NFL Preview - Minnesota (1-2) at N.Y. Jets (3-1)
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Randy Moss will wear a Minnesota Vikings uniform for the first time in nearly six years on Monday night, when the future Hall of Famer and his new-old team meet the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on Monday night.
Moss, the No. 21 overall pick of the Vikings in the 1998 Draft, enjoyed seven star-studded seasons in Minnesota (1998-2004), earning Pro Bowl honors five times over that stretch, but what was perceived as his declining attitude and increasingly disappointing team results led to his trade to the Oakland Raiders in March of 2005.
Moss' questionable effort in Oakland prompted another trade, to New England, on Draft Day 2007. The wideout enjoyed three-plus quality seasons with the Patriots - setting an NFL single-season record with 23 touchdown catches in his first season with the team - but Moss' growing unhappiness over his contract had become something of a distraction with New England. In his final game as a Patriot, last Monday night against the Dolphins, Moss was held without a catch for just the fifth time in his career.
On Wednesday, he was dealt back to the Vikings along with a seventh-round 2012 draft pick in exchange for New England's third-round 2011 draft choice. Five days later, the 33-year-old Moss will appear with Minnesota for the first time since Jan. 16, 2005, when he caught three passes for 51 yards in the team's playoff loss at Philadelphia.
The Vikings, a disappointing 1-2 with just 43 points scored through their first three games, have added Moss to revive an offense that has struggled in large part due to the injury absence of wideout Sidney Rice (hip).
Quarterback Brett Favre - who spent one memorable season as a Jet back in 2008 - has struggled to a 60.4 passer rating, with two touchdowns (and only one to a wide receiver) and six interceptions during his second year as a Viking to date.
Moss won't be the only fresh face displaying his wares on Monday night, though the others will be participating for the home team.
Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, having completed a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL substance abuse policy, will make his formal debut with Rex Ryan's team in Week 5. Holmes, the hero of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII win over the Arizona Cardinals, posted career-highs with 79 catches and 1,248 yards in 2009, before the troubled former first-rounder was traded in April.
Also expected to be in the Jets lineup for the first time this season on Monday night is pass rusher Calvin Pace, who suffered a foot injury in the preseason but has resumed practicing with the club.
Those figures will re-join a New York team that has followed up an opening- night loss to the Ravens with impressive victories over the Patriots (28-14), Dolphins (31-23) and Bills (38-14).
The Jets have a 7-1 edge in their all-time series with the Vikings, including six straight wins since Minnesota scored its only victory in the series, at Metropolitan Stadium in 1975. New York was a 26-13 road winner when the teams last met, in 2006, and triumphed by a 20-7 count when last hosting the Vikings, in 2002. The Vikes are 0-4 in road games against the Jets all-time, though they have wins in their two most recent trips to North Jersey (2005, 2007), when they beat the Giants there.
Vikings head coach Brad Childress is 0-1 in his career against the Jets, while New York's Ryan will be meeting both Childress and Minnesota for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE VIKINGS HAVE THE BALL
The presence of Moss (9 receptions, 3 TD with New England) should change things in a positive way for a Vikings team that is last in the league in TD passes (2) as Week 5 began. Moss figures to immediately be the team's No. 1 receiver, with Percy Harvin (12 receptions, 1 TD) playing the majority of offensive snaps as well and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (11 receptions, 1 TD) another frequent target. Bernard Berrian (5 receptions), Greg Camarillo (4 receptions) and Greg Lewis (5 receptions) figure to take on lesser roles with Moss in the lineup. The enhanced receiving corps should help open things up for running back Adrian Peterson (392 rushing yards, 3 TD, 13 receptions), who fueled the team's pre-bye week win over the Lions with 23 carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns. The Minnesota line has not protected especially well, allowing six sacks through three games, and will need to allow Favre the time to get the football to Moss downfield.
In addition to Pace, the Jets could be getting back cornerback Darrelle Revis (3 tackles), who has missed two games with a hamstring problem but has returned to practice. Revis was beaten for a long touchdown by Moss when New York played the Patriots in Week 2, and the team could put Antonio Cromartie (13 tackles, 2 INT) on the star wideout instead. Pace's return to the field could help mitigate the absence of pass rusher Shaun Ellis (14 tackles, 3 sacks), who could miss Monday's contest with a knee problem. Jason Taylor (14 tackles, 2 sacks) will be among the others who will need to compensate for Ellis' possible absence and attack Favre. When Peterson runs it, he'll be facing a Jets front seven that has held three of four opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards. Nose tackle Sione Pouha (16 tackles) and inside linebackers Bart Scott (21 tackles) and David Harris (23 tackles) have been a major part of the run-stopping effort this season.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
The Jets have been terrific offensively thus far in 2010, scoring the fifth- most points in the league, ranking No. 2 in the NFL in rushing, and possessing a starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez (711 passing yards) who has eight touchdown passes, zero interceptions, and a sterling 105.3 passer rating through four weeks. In last Sunday's thumping of the Bills, Gang Green rang up 444 yards of total offense, the attack's best showing since a 447-yard onslaught against the Raiders last Oct. 25th. The 38 points tied the Jets' top output of the Rex Ryan era. A soft Buffalo front seven had little clue against the Jets running game, which received big efforts from both LaDainian Tomlinson (341 rushing yards, 3 TD. 12 receptions) and Shonn Greene (223 rushing yards), who combined for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 41 collective carries. Sanchez threw touchdown strikes to Braylon Edwards (12 receptions, 3 TD) and Dustin Keller (19 receptions, 5 TD), both of whom could see their chances diminished with Holmes in the fold this week. The Jets rank No. 1 in the NFL in turnover margin (+8), turnovers committed (1) and interceptions thrown (0).
It is highly unlikely that the Jets will have as much success running the football as they did in Week 4, as a Vikings run defense led by the 'Williams Wall' of defensive tackles Pat Williams (9 tackles) and Kevin Williams (8 tackles, 1 sack) remains one of the best in the business. Minnesota has prevented two of its first three opponents from reaching the 80-yard rushing plateau, including a scant 63 for the Lions in Week 3. Linebackers E.J. Henderson (19 tackles) and Chad Greenway (29 tackles) will look to continue to make plays behind the beefy front wall. When Sanchez drops to throw, Jared Allen (10 tackles, 1 sack) and Ray Edwards (4 tackles) - who have gotten off to a bit of a slow start after combining for 23 sacks last year - will attempt to dial in on the QB. Cornerbacks Antoine Winfield (22 tackles, 1 INT) and Chris Cook (5 tackles) will have primary responsibility for Holmes and Braylon Edwards, with safety Madieu Williams (15 tackles) among those lending support.
This contest should settle a number of Week 5 fantasy matchups.
For Minnesota, you can bet Moss will get his touches, though expecting major numbers while working with Favre for the first time, and against a quality Jets defense, is probably foolish. His presence makes Harvin a less attractive option, though Peterson and Shiancoe should remain fantasy lineup staples. Favre has become little more than a backup option at QB, and it's probably best to wait and see what type of impact Moss has on the offense before you consider him for the starting lineup again. Not a great week to start the Minnesota defense or kicker Ryan Longwell either.
On the Jets side, Tomlinson and Keller have become must-starts until further notice, but Sanchez is probably just a notch below sure-fire fantasy starter status at this point. Holmes might actually be a better play than Moss here, since he actually worked (and worked well) with Sanchez in the preseason, and the Jets will probably have to put it in the air a little more than usual against a strong Minnesota run defense. Given the Vikes' turnover problems, the Jets defense is probably a decent play here as well.
The most disturbing element of the Vikings' scuffling start hasn't been the team's execution, it's been the body language of its leader. Favre has alternately looked shell-shocked and disinterested at times this season, and you have to believe that the addition of Moss - a receiver Favre has publicly admired for years - will put a bit of spring in his step that could trickle down to the entire team. An already talented Minnesota team is only better with the wideout in the fold, and should finally start playing to its capabilities. As for the Jets, who have looked a lot like the best team in football over the past three weeks, expect just a slight letdown after three straight matchups against AFC East foes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vikings 19, Jets 16
10/08 12:14:09 ET