The New York Jets head into their Week 9 clash with the New Orleans Saints at a very interesting point in their season. They are 4-4 through the first half, and they have exceeded every preseason expectation. The Jets are right in the middle of the playoff race, and they have a favorable schedule down the stretch.
However, the Jets just got destroyed 49-9 by the Cincinnati Bengals, and now they must play the Saints, one of the best teams in the NFL. A loss like last week’s can be damaging to a team’s confidence, especially a team as young as the Jets. The Jets’ offense was once again completely ineffective, and they face a huge challenge in the much improved Saints’ defense.
The Saints’ defensive coordinator is Rob Ryan, brother of Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan. Rob uses the same attacking principles that Rex does, and the Saints rank 10th in the NFL in sacks and are tied for 9th in takeaways. This doesn’t bode well for the Jets, who rank 30th in sacks allowed and are tied for 28th in giveaways.
It is for this reason that the Jets have to be able to get their run game going on Sunday. The Jets are 13th in the league in rush offense and the Saints are 19th in run defense, so this isn’t a huge advantage. However, it is a much better matchup for the Jets than allowing Geno Smith to drop back 30+ times and face the Saint’s pass rush.
The run game was a disaster against the Bengals (to be fair, so was everything else), with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combing for a pathetic 30 yards on 16 carries. However, the run game was key in several of the Jets’ wins this season, including their upset of the New England Patriots. That game should be the blueprint for the Jets’ attack in this one, as a strong rushing attack will allow them to control the ball and the clock while keeping Drew Brees on the sideline.
Ivory is facing the team that he played the first three years of his career for, and although he has downplayed that this week, he has to be extra motivated. The Jets need to feed him and Powell the ball as much as they as possible and try to overpower the Saints. Nick Mangold, Willie Colon and Austin Howard make a up powerful right side of the line that is excellent in the run game. The Jets need to let these three linemen lead the way, and they could find quite a bit of success running behind them.
The Jets can’t put this game on Smith’s shoulders, because the Saints’ defense runs the type of aggressive, blitzing scheme that inexperienced quarterbacks struggle with. Smith is also without Santonio Holmes and Jeff Cumberland for this game, further hampering the passing attack. Marty Mornhinweg has shown that he is will to stick with the run this season, and he needs to do the same thing on Sunday. The path to success for the Jets is on the ground, and Ivory and Powell must deliver.