5 things to watch as Jets face Vikings in Week 13

New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates after breaking up a deep pass intended for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1).
New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates after breaking up a deep pass intended for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1). / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the first time in several years, the Jets are facing some meaningful games in December, so it will be interesting to see how they respond. On Sunday, they travel to Minnesota to face a Vikings team that has one of the best records in the NFL.

Here are 5 things to watch as the Jets look to improve to 8-4 on the season...

Can Mike White follow up his big game with another solid performance?

Last season, White had a big game against the Cincinnati Bengals in his first start but was knocked out early in his second start against the Indianapolis Colts. He then struggled badly against the Buffalo Bills before returning to the bench. Can he offer a more sustained performance this time to keep the job longer?

White actually performed quite well in that Colts game before getting hurt, so perhaps he’ll be able to fare better this time if his momentum is not disrupted.

The other challenge for White will be to get everyone involved. Despite his good performance on Sunday, the likes of Corey Davis, Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios all only caught one pass. Then again, perhaps this is a sign that the offense isn’t even operating at its full potential yet.

The main difference this time is that Zach Wilson is healthy and in a position to take his job back as soon as the team feels he is ready – or White is no longer performing at a high enough level.

Can the Jets take advantage of the Vikings’ offensive line?

The Jets’ defensive line has been their biggest strength this season and can improve their chances of winning on Sunday if they can bring the heat on Kirk Cousins. Minnesota gives up a lot of interior pressure, so Quinnen Williams will be looking to have a big day, and Sheldon Rankins’ return could also prove useful.

Another issue for the Vikings is that their best lineman, tackle Christian Darrisaw, has been out with a concussion. He suffered the concussion early on against the Dallas Cowboys, which was a major factor in the blowout loss that ended their seven-game winning streak.

It’s probably no coincidence that the Vikings were held to a season-low 57 rushing yards without Darrisaw in last week’s game against the New England Patriots, and his status remains up in the air for Sunday.

How will the much-anticipated Sauce Gardner-Justin Jefferson matchup play out?

Justin Jefferson is currently making a case as the league’s best receiver. He ranks third in the league in receptions and second in receiving yards. Jefferson has only been held below 50 receiving yards three times this season, including in both of the Vikings’ losses, so shutting him down could be a major factor. It won’t be an easy task, though.

The Jets are expected to match Sauce up against Jefferson, in the rookie’s biggest test to date. Gardner is putting together a case to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro-Bowler, as many feel he has the potential to be the NFL’s best cornerback.

DJ Reed, who has also had a great season, might find himself on Jefferson at times, and will need to compete well to make up for his size disadvantage. While Jefferson is the primary threat, the Jets can’t overlook Adam Thielen, who can also do damage if not accounted for.

Who will step up in the clutch if it’s a close game?

The Jets have been one of the league’s best fourth quarter teams all season, but may have met their match with the Vikings.

Other than their opening day win over the Green Bay Packers, every one of the Vikings’ wins this season has been by eight points or fewer, so they have been coming out on top when games go down to the wire.

The loss in New England was the first time the 2022 Jets have entered the fourth quarter in a position to win but failed to do so. Minnesota, on the other hand is 8-0 in one-score games.

Will special teams make the difference once again?

Two weeks ago, the Jets lost a defensive struggle when Marcus Jones returned a punt for the winning touchdown in the closing seconds. This week, they again face one of the best return men in the league.

Kene Nwangwu leads the league in total kickoff return yardage and yards per return average following his touchdown against New England last Thursday night. If this is another tight game, the Jets can’t afford to have any more coverage breakdowns.