NEW YORK (AP) — Most teams go into their bye week hoping to get healthy before resuming the grueling NFL schedule. The Minnesota Vikings not only did that, but are also returning with a significant upgrade at wide receiver.
Randy Moss will suit up for the Vikings for the first time in six years Monday night against the New York Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Minnesota (1-2) acquired Moss from New England on Wednesday for a third-round draft pick in 2011. Moss, in the final season of a three-year, $27 million contract, had previously said he expected this season to be his last with the Patriots, and New England sent the seven-time Pro Bowler back to the team that drafted him in the first round in 1998.
Moss, who racked up 9,142 receiving yards and 90 touchdowns in seven seasons with the Vikings before being traded to Oakland in 2005, will now give Brett Favre a needed downfield threat.
With Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice recovering from hip surgery and Bernard Berrian a nonfactor, Percy Harvin has been Minnesota’s top wide receiver, but his migraine headaches have been a constant concern. Because of the lack of production at the wideout position, running back Adrian Peterson leads the Vikings with 13 receptions. Harvin (12) is the only wide receiver with more than five catches, while tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has added 11.
Despite the presence of Favre in the pocket, Minnesota has only completed four passes for more than 20 yards – fewest in the NFL.
“We’ve just been missing something, and I think (Moss) can give us another threat down the field,” Peterson told the Vikings’ official website.
Shiancoe is expected to play Monday after injuring his right leg in Minnesota’s 24-10 win over Detroit on Sept. 26.
Although the Vikings trail Chicago and Green Bay by two wins in the NFC North and have a difficult upcoming schedule with their next three games against Dallas, the Packers and New England, returning to the playoffs suddenly looks more realistic with the addition of Moss.
“He can still go downtown and get the football, which is a stand-alone factor,” coach Brad Childress said.
Moss didn’t have a catch for the first time since 2006 in New England’s 41-14 win over Miami on Monday, but had two receptions – including a spectacular one-handed 34-yard TD grab – against the Jets (3-1) in Week 2. He beat Darrelle Revis on that play as the cornerback pulled up with a strained left hamstring.
Revis, who hasn’t played since but is hoping to return Monday, says Moss eased up in the second half of that game.
“He came out full force, early in the game,” Revis said. “In the second half, you could tell he was kind of like putting his foot on the brake. But everybody knows that’s Randy: sometimes he plays 100 percent, sometimes he doesn’t.”
This isn’t the first time Revis has criticized Moss, to whom he referred as a “slouch” in January.
Minnesota has dropped six in a row to the Jets since a 29-21 victory in 1975.
Favre, one touchdown pass away from 500 in his career, has also lost his last three starts against the Jets, with whom he played one season in 2008.
Rex Ryan, who took over as New York’s coach in 2009, said he would have tried to bring Favre out of retirement to play another season with the Jets if the team hadn’t drafted Mark Sanchez.
“We’re just happy in getting Mark,” Ryan said, “but that is a fact that if we never got Mark, I definitely would’ve tried to recruit Brett Favre.”
Sanchez has done a stellar job leading New York’s offense this year, throwing eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. He had four TD passes and five picks through his first four games as a rookie.
Like the Vikings, the Jets will receive a big boost at the wide receiver position. Santonio Holmes is expected to make his season debut after being forced to sit the first four games by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Holmes, acquired from Pittsburgh in April, joins an offense that is averaging 32.3 points and 394.0 total yards during a three-game winning streak.
“I think he’s going to be a huge thing for us,” Ryan said. “He looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. He looked good.”
A revitalized LaDainian Tomlinson is looking better than most expected after being cut by San Diego in the offseason and signing with the Jets.
Tomlinson rushed for 133 yards – his first 100-yard game since Oct. 26, 2008 – and scored two touchdowns in last week’s 38-14 win over Buffalo. The 31-year-old is proving he is still on top of his game, averaging 6.1 yards on 56 carries.
“I know what age I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t play,” he said. “I never lost confidence. I always knew I could do it. It was just about having an opportunity.”
Tomlinson may find running room scarce Monday night. He was held to 40 yards on 16 attempts in his last game against the Vikings in 2007. Minnesota currently ranks ninth against the run, allowing an average of 87.3 yards.
The Jets rank fourth in the NFL in rush defense, yielding an average of 74.8 yards, but they’ll likely have their hands full trying to stop Peterson, whose 130.7 rushing yards per game rank second in the league.
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