Thanks to Rob Ryan at defensive coordinator, the New Orleans Saints (6-1) have been recognized as one of the better defensive teams in the league. Yielding just 17 points per contest coupled with a highly motivated group, it's been a major turnaround in comparison to the 2012-13 season where the Saints were last in the league in total defense. Fired by Dallas after last season, Ryan has installed a 3-4 scheme focused on getting to the quarterback and forcing mistakes. The Saints are fourth in the NFL with a plus-eight turnover differential and lead the NFC with 3.4 sacks per game.
Of course they haven't missed a beat on offense averaging 28 points per game, and Drew Brees (183/271 2290 19 TD 5 INT) remains on of the league's elite QB's with a 109.2 overall rating. Mastering the quick 5 step drop out of the pocket, he'll be in for another huge day against the inconsistent NY Jets (4-4). Jimmy Graham (40-630 8 TD) and Darren Sproles (36-366 1 TD) remain his top targets while injecting another weapon into the receiving arsenal as of late in Kenny Stils (23-327 3 TD). Marques Colston (40-342 1 TD) has been battling a knee injury and is listed as questionable this afternoon. Brees could certainly use more efficiency from the seldomly used running game, which led by Pierre Thomas (73-253 3.5) has run for just 597 total yards and 3 scores thus far approaching the halfway point.
Led by Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette, both are responsible for 10 of the 24 New Orleans sacks this season. Thanks to the 3-4 the Saints have dominated their opposition this season with a much improved secondary and an even better pass rush. That doesn't bode well for Geno Smith (150/253 1882 8 TD 13 INT) who one week looks like a world beater and the next performs like a troubled rookie. That probably sums up the best reason why the Jets have alternated their wins and losses week to week. It's essential that Smith makes better decisions in the passing game especially when it comes to avoiding turnovers. Jeremy Kerley (41-346 2 TD) and Stephen Hill (23-340 1 TD) are his top targets, but Smith has been without veteran Santonio Holmes for the last 5 weeks due to a hamstring injury. Of course we know how dangerous Smith can be with his mobility (30-154 5.1 2 TD), like New Orleans the Jets need more from their running game. Bilai Powell (100-385 3.9 1 TD) has just 159 rushing yards over the last 5 games. Chris Ivory (74-230 3.1) also struggled in a 40 point loss at Cincinnati in week 8 as both combined for just 30 yards on 16 carries (1.9).
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. The Jets best defense on Sunday will be time-consuming plays on offense. The Saints are going to stack the box to stop the run and it will be up to 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 and New Orleans has just too many weapons for Brees for gang green to overcome.