Everyone, and I mean everyone, is picking the Saints here. I’m not surprised the majority of analysts and pundits are going with New Orleans, given that a) they’re at home, b) they’ve been dominant thusfar and are deserving of all the accolades, and c) the Jets will be without two of their top three cornerbacks against a lights-out passing game. Still…the Jets have made enough of a statement thusfar with their blitz-happy defense and workmanlike offense that I’d think a FEW experts would go our way. I certainly expect a close, hard-fought game. Three keys:
1) Establish the run game. Take away a few long runs in the second half against Houston, and our rushing attack has been downright pedestrian. There’s no excuse for that, given the talent on the offensive line and at running back. However, the Pats and Titans have tough run D’s; the Saints have been very good so far, but I see them coming back to earth a bit. It’s imperative to keep Mark Sanchez out of repeated 3rd-and-longs, and we’ll need 100+ yards on the ground to do it. That also keeps the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands.
2) Force Brees to get rid of the ball quickly. This won’t necessarily shut New Orleans down—Brees has a myriad of weapons, and I foresee a large number of quick hits to Reggie Bush—but it should prevent quick strikes that get the crowd fired up and put the Jets in catch-up mode. Not having Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland really hurts this week, so there’s serious pressure on the front 7 to get to Brees and try to cause some turnovers and mistakes.
3) Let Mark Sanchez loose. The Jets simply have to take some shots down the field to try to shut the Superdome crowd up and seize momentum. Sanchez has the arm to make any throw, and maybe this is the week to try some bombs to speedster David Clowney. New Orleans’ secondary is much improved but still far from a shutdown unit.
Prediction: well, I can’t go against my boys this week, though I think it’s a very difficult game and won’t view a loss (unless it’s total domination) as a major setback. Jets 28, Saints 27.