The Jets travel to the Bayou to take on the Saints Sunday as 16 point underdogs, the second largest Jets spread in the last 10 years. Nobody expects them to win but it’s a legitimate “no, there is 0% chance you win this game unless the Saints whole team vanishes into thin air”. This one could get very ugly, very quick. I take a look at how the teams match up against each other.
Drew Brees is a guy that could have a whole book written with his stats and accolades. For a guy that’s been labeled as “too small”, he has a cannon arm and an ability to place the ball wherever he so chooses. He’s smart at the line, makes good decisions and never seems anxious in the pocket. At home this season, he’s throwing for 293 yards a game with nine touchdowns as opposed to three interceptions. For a Jets defense that just let Trevor Siemian go 19/31 for 200 yards and a TD, they’re going to have a rude awakening if they play like they have in the last two games.
Bryce Petty gets the start and hopefully this is the final nail in the coffin for that section of #JetsTwitter that believes him or Christian Hackenberg are the future of this team. Petty can throw a fairly good deep ball but it’s the short passes and medium range throws that he struggles with. He tends to lock on to receivers and struggles to read defenses. Throws like these are what’s scariest about Petty:
Kearse beats Harris in the slot for a simple seven yard route on 4th and 3 yet Petty throws with open hips and airmails it 10 yards over his head. Not the type of things you want to see from your third year quarterback who was supposed to be mentored for the last two and a half years.
Running Back: Saints
Joe preaches this all of the time on Twitter: you don’t need to use your top 10-15 pick on a running back to find success at the position. The Saints used the 28th pick in 2011 on Mark Ingram and got stud rookie Alvin Kamara in the third round of last years draft. Ingram is having one of his best seasons as a pro this year while Kamara has returned insane value for being a third round pick. Kamara has seven total touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving) and is the second leading receiver on the team. For a team that struggles to defend running backs out of the backfield, they have their work cut out for them on Sunday.
It’s the same old song and dance with these Jets running backs. Run Matt Forte up the gut hoping he shakes the cement off of his cleats, pitch to Bilal Powell knowing damn well the Jets offensive line hasn’t set an edge in years and set Petty up for a third and long. The Saints have the 20th ranked run defense in the league. If you don’t want to put too much of the game in Petty’s hands, you have to establish the run. If you also have any chance of winning Sunday, you run the ball and limit the Saints possessions.
Wide Receivers: Saints
Most of this falls on who’s throwing the ball. When Josh McCown was quarterbacking the Jets, we saw Robby Anderson’s true potential. When Bryce Petty was in for the Jets last season and last week, we didn’t get to see even 25% of his potential. Jermaine Kearse and Anderson have been a dynamic duo for most of the season. Now they’ll have to deal with inaccurate throws and bad reads.
Michael Thomas almost makes you forget who Brandin Cooks was in New Orleans. He’s on the cusp of 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards this season and is Drew Brees’ favorite target. With Tedd Ginn, Jr. out for the Saints, Willie Snead will step in and likely receive a majority of those targets. Brees is a guy that makes his receivers better. The Jets secondary has struggled and the receiving core should have a good game.
Tight End: Jets
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been consistently misused for multiple weeks in a row and it’s frustrating to watch. They constantly send him on short out routes or routes that don’t even get to the sticks. I expect his targets to go up as a security blanket for Petty today but there needs to be more downfield routes to utilize his skill set.
Josh Hill for the Saints has only caught 12 balls this year for 84 yards and a touchdown. Now that Colby Fleener is on IR, he’s the starting tight end. I don’t see him being much of a factor today with all of the other weapons that Brees has at his disposal.,
Offensive Line: Saints
The Saints offensive line has given up the (tied for) least sacks in the league while the Jets have produced the eighth least sacks in the league. They’ve also given up the third least QB hits this season. That offensive line has produced 4.9 yards per carry, which is tied with the Chiefs for the highest in the league.
The Jets on the other hand struggle to produce running lanes, 25th in the league in yards per carry. They’ve also given up the eighth most sacks in the league. Wesley Johnson is the worst center in football while Brian Winters and James Carpenter have taken steps back this season. The Jets need to address offensive line in the offseason because it’s a real issue.
Defensive Line: Saints
Going up against this Jets offensive line won’t be the hardest task this Saints d-line has had to conquer. Cam Jordan (10 sacks) is an elite pass rusher and while the stat sheet isn’t stuffed from their defensive line, they allow the linebackers and secondary to force pressure as well. Dennis Allen is a guy that likes to blitz and they can get pressure with just their line. The Jets need to win this battle in the trenches to have any shot of winning.
Addition by subtraction can be applied to Muhammad Wilkerson. His lazy, unmotivated play finally won’t be on the field this game and hopefully for the rest of the season. The Jets provide little to no pressure from their front. Kony Ealy has fallen off a cliff since his great start. Leonard Williams, where you at? Steve McLendon has been their best defensive lineman as of late at nose tackle. The Jets have to manufacture pressure on Brees or this will be a long game.
With the defensive pressure up front, it lets the linebackers have easy shots in the backfield. Their linebackers have forced a couple of fumbles on the year and have combined for 4.0 sacks as well. Manti Te’o has a nice little resurgence as a starting linebacker in New Orleans while AJ Klein and Craig Robertson are having fine seasons themselves. They won’t have much of an issue defending Jets running backs out of the backfield so their main job will be run defense.
On the flip side, the Jets linebacking core is going to have their work cut out for them against stopping Ingram and Kamara not only rushing the ball but out of the backfield in the passing game. Demario Davis still struggles in coverage while Darron Lee has taken a step back from his renaissance in the middle of the season. Jordan Jenkins will be tasked with setting the edge and getting to Brees, which won’t be easy given how good the Saints offensive line is.
The revamped Saints defense this season has started with the secondary. Marshon Lattimore is at the top of nearly everybodys DROY ballot and for good reason; he’s tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and is second on the team in pass break ups. He’s been compared to prime Darrelle Revis, which is no small comparison. Rookie Marcus Williams has come in strong as well. He’s ranked as the third highest rookie in PFF’s rookie rankings and has two interceptions of his own. Their secondary as a whole has 11 interceptions on the season. They’re going to take chances against Petty and it could be the difference in the game.
Last week, Morris Claiborne got worked by Demaryius Thomas for the entire game. He looks like he hasn’t fully recovered from his foot injury sustained against the Bills in the Thursday night game (Thursday night games, actually bad!). Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were the best players on the Jets roster last week and the only bright spots in a blowout. The Jets secondary has been getting torched lately against guys that don’t come close to Brees’ level of play. They need to lock in on the road, something they haven’t been able to do all season, and limit the big plays.
Special Teams: Push
Both teams are very even on this front. Both kickers have made 84% of their field goals while Thomas Morstead has better numbers than Lachlan Edwards. However both teams have given up return touchdowns. They are both very even in punt and kick returns (Jets: 20.7 yards for kickoffs, 4.9 yards on punts. Saints: 20.4 yards on kickoffs, 6.1 yards on punts).
Sean Payton coaches circles around Todd Bowles. He’s never been afraid to go out and try to win games, hell he even did an onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl 44. There’s rarely an issue of having his guys ready to play and they travel well.
Todd Bowles can’t get his team ready to play on the road and consistently coaches scared. His clock management is back to laughable and all of the coach of the year articles that were written should already be in the incinerator. Hopefully, things change on Sunday.
Photo credits: nyjets.com