Why Vikings are an ideal schematic matchup for Mike White3 min read
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By: Michael Nania
New York Jets QB Mike White tends to succeed against defenses that operate like Minnesota’s
The NFL world is well aware that the Minnesota Vikings’ pass defense has struggled this year. Minnesota ranks 32nd in passing yards allowed (276.1 per game) and 27th in pass defense DVOA.
Those woeful numbers seemingly make Minnesota a favorable matchup for New York Jets quarterback Mike White. But that would apply to any quarterback. In a vacuum, it’s always favorable to face a poor unit.
Far more so than the overall quality of each side, matchups in the NFL often come down to how those two sides match up against one another. It’s possible for one side to be worse than the other on an overall level while simultaneously having a style that happens to be the perfect kryptonite for the favored side, making the supposed underdogs the true favorites.
That’s what this sport is all about. It is never as simple as “Team A’s offense is better than Team B’s defense so Team A’s offense has the edge”. You have to dig deeper and see how their specific styles, strengths, and weaknesses bounce off one another.
The Vikings’ pass defense is weak, but if their schematic tendencies were geared toward White’s weaknesses, they should be considered a difficult matchup for White regardless of how bad they have been on an overall level.
Fortunately for New York, that is not the case. What we have here is an opposing defense that is not only bad on an overall level, but it utilizes schematic tendencies that are conducive to success for White.
Before getting into Minnesota’s tendencies, I want you to take a look at some numbers from White’s previous five games in the NFL. Seen here are the man-coverage rates White faced in each of his regular season games, alongside White’s overall passer rating in the game:
*For reference, the league average man-coverage rate this season is 29.6%, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Notice a trend?
In each of White’s two worst games (Patriots and Bills), he faced man coverage well over 30 percent of the time (which is approximately the league average). In each of White’s three best games (Bengals, Colts, and Bears), he faced man coverage under 30 percent of the time.
White has shown a strong tendency to perform better against teams that lean toward zone coverage rather than man. That’s why the Vikings are such a good matchup for him: They are one of the zone-heaviest teams in football.
Minnesota has utilized man coverage only 15.2% of the time this season. That ranks second-lowest ahead of only the Los Angeles Rams (13.8%).
While there is a chance that Minnesota could adjust its defensive tendencies to better match White’s profile, that seems unlikely based on what the Vikings have done this year. They have been stubbornly zone-heavy.
Minnesota has utilized a man coverage rate below the NFL average in every one of its games this year (season-high was 29.3% vs. Lions in Week 3). Just last week, the Vikings stuck with a 16.7% man coverage rate against Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who is a similar type of quarterback to White. Jones threw for a career-high 382 yards.
Most likely, White will get another game against a zone-leaning defense; the type of defense that he’s enjoyed all of his success against. We shall see if White can maximize this advantage. Being the favored side of a matchup never guarantees success – surprises are always possible – but the odds are certainly in White’s favor.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor