The New Orleans Saints face off against the New York Jets for the 13th time in franchise history this afternoon. The series history is tied at 6 victories on each side, with the Jets holding a 3-2 series edge in games played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, site of today's contest.
The first meeting between the two occurred on December 3, 1972 in Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York. The Saints defense held New York out of the end zone on the day, and limited Jets quarterback Joe Namath to just 21 completions in 40 attempts. The Jets edged the Saints, 18-17, on the strength of six field goals from kicker Bobby Howfield. The first time the Saints and Jets played in New Orleans was almost five years later to the day, on December 4th, 1977, a 16-13 Jets victory. The Saints would lose once more to the Jets in the Dome before getting their first home victory in this series, on October 15th, 1989. Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert found wide receivers Eric Martin and Lonzell Hill for a combined 10 catches, 214 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 29-14 New Orleans win. It would be the first of three straight Saints victories against the Jets, with the next two being shutout wins on the road.
Perhaps the single most unforgettable moment in the series between the Saints and Jets took place during a Sunday night nationally televised game on November 5th, 2001 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The defending NFC West champion Saints had gotten off to a 4-2 start, but were locked in a defensive struggle with the 4-3 Jets. The Saints were trailing 16-9, but had driven inside the Jets 10-yd. line with a little over a minute left in the game. New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks rolled left, and was taken down by a group of New York defenders. Jets safety Damien Robinson grabbed Brooks' facemask, and twisted his head sideways in a gruesome looking play. Saints All-Pro right tackle Kyle Turley immediately came to defense of his quarterback, ripping Robinson's helmet off and famously throwing it down the field. The fight resulted in penalties and Turley's ejection, and the Saints would lose the game, but the play remains one of the indelible images in franchise history.
The Jets again visited New Orleans on October 4th, 2009. Both teams came into the contest undefeated at 3-0, and defense would dominate the day. Although the high powered New Orleans offense was held to 343 net yards and one offensive touchdown, the Saints defense shined brighter than the Jets on this day. A 99-yd. interception return for a touchdown by Saints safety Darren Sharper early in the second quarter short-circuited one New York drive. The defense scored again later in the quarter, when defensive end Remi Ayodele recovered Jets quarterback Marc Sanchez' fumble in the end zone for another Saints touchdown. New Orleans forced 4 turnovers on the day, sacked Sanchez 4 times, and held the Jets to 270 total yards in a dominating 24-10 victory.
Only one time has a team scored more than 30 points in the history between these two, a 31-28 Jets victory in 1983. This could very well be another low scoring affair. The Jets offense ranks 23rd in the NFL, and averages just 20 points per game, while the New Orleans defense is one of the most improved units in the league. New York will also be playing an inexperienced quarterback, Bryce Petty, after losing starter Josh McCown for the season last week. The Saints will likely pressure Petty heavily, hoping to force mistakes, while the New Orleans offense will look to control the ball with a versatile and balanced attack against a Jets defense that will be without one of it's best players, Muhammad Wilkerson. The Saints defense has had a disturbing trend of giving up yards and points early, and they must be careful not to overlook a Jets team that has played tough opponents close all season. The Saints have not played a game in ten days, so it also wouldn't be a complete surprise if they did start a little slowly, but expect an angry bunch that looks to solidify a playoff position against a team that they overwhelm on paper.
PREDICTION: Saints 28, Jets 6