Rex takes Geno and the ground game to Minnesota

(SportsNetwork.com) – Minnesota Vikings fans would surely concede Teddy
Bridgewater is not Peyton Manning. But the Vikings’ rookie can soothe himself
by recognizing that he’s also not Geno Smith.

Unlike his signal-calling counterpart for Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium,
the youngster from Louisville is not only playing well as the 2014 season
reaches its final stages, but there’s also a very good chance – unlike Smith
in New York – that he’s already penciled in for a starting job next year.

Bridgewater has four touchdowns against a single interception in his last two
games, and played perhaps his best game of the season last week against
Carolina – completing 15-of-21 passes for 138 yards, two scores and a 120.7
passer rating in a 31-13 defeat of the Panthers.

“I’m better at just making quicker decisions,” he said. “Earlier in the year,
I talked about getting rid of the ball faster. That wasn’t the issue. I think
I just made quicker decisions, and if I’m able to make quicker decisions I’m
able to get the ball out faster.”

One of his prime targets, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, should be
around for the full 60 minutes against the Jets after having just one pass
thrown to him last week. He only played three snaps against Carolina after
attending a funeral during the practice week and dealing with a knee injury.

He caught six passes for 86 yards in Minnesota’s Week 8 defeat of Tampa Bay,
but has caught just five balls since for 51 yards. He’s got 30 catches for 350
yards and one touchdown this season, after arriving as a rookie in 2013 and
catching 45 passes for 469 yards and four TDs.

“I have high hopes for him. I’m in his corner. I want him to be a good
player,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “It would help this football team. It
would help me. It would help everybody around that he becomes a great player.
It may be not right away.”

Meanwhile, though history shows the Jets last lost to the Vikings when Gerald
Ford was president and Joe Namath still played at Shea Stadium, it doesn’t do
a lot of good for modern-day Rex Ryan.

A 16-13 loss to Miami on Monday night plunged New York to 2-10 in Ryan’s sixth
season and added another layer of certainty that the last four games of 2014
will be his last four at Gang Green’s helm.

“I’m embarrassed for myself, absolutely,” he said.

“It’s an embarrassment. It’s definitely embarrassing to me. I feel like I’ve
let my owner down. I’ve let our fan base down. The year hasn’t gone anywhere
close to what we were thinking. I’m going to focus on beating Minnesota. I’m
not worried about anything else but that. I don’t think that way. My job is
not to worry about myself. My job is to get this team prepared to the best of
my ability, and that’s what I plan on doing.”

Ryan’s teams reached the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons on the
job in 2009 and 2010, winning four road playoff games with Mark Sanchez at the
helm. They’ve not had a winning record since, however, and Sanchez was let go
in the offseason after Smith became the rookie starter last year.

Sanchez is now quarterbacking the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, while
Smith, backup Michael Vick, Ryan and even general manager John Idzik are on a
collective hot seat with the Jets.

Smith completed only seven of 13 passes in the loss to the Dolphins, a game in
which New York led by 10 points in the first half. The Jets ran the ball 49
times, but when they were forced into rally mode on a final drive, Smith was
intercepted – which led to talk that the game plan reflected an absence of
faith in the quarterback. Ryan insisted, though, that the run/pass ratio was
not a reflection on Smith.

The second-year man, who was benched in favor of Vick before regaining the
job, is last in the league among full-time quarterbacks with a 65.8 passer
rating. He’s thrown 11 interceptions and has averaged 5.91 yards per pass
attempt, and hasn’t thrown a TD pass in three games. Incidentally, the Vikings
are sixth in the league in defending the pass, but have allowed 123.8 yards
per game on the ground for the season and 157.0 per game over their last three
outings.

“I understand the fact that we didn’t win and the passing attempts weren’t
there,” Ryan said. “But it had nothing to do with us not having confidence in
Geno Smith. That’s completely false.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Awakening Johnson

Running back Chris Johnson was among the symbols of the Jets’ ineptitude in
the early season as he tried to regain his 2,000-yard form from his days in
Tennessee. But he’s started to pick things up in the second half and has
amassed 305 yards on his last 58 carries – a 5.3-yard average per attempt.
Minnesota is 24th of 32 teams against the run, so it could be another showcase
for the veteran.

Strength against Weakness

The Vikings are by no means a scoring juggernaut when compared to the rest of
the NFL, as an average of 19.4 points per game accurately indicates. But
they’re facing an even more impotent outfit in the Jets, who are 30th in the
league with a 15.8-point average. Minnesota’s defense has held offensive
powers like New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago to less than 21 points, and has a
real chance to do it again.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us two, three or four times, shame on us.
While it’s true Ryan got more than he should have from an 8-8 team last year
and true that he’ll probably land another NFL job and succeed after this
season, the reality for 2014 is that he’s pretty much out of tricks.

The Vikings are not the Packers and the Jets could out-mediocre them, but the
default setting is lose from here on out.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Vikings 17, Jets 7