On Sunday the New York Jets (4-4) take on the New Orleans Saints (6-1) at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. EST). The Jets are trying to rebound from an embarrassing performance against the Cincinnati Bengals while the Saints are considered by many to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game from the New York perspective.
Offensive line play- The Saints defense is going to apply a tremendous amount of pressure on the Jets offensive line in order to stifle the running game and collapse the pocket on Geno Smith. New York’s line must play physical and avoid communication issues and failed blitz pick-ups. The Jets running backs and tight ends also have to remain solid in terms of protection and picking up the extra defenders in the box. Keep an eye on the Saints’ Cameron Jordan (6 sacks) and Junior Galette (4 sacks).
Creative playcalling- It is no secret that New Orleans is going to try and stop the run therefore offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg must come up with a game plan that will keep the defense off balance. Whether that means incorporating quick slants, bubble screens, or read option plays, something has to be done to slow down the rush. Mornhinweg must use of all of his resources and weapons in order to put together time-consuming drives that will keep Drew Brees and company off of the field.
Improved performance from the wide receivers- The Jets are down to their third and fourth string tight ends (Jeff Cumberland out with a concussion, Winslow suspended) which means the wide receiver group has to step up their game. Jeremy Kerley will receive a lot of attention from the New Orleans defense leaving Stephen Hill and David Nelson with some space to make plays. All of Gang Green’s receivers must run consistent routes and fight to get open for their rookie quarterback.
Improved secondary play- The Jets secondary is coming off of an awful performance against the Bengals where the entire unit was dismantled. New York’s backfield starting with Antonio Cromartie must bounce back and clean up their coverage issues. Rookie defensive back Dee Milliner is slated to start, but I would not be surprised to see Darrin Walls get a lot of reps as well.
Contain Sproles- You are not going to find a more explosive player than the Saints’ Darren Sproles. The Saints running back is not only a threat out of the backfield, but in the return game as well. The Jets defense must find ways to contain Sproles especially on third down.
Get after Graham- New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is having another excellent season with 40 catches, 630 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Rex Ryan and his defense must find ways to slow down Graham, especially in the red zone. Safety Antonio Allen could see some time covering Jimmy with rumors of Antonio Cromartie seeing some time in coverage as well.
Beat up Brees- The best way to slow down the Saints offense is to get constant pressure and hits on quarterback Drew Brees. The Jets front seven led by Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Quinton Coples have to make some impact plays in order to disrupt the rhythm of the passing attack. The goal for the unit will be to generate a legitimate pass rush without having to utilize exotic blitz packages which could expose the secondary.
The Jets best defense on Sunday will be time-consuming plays on offense. New Orleans is going to stack the box to stop the run and it will be up to Geno Smith and his receivers to make some plays. The loss of Jeff Cumberland is a big blow to an already banged up pass catching group.
Defensively I think that the Jets will be able to get after Brees, but Graham and Sproles will be match-up nightmares. With coverage rolled to Graham players like Marques Colston and Kenny Stills will flourish.
I think that the Jets have a chance to keep this game closer than most expect, but in the end the more talented and explosive Saints team will prevail. Saints 27-17