Muhammad Wilkerson outweighs kicker Nick Folk by about 100 pounds, yet the two have been equally huge for the Jets this season. It might be a bit too early for the pair to start packing their suitcases for Hawaii, but, at this rate, it certainly appears they are going to be playing in the Pro Bowl in January.
Just nine games into the season, Wilkerson is on pace to obliterate his career-high total in sacks. He already has eight, which surpasses his previous best -- five last year. Wilkerson did a hula dance after sacking quarterback Drew Brees this past Sunday, so the trip to Honolulu is certainly on his mind.
Coach Rex Ryan hinted after Sunday's game that Wilkerson might be the best defensive player in the league right now, but jokingly backed off the statement Monday. Wilkerson has another year left on his contract but is likely to receive a big raise via a new multi-year agreement in the offseason. As much as Ryan would love to openly praise him, anything he says will be used as leverage in upcoming negotiations.
What can't be kept quiet is just how good Wilkerson and his teammates up front have been. No team in football allows less yards per run than the Jets. Wilkerson and company have given up the fewest first downs on running plays, allowing just 30 compared to the league average of 48.8. The number is even more impressive considering the Jets have played one more game than most teams around the league.
As important as Wilkerson has been to the defense, Folk has been as valuable to Gang Green's limited offense.
For a team that ranks near the bottom of the league with just 18.8 points per game, the 9.2 points Folk contributes on a weekly basis make him far and away the most dependable scoring option on the roster. For comparison's sake, quarterback Geno Smith accounts for 7.3 points per week when combining his passing and rushing touchdowns.
Folk is yet to miss a field goal this season, nailing all 23 he's attempted. His 23 makes on the season are the most in the NFL without a miss, and he's now just one shy of tying Jay Feely's franchise record of making 24 in a row. The league's single-season record of 37 consecutive makes, set by Mike Vanderjagt in 2003, is still quite a few field goals away.
The seventh-year kicker has made the Pro Bowl just once before, during his rookie campaign in 2007, and Folk's perfect season has him in line to best his career-high 90.9 field goal percentage rate set in 2008. Enjoying a career resurgence, he's twice this season been named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week.
Sometimes the difference between winning and losing can be a career-best or fluke game from an unexpected player. Good teams are often fortunate enough to have a few players who enjoy performances above their norms. While Wilkerson is still young and only going to be better, Folk's improvement has seemingly come out of nowhere. By no means does that diminish what Folk has accomplished, but that's what the Jets are experiencing right now from him.
Whatever the case may be, both Wilkerson and Folk have been fantastic this year. Without them, there is little chance the team wins five of their first nine games. It would only be fitting if their efforts were rewarded with a working vacation to the Aloha State.