The New York Jets need one of their best players to get off to a flying start in Minneapolis
Overall, the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings have a two-game lead over the 7-4 New York Jets, but these teams are closer than their stats suggest. In fact, the Jets (+34) have a better point differential than the Vikings (+5) despite having a more difficult schedule strength (.524 to .490).
Minnesota has some advantages over New York and New York has some advantages over Minnesota. Whichever team is better at maximizing their respective mismatches will be the winner.
While both teams have their share of tasty mismatches to exploit, it can be argued that the biggest mismatch of this game is in the Jets’ favor: defensive tackle Quinnen Williams against the Vikings’ inside offensive line.
Minnesota’s offensive line is a mystery. While the Vikings have two superb tackles in Christian Darrisaw (LT) and Brian O’Neill (RT), their center trio of Ezra Cleveland (LG), Garrett Bradbury (C) and Ed Ingram (RG) is one of the NFL’s worst at it about passport protection.
The Vikings’ internal offensive linemen combined this season to pressure 100 players, the highest tally of any IOL unit in the NFL. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve collectively allowed pressure on 6.79% of their pass-blocking snaps, which ranks 31st ahead of just the tanking Houston Texans.
These aren’t the numbers you want when the league’s most efficient pass-rushing defensive tackle comes to town.
Quinnen Williams is having an All-Pro Caliber season. No interior pass rusher in the NFL creates as much pressure from game to game as he does. Williams leads all defensive tackles in sack rate (2.97%) and is second in press rate (12.54%).
What makes Williams’ production for Vikings even more frightening is that he’s amassed it despite a very difficult schedule. He’s never had an IOL anywhere near as bad as Minnesota’s. When he can constantly wreak havoc against quality rivals, it’s scary to think about what he’ll do against the Vikings Sputtering Unit.
Williams has played 10 of his 11 games this year against a team whose IOL has allowed a pressure rate below the positional average of 4.26%. Ten out of eleven! That includes six out of 11 games against teams whose IOL is ranked in the top-8 in the lowest allowable pressure rating.
In other words, Williams has spent almost the entire season playing against above-average competition, and more than half of that against elite competition. This only adds to the impressiveness of his resume.
The only game Williams played against an underperforming pass-blocking IOL was actually his last game against the Chicago Bears, whose IOL ranks 26th with an allowable pressure rate of 4.85%. Williams had a quiet game by his standards, picking up just one pressure (although it was a bone-crushing QB hit to force an incomplete), but he also played a season-low 20 pass-rush snaps since the Jets got off the field so fast, so it was a limited sample size. Most likely, things will even out and Williams’ numbers will skyrocket in future games against underperforming competition.
And we probably shouldn’t even compare Chicago’s IOL to Minnesota’s. As bad as Chicago’s IOL is, it doesn’t come close to matching Minnesota’s ineptitude. The 1.94% difference between 26th place Chicago (4.85%) and 31st place Minnesota (6.79%) is almost the same as the difference between Chicago and 3rd place New England (2.93%). ).
Minnesota and Houston’s interior offensive lines are in their own stratosphere of evil. Here’s a look at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to IOL pressure rate:
- 20. Titans (4.27%)
- 21. Falcon (4.40%)
- 22. Seahawks (4.46%)
- 23. Cowboys (4.70%)
- 24. Lions (4.74%)
- 25. Cardinals (4.79%)
- 26. Bears (4.85%)
- 27. Robber (5.48%)
- 28. Commanders (5.57%)
- 29. Giant (5.69%)
- 30. Aries (6.01%)
- 31. Vikings (6.79%)
- 32. Texans (7.21%)
In case you’re wondering, the Jets are in 16th place with 4.17%.
Long story short, the Vikings’ offensive line is extremely poor at pass protection and Quinnen Williams hasn’t seen anything like it this year. Considering he’s basically collected all of his elite numbers against good opponents, there’s no telling what he might do against a lousy opponent.
It’s essential for the Jets that Williams capitalize on that disparity and enjoy a dominant game — and not just because of the talent gap.
Yes, Williams just has to play well because he’s so much better than the players who will try to block him. This is of course.
But Williams’ performance is especially important in this particular game because he holds the keys to shutting down Minnesota’s greatest strength: pocket-shooting Kirk Cousins.
The primary reason the Vikings are 9-2 is an explosive passing attack, which ranks seventh at 240.9 yards per game. And Cousins’ downfield skill at inside-the-pocket throws is the main reason the aforementioned pass attack is so good.
Cousins ranks second in completions (64) and fourth in passing yards (1,382) for out-of-pocket passes that flow at least 10 yards down. He’s gained a whopping 50.1% of his total passing yards in those games, the second-highest percentage among qualified quarterbacks behind only Tua Tagovailoa. That is the Bread and Butter on Minnesota Winning Games: Cousins Standing Up and Bombing Justin Jefferson.
And how can the jets shut down this weapon?
By creating an internal pressure that takes Cousins’ space to rise in the pocket.
It’s not hard to say that the fate of the Jets in Minneapolis rests in the hands of Quinnen Williams.
Here’s more good news for the Jets: Williams could get some extra help this week. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins made a limited return to practice Wednesday and could return after a two-game absence in Minnesota. Rankins is enjoying a strong season and would take some pressure off Williams which would give him even more leeway.
If the Jets upset the Vikings on Sunday, there’s a strong possibility that Williams’ dominance will be one of the main reasons.