The New Orleans Saints return to game action this Sunday, hosting the 5-8 New York Jets. The Saints have not played a game since Dec. 7, when they dropped a controversial 20-17 decision in Atlanta. New Orleans (9-4) still controls it's own destiny in the NFC playoff race, and even has a chance for a first round playoff bye, but must rebound from two losses in their last three games.
The New Orleans offense will attempt to get back to a more balanced attack against a low ranked Jets defense, and strengthen a foothold towards a playoff berth in the NFC. Let's have a look at how the Saints offense matches up against the Jets defense this Sunday.
SAINTS PASS OFFENSE vs. JETS PASS DEFENSE
New Orleans ranks 5th in passing offense, and Drew Brees has averaged nearly 275 yards per game. Wide receiver Michael Thomas has established himself as one of the premier intermediate range weapons, and has had an outstanding second season, with 85 catches for 992 yards and 4 scores. Rookie running back Alvin Kamara has proven as good as advertised as a pass receiver, catching 62 passes for 639 yards and 4 touchdowns, second only to Thomas on the team. The Saints offensive line has protected their quarterback well, allowing only 17 sacks, and the 38-yr. old Brees still has the athletic ability to move away from pressure when necessary.
Despite the solid numbers, the Saints passing game no longer feels like the force that it's been since the 2006 arrival of Brees and head coach Sean Payton. Brees has completed nearly 72% of his passes, while throwing just 6 interceptions, but has thrown just 19 touchdown passes, on pace for his lowest in a season as a Saint. Granted, this is the best running game Brees has had since he's been in New Orleans, but the team has noticeably struggled in 3rd down passing, as well as making plays down the field. The Saints have just a 38.4% conversion rate on 3rd downs, ranking only 18th in the league, and a far cry from their NFL-leading 48% conversion rate a year ago. The team's passing game limitations were on full display a week ago, during a "loss" in Atlanta, when Kamara was knocked out of the game on the first series, then later in the game when Thomas was in and out of the lineup. The other Saints receivers just aren't getting consistent separation or proving to be reliable weapons in the passing game if Thomas or Kamara are limited. Veteran Ted Ginn Jr. is having his best year as a pro, with 46 receptions for 678 yards and 3 scores, but the Saints need more production from wideouts Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead, who have combined for only 26 receptions and 3 touchdowns.
The Jets have allowed 230 yards per game through the air, ranking 19th in the league, and only three teams have allowed more than the 25 touchdown passed that the New York defense has surrendered. The Jets used their top two picks in this year's draft to re-tool the safety position with 1st round pick Jamal Adams and 2nd rounder Marcus Maye, and both are among the team's top tacklers. They also added veterans Buster Skrine and Morris Claibourne through free agency to try and improve the cornerback position. The four players have combined for 4 of the team's 10 interceptions, and have been inconsistent all season. Just as inconsistent is the Jets pass rush, which has generated 26 sacks on the year, despite the presence of three former number 1 draft choices in their front seven. Ends Muhammad Wilkerson (3.5 sacks) and Leonard Williams (2) are both big bodied athletes that are still able to disrupt opponent's blocking schemes, and are complimented by former Carolina Panthers end Kony Ealy in New York's 3-4 scheme. Athletic inside linebackers Demario Davis (a team leading 4.5 sacks) and Darron Lee (3 sacks) are underrated playmakers that bring added pressure from inside blitzes.
SAINTS RUSH OFFENSE vs. JETS RUSH DEFENSE
New Orleans 4th ranked running attack is perhaps it's most powerful since Deuce McAllister was in a Saints uniform. The Saints average over 135 yards per game on the ground, and lead the league with 19 rushing touchdowns. They are paced up front by versatile and athletic offensive line that opens initial lanes as well as creates additional running room at the second level of the defense. Mark Ingram leads the way on the ground, with 971 yards and 9 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Alvin Kamara has proven to be a better runner than many had projected when the Saints drafted him this spring, rushing for 608 yards, 7 touchdowns, and an eye-popping 7 yards per carry. He and Ingram are each among the league leaders in yards from scrimmage, and have given the Saints the best 1-2 punch in the NFL. Kamara is expected to return to the lineup after suffering a concussion in Atlanta last Thursday, and is still among the top favorites for Rookie of the Year.
The Jets run defense ranks 21st in the league, and they have struggled to hold up at the point of attack, giving up over 140 yards rushing in six games this season. Linebackers Demario Davis and Darron Lee are the team's leading tacklers, but need the defensive linemen in front of them to tie up blockers so they can roam.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Saints have the league's top offense in yards, averaging over 400 yards per game. They have been most effective when they get all 3 of their best weapons, Thomas, Ingram, and Kamara, involved early and often. The Saints have averaged 28.5 points per game, and will look to get a Jets defense that has surrendered nearly 24 points per game on their heels early. Keep a watchful eye on the Saints complimentary weapons, who have not been able to consistently threaten the opposition, something exposed in the team's game against the Falcons last week.
Which one of the Saints secondary weapons do you look to step up into a more pivotal role?
This poll is closed