It’s Week 15, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. This week, Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation answers 5 quick questions about the upcoming matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets.
What is expected of QB Bryce Petty this week? He'll get plenty of first team reps in practice, but what do you realistically expect from him against the Saints?
It is very hard to expect much of anything from Petty. In Denver last week, while it was as difficult a situation you could possibly throw a young backup into (blowout, on the road, elite defense, badly struggling O-Line) and he deserves some slack, he did not look ready. He was wildly inaccurate, making predetermined decisions, and showed sloppy footwork, many of the same issues that led him to an inefficient finish to 2016. With a full week of preparation, he should be at least somewhat better than last week, but starting his first game on the road against a solid defense will be a very tough task.
A Broncos offense that has struggled to move the ball all season had little issue last week against the Jets. How do you expect the Saints to tackle the New York defense on Sunday?
The Jets' cornerback group has become a liability. In the first half of the year, #1 CB Morris Claiborne was playing very strongly, shutting down even Julio Jones. He missed one game with a foot injury, and since returning has been a liability who has been devoured by opposing top receivers regularly. Beyond Claiborne, the Jets are thin at the corner position. Darryl Roberts (#2) and Buster Skrine (slot) have each had very rough years. Expect the Saints to go to work in the intermediate to deep areas of the field.
Likewise, the Jets offense struggled against the vaulted Broncos defense that had otherwise struggled in 2017. If you're Offensive Coordinator John Morton, how do you gameplan to attack the Saints defense?
Morton needs to manufacture some offense to ease Petty into the game. One example was Petty's first play of the Denver game, where a wide open pass to the fullback which was created through clever route design. The Jets run game is tough to rely on with the struggles of their offensive line. They should keep the game from getting out of reach early with a safe gameplan reliant on the screen game and easy reads. It might be overly conservative, but that's probably their best shot playing under Bryce Petty in his first start of the year.
Which player that Saints fans might not have heard of do you expect to make an impact in this game?
Second-round rookie safety Marcus Maye has not gotten the fanfare of first-rounder Jamal Adams, but Maye has outplayed Adams and been arguably the most consistent, perhaps best overall, Jet. You might not even notice him that much on gameday, but that is why he is so good. Playing a lot of deep center field, Maye handles his responsibilities with excellent consistency, helping the Jets to mostly fix their defensive big play issues that plagued them last year. Though not an electric playmaker just because of the nature of his role, he makes some very impressive reads from his deep position flying in to stop plays short of the sticks on both passing and running plays.
Final predictions for the game? Score?
I'll be honest. I'd be absolutely shocked if the Jets made this a game. If they were at home it would be a different story, even under Petty. The Jets have been extremely competitive in New Jersey, going 4-3 with every game but one coming against a winning team and all three losses by one score (to ATL, CAR, and NE). On the road, they're 1-5, losing three of the five by more than one score and the one win an ugly one in Cleveland. Only one (BUF) of their road opponents even have a winning record, as the Saints will be their toughest challenge yet. Having not shown competence on the road yet, and playing under a highly unproven young quarterback, I think the Jets go down by a score of something like 28-10.
Thank-you, Michael, for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Michael and the work the rest of the writers are doing over at Gang Green Nation. You can follow Gang Green Nation on Twitter @GangGreenNation, and as always you can follow me @dunnellz.