It’s an irony of the highest order, really.
Jets owner Woody Johnson has wanted nothing more than for his team to step out of the shadow of the Giants, to stop playing second fiddle, to become equally relevant.
And the Jets have taken major strides toward that end over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, however, it’s often been for the wrong reasons.
While the current Jets continue to shoot their mouths off, forget the names of their children, harass female reporters, and drive while intoxicated, one notable former member of Gang Green has been tabloid fodder of late, which is never a good thing.
This is of import to the Jets, of course, because said former player is, in fact, Brett Favre, and his reported transgression — (futilely) sexting a team-employed sideline reporter, Jenn Sterger — occurred during his short-lived and forgettable tenure as their quarterback.
Favre, frequently misrepresented by the mainstream media and advertisers as a devoted family man and all-American country boy, is rightfully bearing the brunt of the backlash and embarrassment from this incident. But the Jets are at least complicit here, having catered to Favre’s every demand upon his arrival as their big-ticket quarterback. To boot, one of their employees was reportedly a liaison twixt Favre and Sterger.
Johnson now has his wish. But for everything the Jets do right on the field, of which there have been plenty so far in 2010, they seem to spring a leak off of it.
Conveniently enough (or inconveniently, depending on your perspective), Favre, now in his second season as the Vikings’ quarterback, is returning to the (new) Meadowlands on Monday Night Football to face the red-hot Jets, his other former team, in Week 5. That, in and of itself, would ordinarily make for quite an intriguing story line, but there’s plenty more.
Against the backdrop of his return, Favre is now under investigation by the NFL for his text messages. Somehow, that has obscured the onset of Randy Moss’ second tenure with the Vikings, as the wide receiver was traded earlier this week by the Patriots. Moss suiting up for the Vikings means he will once again be lining up against the Jets’ All-Pro cornerback, Darrelle Revis, who’s returning to the field for the first time since the first half of Week 2, when he strained his hamstring against New England and — you guessed it — Moss.
Of course, all of that is fine and dandy, none of it will hurt ESPN’s ratings. But there is a game to played, so here’s what I’m looking for:
Revis is the league’s best cornerback, hands down. But he’ll need to be on top of his game against Moss, who still has plenty left in the tank and will be looking to make a splash against his nemesis in his first game back in a Minnesota uniform. Favre, for his part, has been clamoring to play with Moss going back to his days in Green Bay, so there should be at least a couple of those patented forced passes in Moss’ direction, coverage be damned. Is Revis fully healthy? If so, look for Moss to be a non-factor.
Additionally, these teams’ strengths and weaknesses provide an intriguing matchup. The Jets are at their best when they’re pounding the ball on the ground, picking their spots in the passing game, and providing shut-down defense. The Vikings, however, are incredibly difficult to run the ball against. The so-called Williams Wall — Pat and Kevin Williams — are a fearsome interior tandem and make running the ball a daunting proposition. Minnesota’s weakness is its secondary, but can the Jets exploit that? Mark Sanchez has been quite effective as a game-managing quarterback since Gang Green’s Week 1 debacle against the Ravens, but against the Vikings, he’ll have to make some plays down the field. In fact, he may have to be the focal point of the Jets’ offense. Sanchez, this is your big stage.
On the flip side, the Vikings’ passing attack has been in shambles this season without the services of Sidney Rice, who had a spectacular 2009. He was Favre’s go-to guy last season, and nothing has really clicked without him. Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin have been some combination of injured and sucky, and Visanthe Shiancoe can only do so much as a pass-catching tight end. Moss will help, to be sure, but he still doesn’t solve the problem of Rice’s absence, which is to say Favre still doesn’t have a go-to target over the middle on slants and dig routes.
Finally, the Jets’ run defense has looked positively suffocating through four weeks this season. This week, though, presents a different kind of challenge in Adrian Peterson, Minnesota’s all-world freight train. Peterson has been his usual stellar self, averaging 5.6 yards per carry through three games. Can the Jets continue to stuff Peterson the way they have other backs this season?
There’s plenty to watch for with respect to this game’s on-field story lines. Unfortunately, there’s more than a few off of it, too. I wonder if this is what Johnson wanted all along?