With an advantage in the AFC East following a three-game winning streak through their division, the Jets have an opportunity to make a definitive statement Monday when they host the Minnesota Vikings (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
Fresh off a bye week, the Vikings (1-2) are even more energized by the return of receiver Randy Moss, acquired last week in a trade from New England. The transaction could jolt Minnesota's stagnant offense, adding a downfield threat for Brett Favre in an injury-riddled receiving corps.
The Jets (3-1) will debut receiver Santonio Holmes following his four-game suspension, and return fully recovered veteran defenders Calvin Pace (foot) and Darrelle Revis (hamstring).
Not enough defenses for offensive Jets
The Jets’ second-ranked rush attack and mistake-free passing game pose significant challenges for Minnesota’s inconsistent defense. With Holmes’ return, tight end Dustin Keller’s rapid progression, Braylon Edwards’ ability to break free and Brad Smith’s versatility, there should be opportunities for Mark Sanchez to pick apart the Vikes’ defense.
Moss gets another Welker
Second-year pro Percy Harvin has the opportunity to excel in a Wes Welker-like role opposite Moss, creating dangerous mismatches while Moss streaks up field. Gang Green will have to defend against quick screens and intermediate strikes to keep Harvin away from open space. If the Jets opt to rely on man coverage, Antonio Cromartie should be assigned to Moss as he was in Week 2, keeping Revis, if healthy, from covering too many downfield heaves.
A tackling conundrum
Former All-Pro cornerback Cromartie, often criticized for his unwillingness to tackle, could be sought out by Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, who often makes highlights of would-be tacklers. Using audibles, running plays could be adjusted at the line of scrimmage to exploit the mismatch between Cromartie and Peterson’s 130.7 rushing yards per game.
Staying off the schoolyard
Despite Revis’ and Cromartie’s criticism of Moss’ dedication, the 13-year receiver’s speed and leaping ability — combined with Favre’s affinity for throwing the deep ball — are talents they have to respect. Confusing the Vikings’ protections along the offensive line — they’ve allowed six sacks and 15 hits on Favre in three games — will be critical in preventing a basic, run-and-catch rhythm for Minnesota’s offense.