Something is going to have to give in Minneapolis on Sunday.
The Jets have one of the best defenses in the NFL and will be facing an efficient offense run by QB Kirk Cousins and focused on outstanding wide receiver Justin Jefferson. On the flip side, the Vikings' defense lags the rest of the league in stopping the pass -- while the Jets' offense showed its versatility and potential last week with Mike White under center for the first time this season.
After the win last week, White joined Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Kurt Warner (1990) as one of only three quarterbacks since 1950 to win multiple games while throwing for 3-plus TDs and 300-plus yards within their first 5 career starts. And this season, White, along with Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, are the only QBs to have a 3-plus TD, 300-plus yards game in addition to a rating above 140.
So what can he and the Jets (7-4) do for an encore against the Vikings (9-2), in one of six NFL games this weekend between teams with winning records?
"They're good," White said about the Vikings' defense. "It's no walk in the park. You have to be on your stuff. They play what they play, and play it well. It helps they have a lot of experience on the back end. They play domeish [U.S. Bank Stadium is an indoor venue] football -- a quarter, quarter-and-a-half keeping it in front of them. It limits big plays and is a test of patience. You have to take what they give you. Most of the time quarterbacks want to make splash plays and push the ball down field. But you can't do that. You have to take what they give you."
White was particularly productive in the victory over the Bears, spreading passes to 10 receivers as the Jets scored their second victory over an NFC North team (with a game to go against the Lions in a couple of weeks). The Jets and the Vikes have perfect 2-0 records against Buffalo and Miami, while other opponents are a mere 2-16 against the two current AFC East frontrunners.
In his final game last season, before Zach Wilson returned after missing four games with a knee injury, White struggled against Buffalo, passing for 251 yards without a TD and 4 interceptions that crushed any chance the Jets had for the win.
"You look back at that game and he was making the right decisions," offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said on Thursday. "But he was fast with his lower body making him get the ball out quicker than we wanted. His feet were in front a little bit. So, he was really fast with his lower body going through his progressions, which was making him get the ball out a little bit quicker than he wanted."
White said he got the message, adding that for all the good he did in his first game as a starter last season -- a victory over the Bengals when he threw for 405 yards and 3 TDs -- what he remembers with greater clarity is every miscue he made against the Bills.
"Learned a lot from that game," White said. "I can play every play in that game in my head over and over again, way more than the Cincinnati game. You tend to learn the most when games don't go so well. Probably I'm able to process things pretty quickly, it's just about keeping my body in sync with my brain.
"Right now, I only want to attack this game one play at a time. Someone once told me that the NFL has 17 one-week seasons. When you win, you're on top of the world. If you lose the next week, it's the end of the world. I'm going to try to win, beat Minnesota, and have fun with my guys. Once this week's over, we move on to whomever we have next week. That's the only way you can play and stay focused."
At the beginning of this season, White was No. 3 behind Joe Flacco as Wilson rehabbed from another knee injury. When Wilson returned, White was relegated to the practice squad until head coach Robert Saleh a few weeks ago opted to elevate White. He earned a good deal of respect when he ran the scout team ahead of games.
From the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was asked on Thursday for his impression of White and initially said: "I've been so consumed with our side of the ball it's hard to assess."
See the top photos from Thursday's practice leading up to the road game against Minnesota.
Then he quickly added: "We all have a ton of confidence in him from when he was running the scout team. He gave us good looks and I thought he was better than some of the quarterbacks we were going to face on Sunday. We've always had a very high opinion of him and ability to run this offense. He's in a system that suits his skill set and when you give him some weapons, you got a problem. This is a very hard offense to defend in many ways."
In last week's victory over New England, the Vikings were victimized by play action seven times in the game, averaging 11.4 yards a play. This season, no NFL defense has been worse against play-action passes, according to TruMedia -- the Vikings are allowing a league-high 9.17 yards per play. A similar approach by the Jets could unleash a cadre of wide receivers led by veterans Corey Davis and Elijah Moore and rookie Garrett Wilson.
"He's confident and consistent, he trusts his players and playmakers and doesn't try to do too much," MLB C.J. Mosley said of White. "Even in practice when he was on the scout offense, he would still always scramble around and make the right throw. The main thing is consistency and trusting your playmakers to make plays.
"He's a very calm guy, doesn't talk too much off the field. On the field, he's calm and believes in his teammates. Everyone believes in him. It doesn't matter the name or the number, if the quarterback is doing all the right things, that's what we're going to rally behind."