The New York Jets (7-4) continue their playoff push against the Minnesota Vikings (9-2), who can already clinch the NFC North in Week 13 if certain scenarios are met.
The Vikings survived the Patriots 33-26 on Thanksgiving while the Jets got impressive quarterback play out of Mike White in a 31-10 win over the Bears in rainy conditions.
The Jets are a 3-point road underdog at many of the top-rated sportsbooks. Is White the latest hidden gem quarterback success story in the NFL? We’ll find out. If they pull this one out, you might want to put your Zach Wilson jersey in the attic for the mice to chew on.
Let’s see what the NFL odds tell us about this matchup.
New York Jets vs. Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, December 4, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at U.S. Bank Stadium
White and Cousins Part of Changing Quarterback Landscape
There was a period around 1999-2006 where the NFL had several quarterbacks who were drafted in the later rounds (5-to-7) or not drafted at all find success as starters. This would include Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, Trent Green, Jeff Garcia, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, and Tony Romo.
Part of what drove this success was a transition period after many Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks went into retirement, including Jim Kelly, John Elway, Steve Young, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, and Randall Cunningham. Jobs were open, and some were being filled with quarterbacks who worked in grocery stores or played in NFL Europe or the Arena League.
We are kind of going through the same thing right now with the recent retirements of Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers cannot be far behind to close out a golden era. Except now teams are almost exclusively using top 40 draft picks to find their next franchise quarterback.
But since Romo’s breakout year in 2006, there have not been many of these success stories at all save for a one-off season by Case Keenum on the 2017 Vikings or the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick started as long as he did. Nowadays, the standard for “hidden gem” success is someone going in the fourth round and taking off like Kirk Cousins (2012) and Dak Prescott (2016).
Mike White: Folk Hero or Fluke?
The Jets might have something interesting here with Mike White, a fifth-round pick in 2018 by Dallas. He made just his fourth start for the Jets last Sunday, and he already has his second game with over 300 yards and three touchdown passes. He is the first Jets quarterback to do that in multiple games since Ken O’Brien, who was drafted back in 1983.
White is also only the third quarterback in NFL history to hit those numbers (300 yards and three touchdowns) in two wins in his first four starts. Kurt Warner and Patrick Mahomes were the first two, and they are among the best to ever play the position.
Are We Witnessing Something Special?
In his first start last year, White passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns to lead a 34-31 comeback win against the Bengals, a team that would reach the Super Bowl. Against the Colts, White was 7-of-11 for 105 yards and a touchdown before getting injured, ending his night early. Ten days later, he struggled against Buffalo’s elite defense, and after falling behind 24-3 in the third quarter, he started forcing passes and was intercepted four times.
We did not see White throw another pass in a real game until last Sunday when despite the rain, he carved up the Bears for 315 yards and three touchdowns with a 149.3 passer rating. His 91.2 QBR (ESPN) was the highest of Week 13.
Over his first 160 passes, White is completing 68.8% and averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. His sack rate is also very low at 3.0% as being decisive and accurate with the ball has been his key to success.
It is a very small sample size, but again, few quarterbacks in NFL history have ever come out and put up numbers like this in their first handful of games. Early success in this position is usually a strong indicator of long-term success.
White Is Ready to Perform
There’s also the fact that the Jets under Robert Saleh seem much more comfortable about letting quarterbacks not named Zach Wilson throw the ball and lead the offense. We saw it with White last year and last week, and Joe Flacco was in record territory for pass attempts in the first three weeks this season. They do not mind throwing if it’s not the indecisive, scrambling Wilson with the ball in his hands.
The Jets have also upgraded their receivers with rookie Garrett Wilson who is looking like a stud. He had 95 yards and two touchdowns in his first game with White last week.
After watching Mac Jones of the Patriots pass for a career-high 382 yards in Minnesota last week, it would almost be foolish to not expect White to play well in this game. It was just in the game before that when Dak Prescott dissected the Vikings with one of the most accurate passing games of the season. The Minnesota defense is not playing well right now.
Maybe White is just one of those players who needed his opportunity to shine, and if he stays healthy, he is going to run with it. The Jets may have finally stumbled into a real quarterback again, and they can thank the Patriots for making Wilson look so terrible that they had to bench him.
Call it some payback for the Jets injuring Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and giving way to Tom Brady in New England.
Can Vikings Keep Justin Jefferson Out of the Sauce?
The 2022 Vikings are +5 in scoring differential, the lowest mark ever for a 9-2 team. But they continue to win all the close games that are within one score in the fourth quarter:
- Vikings are 8-0 in close games with the defense holding up eight one-score leads in the fourth quarter
- Vikings are 6-0 at fourth-quarter comeback and game-winning drive opportunities
- Kirk Cousins has led six fourth-quarter comeback wins in the last nine games for the Vikings
- Cousins had six fourth-quarter comeback wins in 81 games combined from 2017-2021
- Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell has won 11 straight close games and is 9-0 at game-winning drive opportunities going back to last postseason when he was the offensive coordinator of the Rams, who won their last three playoff games by three points each
This is not sustainable, and anyone who tries telling you otherwise has not studied NFL history. The Vikings did not solve the magic puzzle of winning close games this year. They got the luckiest fumble return touchdown (Josh Allen’s failed sneak) since the Miracle at the Meadowlands in 1978. They also were very fortunate to get Hunter Henry’s touchdown reversed against the Patriots, who stalled offensively after that play.
One ace in the hole for Minnesota has been wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who shined again with 139 yards and a touchdown against New England. He has seven 100-yard receiving games this year and the Vikings are 7-0 in them. They are 1-2 when Jefferson is held under 50 yards.
We’ll see what the Jets can do to slow him down with rookie corner Sauce Gardner, who leads the NFL with 14 passes defended. He is a very confident rookie who only allows 4.8 yards per target in coverage. He hasn’t allowed 40 receiving yards in any game since the Bengals got him a few times in Week 3.
The Jets have not allowed more than 22 points since Week 3 as Saleh has the defense playing very well now. This won’t be an easy matchup, but if they can limit the special plays made by Jefferson, then they have a great chance. Especially if White is providing the offense with touchdowns to match.
Pick and Prediction
The Vikings do not rank in the top 10 in points or yards on either side of the ball. This is not your typical 9-2 team by any means. Someone is going to trip them up in one of these close games any day now. The Patriots couldn’t do it, but Mike White already has just as many fourth-quarter comebacks as Jones does. White also came against a Super Bowl participant (Bengals) last year.
The Jets have the better defense complete with a corner who can slow down Jefferson. They might even have a hidden gem at quarterback. That’s enough for me to take the Jets for this week’s upset special for your NFL picks.
New Yorkers interested in betting on their local team should check out BMR's guide for New York betting sites.
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