The New Orleans Saints (5-7) have lost five straight entering Sunday's game against the New York Jets (3-9) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Alone, that sentence describes how badly the Saints want and need a victory. Here are few ways in which they can get one against the Jets:
1. AK IS OK: Running back Alvin Kamara missed the last four games for New Orleans. How big was his absence? Even though he hasn't played since Nov. 7, Kamara remains the Saints' leader in rushing yards (530), receptions (32) and touchdowns (seven). In other words, he's a monumental producer and presence for the Saints' offense. He's healthy and, frankly, New Orleans needs him to carry a heavy workload against the Jets, especially given the fact that his running mate, Mark Ingram II, will miss the game due to being on the Reserve/Covd-19 list. New York allows 133.4 rushing yards per game, third most in the league. Kamara and the offensive line, even in its diminished capacity due to injury, need to take advantage.
2. PUT A FINGER ON IT: Specifically, the Saints will rely on quarterback Taysom Hill to put his Mallet Finger (injured middle finger on his right – throwing – hand) on the football and be effective with it. Hill said he has worked through the process of finding how best he can make the throws he needs to make during practice, and believes he can make them during the game. But in truth, New Orleans might not need him to do that very much. The receiving corps, which hasn't been all that productive this season, lost its best weapon when Deonte Harty received his three-game suspension from the NFL. If the Jets are as susceptible to the run as the numbers indicate, and Hill (career-high 107 rushing yards against Dallas in the Saints' last game) and Kamara are available to grind it out that way, that might be the best avenue to leave MetLife Stadium with a win.
3. ATTACK ZACH: Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is a rookie. That doesn't guarantee success for the Saints' defense, but it's a more favorable position than the unit has seen the last six games. Wilson only is completing 58 percent of his passes, and has more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (six) while having been sacked 25 times in just eight games. New York allows 2.8 sacks per game, fifth most in the league. The issue for the Saints will be whether they can generate pressure without having to send linebackers Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander, or defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins, P.J. Williams or C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Defensive end Carl Granderson could factor heavily for New Orleans, which will be without Cameron Jordan, who is on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. Defensive end Marcus Davenport's return also is pretty big for the unit.
4. PLUG THE RUN: New Orleans' run defense was near impenetrable for the first nine games, when it allowed 73 yards per game. In the three games since, the Saints have allowed an average of 167 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Don't think the Jets don't know it. But if there's a get-right game for New Orleans' run defense, this could be it: New York rushes for 84.7 yards per game, third fewest in the NFL. That number has jumped to 109.7 per game in the last three, but New York's overall body of work suggests that the Saints may be primed to make this opponent one-dimensional. Wilson's mobility could factor into this area, but the Saints desperately need to take away the run totally, and not allow an explosive play as they did against the Cowboys.
5. HAPPY RETURNS: With Harris out due to suspension, the return duties could fall to receiver Marquez Callaway, who handled it well as a rookie last year in the games that Harris missed. Whether it's Callaway or Easop Winston, New Orleans really could use a nice return (or two) from special teams to shorten the field and set up an easy score.
ZATARAIN'S KEY INGREDIENTS RECIPE OF THE WEEK:
CHEESY STEAK STROGANOFF PASTA
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