Where Each Team Is
There have been many lopsided match ups in the history of humans in real life and lore, with varying outcomes. Road Runner and Coyote. David and Goliath. Leonidas and his 300 versus an empire. Mike Tyson and that guy he boxed fresh out of prison. My 2000 Honda Civic and my ex-girlfriends mailbox. I could go on.
This week will enter into the annals another battle for the ages where a scrappy rag tag band of fighters takes on an impending onslaught, when the 4-4 New York Jets host the 6-1 Saints. The Saints were narrowly defeated by the New England Patriots at the very end of a game which they were winning for the most part, and that is it for their very short list of this years low points. Meanwhile, the Jets seem to hit a new low every other week. The trend this season has been that the Jets bounce back even against offensive machines like the Falcons and Patriots. Rex Ryan and the Jets will have their hands full trying to continue that trend this week as they face one of the NFL's very best.
Random Fact: Vinny Testaverde once threw for 350 yards and 4 Touchdowns against a secondary of novelty blow-up dolls in the Sonora desert.
Sister Site: Canal Street Chronicles
Location: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: FOX. Your choice network for broadcast Sports and cartoons geared toward adults.
Weather: Partly sunny and windy but cold with a high of 48. Likely Geno Smith's first truly cold weather game as a professional.
Record: Saints lead the all time series, 6-5.
What happened last time? The Saints beat the Jets by a score of 24-10 on October 4th, 2009.
Who is favored? Saints are the 3.5 point favorites on the opening line.
(Players designated "Probable" status are omitted)
Out: Santonio Holmes (WR) Foot.
Questionable: Tyrunn Walker (DT) Knee, Jahri Evans (G) Hip, Cameron Jordan (DE) Ankle, Tom Johnson (DE) Hip, Roman Harper (S) Knee, Jimmy Graham (TE) Foot, Marques Colston (WR) Knee, Malcolm Jenkins (S) Knee, Kenny Vaccaro (S) Concussion.
Random Fact: New Orleans was home to a spectacular battle for the ages when Andrew Jackson defeated the British Army in spite of the fact that the War of 1812 had already been diplomatically ended days beforehand. Whoops.
Jets: On offense the Jets are 27th in points, 17th in overall yards, 22nd in the air and 13th on the ground. The Jets have been consistently one of the poorest scoring teams all season while the offense gradually has gone from formidable to below average week to week. The Jets offense needs to have one of its "up" weeks against the Saints or the team will not have a chance to compete.
On defense the Jets have gone from one of the very best to a team that cannot stop others from scoring, largely due to their average-to-poor pass defense. The Jets are 23rd in points allowed, 6th in overall yards allowed, 15th against the pass and 1st against the run. The Jets have remained a top five rush defense all year and now have claimed the top spot. The Jets number one ranking on run defense is in part due to the tremendous performance of the Jets front seven against the run, and the fact that teams more effectively move the ball in the air against the Jets and have to "sell out" to win. The low yardage statistics against the run are thanks to players such as Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison dominating up front. As has been said in previous weeks, the Jets poor performance against the pass can be attributed to poor play in the secondary and regression from the likes of Antonio Cromartie and the unsure play of rookie Dee Milliner.
Saints: The Saints are a passing machine. Conversely, New Orleans runs the ball about as poorly as they pass it successfully. The Saints are 5th in points scored, 6th in overall yardage, 3rd in passing yards and 25th in rushing yards. The Saints have had a surprisingly balanced attack on offense that still relies on the arm of Drew Brees but incorporates more runs to keep opposing defenses honest, especially in the red zone. The Saints have scored effectively on the ground this season.
On defense, the Saints are also very solid, especially through the air. This balanced play by both units probably accounts for the Saints outstanding record. The Saints are 4th in points allowed, 12th in overall yards allowed, 11th against the pass and 19th against the rush. The Saints are extremely impressive in the air both on offense and defense which will give the Jets a great deal of difficulty in terms of keeping pace.
AP Pro ranking has the Jets at 17 and the Saints ranked 4th.
Random Fact: Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan once faced off in a pie eating contest. No witnesses survived to confirm who won.
Attacking the Saints
The Jets need to run effectively as the Saints are weakest both playing for and against the run, which is a plus given the Jets strong rush attack and defense are what is keeping the Jets games competitive so far. The Saints are well above average defending against the pass which will pose a challenge for the erratic young Geno Smith. Santonio Holmes will be missing for at least another game so Smith will have to continue to cope without him, although Holmes hasn't been the home run threat he once was on this team even on the increasingly rare occasions where he is present and healthy.
In spite of the Saints defense playing to the Jets strengths, NY cannot afford to go one-dimensional on offense against New Orleans. Drew Brees and his receivers are going to pick the secondary apart, and the Jets will have to answer through the air as well as the ground or this will be a very lopsided and painful affair to watch.
Nearly every week I mention Antonio Cromartie on defense and Stephen Hill on offense. Cromartie due to the fact that the secondary relies on his performance to stick together and Hill because Geno needs a reliable number one target to have a realistic chance of winning. Cromartie has not played to his potential at all this year, making him a constantly negative factor. Until I see otherwise, I have to kind of assume I'll see sub-par play from him against the Saints. Cro needs to return to his level of play from last season or the Jets will not be competitive against the pass.
Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and Jeff Cumberland are the X-factors on offense. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory reliably grind out their fair share of yardage against most teams and aren't a major point of concern. Geno's principal targets, however, are less reliable as is the QB himself. The Jets chances are made or broken by the Jets three top remaining receiving threats having a good game.
Quinton Coples hasn't been as successful attacking from a standing position. Coples play is critical to the Jets turning the corner.
Saints to Watch
New Orleans is absolutely stacked on both sides of the ball. Jimmy Graham is questionable but the Saints tight end is an absolute monster as a receiving threat. Calling Graham one of the best tight ends in the league is a gross understatement, Jimmy has hundreds of more yards receiving than any other player on the Saints or the Jets. Only Jordan Cameron and Vernon Davis have played anywhere near the level of Graham out of all other TEs in the NFL. Only 9 receivers (A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Victor Cruz; DeSean Jackson, Eric Decker, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant) have more yardage than Graham so far this year in the entire league. Darren Sproles has been used almost exclusively as a passing weapon while Marques Colston is another threat through the air.
Cameron Jordan leads the Saints in sacks with 6 plus two fumbles. Statistically Jordan is as good as Wilkerson or the Bengals Geno Atkins. Curtis Lofton is the teams top combined tackler and has also pulled down a sack and forced a fumble. Keenan Lewis leads the Saints in interceptions with 3. Malcolm Jenkins (who is questionable) has 2.5 sacks and 2 fumbles on the year. David Hawthorne, Junior Galette, and Glenn Foster all have multiple sacks on the season.
Bro's Bottom Line
The Saints are the Jets most difficult and talented opponent to date and likely for the rest of the season. The Saints have one of the best offenses AND defenses in the league and are probably the most balanced of the best teams in the NFL. Many are writing this off as a lopsided loss already and I cannot blame them for that after the Jets grueling loss to the Bengals last week, a considerably inferior team compared to the Saints.
If there is any hope to salvage ahead of one of the hardest games on paper in years, it is that the Jets notoriously play to the level of their opponent. The Jets lose handily to middled or under-performing teams like the Titans and Steelers while playing tight games and pulling out victories against other teams with high-powered offenses like the Patriots and Falcons. The Jets are one of those "Any given Sunday" type teams that you can never completely discount no matter how lousy they played the week before or how depleted their roster is. Just remember, the Jets have a win over the only team to beat the Saints to date this season.