Preview: Jets (4-4) vs. New Orleans Saints (6-1)
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – The Jets have keep a pretty consistent win-loss, win-loss pattern going this season, so if it holds, they should pull off a thrilling victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
But as against the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, teams the Jets have upset so far this season, conventional wisdom isn’t in their favor.
The forecast will be grim for the Jets, whose struggling secondary must face off against the Saints and the third best passing offense in the league, a squad led by Drew Brees and a variety of weapons, including All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, a position the Jets have struggled to defend this season.
The Saints’ defense is also vastly improved under Rex Ryan’s brother, Rob Ryan, a unit that is ranked seventh in the league in total defense, up from 32nd a year ago. “I think the two guys, in my opinion, that are doing the best job in this league are Bob Sutton in Kansas City and then my brother in New Orleans. I don’t even think it’s close,” said Rex on Monday.
Add it all up and the Saints are 6-1 since the return of head coach Sean Payton from his suspension, making the Jets 6.5 point home underdogs this weekend.
The again, the Saints don’t really have an impressive lineup of victories (Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo) and their only loss came against the Patriots who, as we know, just lost to the Jets.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance …
When: Sunday, November 3, 2013, 1:00 p.m. EST (TV-FOX Radio-ESPN NY, 98.7 FM)
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Injury Report (as of Thursday):
Did not practice: G Willie Colon (calf), TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion), RB Alex Green (hamstring), WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring)
Limited: WR Stephen Hill (foot), C Nick Mangold (ribs), WR David Nelson (quadricep)
Did not practice: G Jahri Evans (hip), S Malcolm Jenkins (knee)
Limited: WR Marques Colston (knee), TE Jimmy Graham (foot), S Roman Harper (knee), DE Tom Johnson (hip), DE Cameron Jordan (ankle), S Kenny Vaccaro (concussion, back), DT Tyrunn Walker (knee)
Watch to watch for:
Secondary education: Rookie cornerback Dee Milliner made all the headlines this week after his poor performance and subsequent benching against the Bengals. Quarterback Andy Dalton completed four of five passes with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing in Milliner’s direction, but Rex stressed patience when critiquing the team’s ninth overall pick. “I will say this, by the time the season’s over, I think he will be the best rookie corner and playing better than any rookie corner in this year’s draft. I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Ryan said. It’s far too early to declare Milliner a bust and even after two benchings this season the Jets secondary has bigger problems than just Milliner. By his own admission, All-Pro Antonio Cromartie is having a down year after a Pro-Bowl campaign a year ago and with Brees rolling into town the secondary won’t be getting a break. If the Bengals can throw for 323 yards and five touchdowns, imagine what the Saints will do if the Jets don’t find a quick fix.
Resurrecting the pass rush: Putting pressure on the quarterback hasn’t been an issue for the Jets this season, until last week that is. The Jets managed only one sack and one quarterback hit against the Bengals, allowing Dalton to have a career day. If the Jets are to have any success against the Saints, they must put pressure on Brees. The also must prove that last week was nothing more than a fluke. The Jets defense is at their best when they’re getting to the quarterback. When they aren’t, the secondary is exposed and, well, it isn’t pretty. There’s no need to push the panic button just yet, the Jets are still sixth in the league with 25 sacks, led mostly by their dominant defensive line. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is the premier guy, tallying seven sacks, right up there amongst the league leaders and already a career high.
Offensive injuries: Injuries are always an issue, but this week the Jets will be especially thin on the offensive side of the ball. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, tight end Jeff Cumberland will most likely be out with a concussion, leaving Konrad Reuland and Patriots cast-off Zach Sudfeld as the only active tight ends in the wake of Kellen Winslow’s suspension. Yes, you read that correctly. Ouch. On top of that, Santonio Holmes (hamstring) will also most likely be out through the bye week, giving his hamstring ample time to get right. Making matters worse, guard Willie Colon hasn’t practiced all week with a calf injury, although he says he’s expecting to play.
Will the real Geno Smith please stand up (again)? Geno Smith will continue to be the x-factor for the Jets until further notice. When he plays well, the Jets find ways to win. When he doesn’t they don’t. It’s not really that simple, but it is. Smith has show flashes of being a very successful NFL quarterback, who can stretch defenses with his arm and extend plays with his legs. He’s in the top half of the league in yards (1,882) and yards per attempt (7.44) but top three in the league in interceptions (13) and top two in sacks (28). As Geno rolls, so do the Jets.
Prediction: You’d like to think the Jets will maintain their win-loss trend, at least for this week, but it just doesn’t seem likely. Not with a struggling secondary against Drew Brees and a banged up supporting class around Geno Smith. The Jets head into their Week 10 bye with a loss to the Saints, 31-17.