The New Orleans Saints (6-1) will make the trip to Metlife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the New York Jets (4-4). The Saints will look to build off their momentum after defeating another AFC East opponent last week in the Buffalo Bills while the Jet will look to bounce back after being blown out by Cincinnati Bengals. This game will be a family reunion of sorts as twin brothers Rob and Rex Ryan will square off. This game will be crucial to the Saints as they will face a brutal stretch of game after this week. Here are some players and matchups to focus on this week.
Stopping former Saint Chris Ivory will be key in this matchup
Former Saint and current Jet running back Chris Ivory will be facing his old team for the first time since being traded to Jets on draft day in exchange for a pick that eventually turned in rookie defensive tackle John Jenkins. Oddly enough, Jenkins will be especially pivotal against a team that loves to play ground and pound. This strategy has been taken by many teams and has been successful as the Saints have been leaky against the run.
Expect Ivory, along with Bilal Powell, to tote the rock a good bit against the Saints as the Jets will try to protect Geno Smith who is coming off a poor showing against the Bengals. If the Saints can get a lead, the run game will essentially stop itself, but if that doesn’t happen immediately the defense must try to make the inexperience, and at times unstable, Smith beat them.
The Jets defense has been formidable, as it always has been under Rex Ryan. Antonio Cromartie is one of the keys to the units success. The Saints struggled against the New England Patriots when they were able to put Aqib Talib on Jimmy Graham and take him out of the game.
The Jets can do the same thing with Cromartie who, similar to Talib, is an athletic, strong corner. It will be interesting to see where Cromartie lines up. His versatility will allow him to either guard Graham, Kenny Stills, or Marques Colston. Cromartie can really hinder what the Saints like to do in many ways and it will be interesting to see if Sean Payton decides to attack him or throw around him.
3) Charles Brown vs Muhammad Wilkerson
Muhammad Wilkerson has been under the radar this season and has really come into his own. He has racked up 7 sacks this season and has been a pleasant surprise for Rex Ryan’s defense. The Saints had trouble blocking the very athletic front of the Bills which featured Mario Williams. Wilkerson is not Williams, but his athleticism will pose similar problems. It will be up to Charles Brown and Zach Strief to do a better job of keep Drew Brees upright against Wilkerson, Calvin Pace, and the other pass rushers.
4) X Factor: Garrett Hartley
Garrett Hartley missed 2 field goals including an inexplicable miss from 38 yards outs. Luckily for the Saints, those two misses didn’t haunt them in the big picture. However, against the Jets on the road, the Saints can expect to be held to field goals by a very stout Jets defense. Hopefully, the two misses were just a hiccup for Hartley. On the other hand, time and again kickers have shown to be fragile and all it takes is a couple of misses to send them spiraling. Keep an eye on Hartley and see if he is able to bounce back and get back to being an accurate kicker.