BY NICK ST. DENIS
The New York Jets have yet to string together consecutive wins or losses through eight games. They'll be hard-pressed to maintain that pattern with the high-powered New Orleans Saints coming to town.
Drew Brees has been Drew Brees, and in one offseason, the Saints' defense has made one of the most dramatic turnarounds in NFL history from a production standpoint. That pairing has led New Orleans to a 6-1 start and a strong grasp on the NFC South.
Gang Green picked up some major steam two weeks ago with an overtime victory over the New England Patriots but put up a stinker last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. We're still trying to figure out just who these Jets are, though they're writing the exact blueprint for what being a .500 team entails.
When the Jets have the ball:
The Saints' defense was historically bad last year. This season, New Orleans ranks near the top of the league in most statistical categories under the leadership services of Jets coach Rex Ryan's brother, Rob. The Saints are giving up just 17.1 points per game thanks to exceptional work on third down and timely turnovers. Geno Smith and the Jets' offense will need their best game Sunday to keep pace with the Saints, and even that may not be good enough. Their ability to stay on the field could be the team's best defense.
When the Saints have the ball:
Brees likes to throw the ball downfield and break the will of his opponents with big plays, as he's averaging more than four completions of 20 yards or more per game. Taking away that big-play potential will be a daunting task, as Brees does a great job spreading the ball around and has some major-league targets to choose from, namely tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Marques Colston. Running back Darren Sproles is also extremely dangerous out of the backfield and a big part of the passing game. The Jets will have to send lots of pressure at Brees but must be strategic in doing so, or he'll burn Gang Green all afternoon with quick throws.
Chris Ivory. The Jets' bruising tailback says he doesn't look at this particular contest against his former team with a keener eye, but that's probably a lie. Ivory will be out to prove to the Saints he's capable of a primary back role, and his role will be a big one for at least one week. Whether or not Ivory can consistently churn out chunks of yards and first downs will decide the time of possession, and the Jets want to keep the ball out of Brees' hands for as long as possible.
The Jets are 5-6 against the Saints and 1-5 in the teams' last six meetings. Gang Green most recently fell to New Orleans in 2009, a game that officially flipped turnover machine Mark Sanchez's switch to "on." New York is 2-4 against the Saints at home.
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