What's more, the Vikings have held a lead in any of those five Jets home affairs. But as they say in the investment ads, past results are no guarantee of future performance. And considering that no one is still in uniform who played for the clubs the last time the Jets prevailed over the Vikes in October 2010, the Jets have to be on guard for some purple payback.

2. QB Comparison
The question's been posed about how the MetLife fans will greet Cousins, considering he reportedly turned down the best money offer in free agency — from the Jets — to sign with the Vikings. They certainly may give Cousins an ear-hole-ful, but as Bowles said this week, "We're happy with Sam," and Green & White fans surely agree. A comparison in key metrics through six games shows that, except for offensive points/game, Darnold as one might expect trails Cousins in other metrics but not badly so, and the TD drive rate is surprisingly close:

QBs Pass% Rating Off Pts/Gm Plays/Drv Yards/Drv TDDrv% TODrv% 3OutDrv%
Sam Darnold 59.8 83.7 24.0 4.7 25.9 18.2 14.3 20.8
Kirk Cousins 71.2 102.7 22.2 5.6 31.9 19.4 12.5 16.7

3. The Spirit of Taking
One thing that has caught Cousins' eye is the Jets defense's newly larcenous ways: "I think the statistic that stands out most is the turnovers they've created." Cousins has only been picked off three times but the Vikings have lost six fumbles (five by Cousins), tied for second-most in the NFL. The Jets, meanwhile, are second in the league with 15 takeaways, tied for second with 11 INTs, and second with 45 points scored after TAs. And we know it's not terribly significant but the Jets historically have won the turnover battle vs. the Vikings. In their 10 meetings, the Jets have a plus-20 TO margin and in their five home games, it's a plus-16.

4. Red Zone Blues
What can Jason Myers do for an encore? Not have to kick so many field goals. It's good for the Green & White that he went a franchise-record 7-for-7 to keep the Colts at bay last week, but with five of those treys coming at the end of red zone possessions, that dropped the Jets' RZ touchdown rate to 30% (6-for-20), still last in the NFL. "Happy we're getting threes," said Bowles, "but would rather have six." With Minny's red zone defense purring along at 37.5% (9-for-24), tied for second-best in the league, the patch of turf from the Vikings' 20 to their goal line could be a major battleground in this game.

5. Under the Third-Down Gun
Another telling situation could be third downs for Darnold and his offense. The Jets, 23rd in the NFL in third-down conversions at 37.5%, must try to conquer Minnesota's No. 1 third-down defense, allowing conversions on exactly one-quarter of their opportunities (16-of-64). The Vikes can't hide DE Danielle Hunter, tied for the league lead with seven sacks, and a key matchup will be Hunter vs. Jets tackles Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell. But one of their secrets in last week's home win over Arizona and rookie QB Josh Rosen was judicious blitzing, which led to the Cards going 0-for-10 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth. Fellow rookie Darnold has to be ready to be blitzed.

6. The Thielen Factor
New Jack City will try to win more battles than they lose against WRs Adam Thielen, who easily leads the NFL in receptions (58) and receiving yards (712) and Stefon Diggs. Together, their 98 catches are the most by any 1-2 WR combination in the league. And the Jets will have to do it possibly missing S Marcus Maye and CBs Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine. But CB Morris Claiborne is on the roll of his career and he says that while Thielen and Diggs are impressive, "at the end of the day I feel like it's going to be about us. I know the guys are up to the task." Mo' on Mo's hot streak in Saturday's Inside the Numbers on newyorkjets.com.

7. Hello, Sheldon
What goes around comes around in the NFL, not just in terms of revenge but of reunions. DL Sheldon Richardson was a Jets Round 1 selection and Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, a Pro Bowl starter in 2014, and a Seahawk in '17. The Jets are happy with how the trade with Seattle worked out, considering they got chains-moving WR Jermaine Kearse, plus a second-round pick that was part of the Indy trade to draft Darnold, plus a seventh-rounder that the Jets sent to the Colts for DL Henry Anderson. Meanwhile, Sheldon is now a Vikings DT starter with 10 QB hits, tied for 8th in the NFL. Bowles: "Sheldon looks good ... he looks very good."

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