Your New York Jets (4-4) return to MetLife Stadium to take on the New Orleans Saints (6-1) at 1 p.m. The Jets are coming off a brutal 40 point loss to Cincinnati while the Saints rolled over Buffalo in an “ugly” 35-17 win. Some may be pessimistic after giving up 49 points with one of the leagues best offenses and a hall-of-fame quarterback coming into town, but do not fear Jets fans; if tendencies mean anything then this is a week the Jets win. Let’s dive into the match-ups:
New Orleans Offense
The Saints are led by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees has been tremendous again this year, throwing for 2,290 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions and a completion percentage of 67.5. Think he enjoys having head coach Sean Payton back? Brees has a plethora of weapons, none better than “tight end” Jimmy Graham (63 targets, 40 receptions, 630 yards, 8 touchdowns). I put tight end in quotations because you’ll see Graham lined up more outside or in the slot than on the line of scrimmage. In my opinion, Graham is the second most dangerous receiving threat in the NFL behind Calvin Johnson.
The next two players with the most receptions on the team are running backs. Little Darren Sproles is a yards after catch machine and Pierre Thomas will catch his fair share of passes too. Wide receiver Marques Colston is reliable, consistent, and a great route runner for Brees. The veteran might not have the yards per catch like rookie Kenny Stills but the potential for him to eat up a struggling corner like Dee Milliner is there.
The Saints do not run the ball too well, averaging 85.3 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry as a team. Pierre Thomas is the feature back but splits carries with a plethora of guys. Khiry Robinson has impressed in limited time and Darren Sproles has his role as more of a pass catcher. It also sounds like Mark Ingram is going to play for the first time since week two.
Part of the Saints struggles running is due to its offensive line play. Right guard Jahri Evans was once a pro bowl guard but his play has declined immensely. He also may not play this weekend due to a hip injury. Left tackle Charles Brown has been very shaky, especially in pass protection. Fortunately for the Saints, Drew Brees is so smart with the ball he doesn’t take a lot of sacks by releasing the ball quickly.
New Orleans Defense
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan might have a bit of a negative reputation but there have been very few coordinators, if any at all, who have been better than him. New Orleans had one of the worst defenses in the history of football last year. This year, they have 24 sacks (compared to 30 last season) and nine interceptions (compared to 15 last season). They’ve also been very tough on third downs, holding opponents to 35.7 percent on the year.
Of course it’s not all Rob. Safety Malcom Jenkins has really come into his own and has shored up the back end of the secondary. He is questionable for Sunday’s game with a knee injury so if he can’t go it could be a nice break for the Jets. If he can’t go look for Roman Harper and rookie Kenny Vaccaro to start. The combination of defensive end Cameron Jordan (maybe the most underrated player in football) and outside linebacker Junior Galette have been a nightmare for lineman’s around the league and have toughed up the Saints front seven.
How To Win
So, who do we get this week? The Jets who we’ve seen against Atlanta and New England or the ones from Tennessee and Cincinnati? Again, consistency is everything. New Orleans is a tough team but has struggled outside of the dome.
New Orleans has struggled terribly against the run. The problem is most teams don’t get the opportunity to run because they’re trailing all game. The Jets have to pound the rock with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell and control the clock. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of Willie Colon. If he does play (he hasn’t practiced this week), he needs to dominate.
Another big reason the Jets have to be able to run the ball is health. Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Jeff Cumberland (concussion) have not practiced this week. Stephen Hill has been limited due to a foot injury. If the Jets fall behind, who exactly is Geno Smith supposed to throw to?
The Jets would also be wise to try and actually record a quarterback pressure this week. We all know the Jets secondary is not very good. Antonio Cromartie has been terrible. Dee Milliner has not had enough reps to warrant serious playing time. Kyle Wilson is Kyle Wilson. With that being said, these weaknesses can be covered up if the Jets can get to Brees, throw him around, and force him to get the ball out early. The Jets need Quinton Coples to show up if they are going to keep the Saints offense in check.
This will need to be a total team effort. The crowd will need to flip the script on the Saints and make things difficult for that offense. If anything, at least this is supposed to be the week the Jets win, right?