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Saints vs. Jets: Five things to watch

Saints need to apply pressure on Jets rookie QB

1. DON'T EAT THE CHEESE. We'll borrow one of Coach Sean Payton's sayings for No. 1, his warning to players to not believe the hype when things are going well. The Saints are favored to win, especially against a Jets team that was humiliated in a 49-9 loss last Sunday in Cincinnati. But the Saints absolutely can't look ahead to next week's nationally televised, Sunday night game in New Orleans against Dallas. First, because it's difficult to win on the road in the NFL. Second, because the Jets are 3-1 at home and all three victories have been by a touchdown or less. If New York keeps it close, it'll have the confidence that it can pull out a win so expect the Saints to be fully attentive to that detail.
2. LOOSE THE HOUNDS. Jets quarterback Geno Smith, a rookie, has had a rough go of it. Even though New York is 4-4 – a pleasant surprise – and Smith has shown promise, he's still a rookie who has been sacked a whopping 28 times and has thrown 13 interceptions, third-most in the league. The Saints' defense has feasted on young quarterbacks so far (four sacks and three interceptions vs. Miami's Ryan Tannehill, four sacks and a pick against Buffalo's Thad Lewis) so the goal is to get to Smith, confuse him and take advantage of the inexperience. Keep in mind that New York is minus-12 in takeaway ratio, tied for worst in the league, while the Saints are plus-eight.
3. GROUND AND POUND. One of the things the Jets have done well offensively is run the ball, to the tune of 120.4 yards per game. That's 13th in the league. So they'll look to pound New Orleans on the ground and play keep-away from the Saints' offense. New York is great at stopping the run (77.9 rushing yards allowed per game, fewest in the league) but the Jets are lacking on the back end. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 15 touchdown passes, and just three interceptions, against New York.
4. STRIKE FIRST. Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Payton have expressed concern about New Orleans getting off to slow starts, especially in the last two games. Sunday will be a chance to rectify that situation. The Jets have allowed 55 points in the first quarter and 67 in the second, for an average of 15 points per game in the first half. So, statistically, New York should afford the Saints with an opportunity to get an early jump. If that's the case, you have to like New Orleans' chances – the Jets have been outscored 89-63 in the second half this season. New York averages just 9.5 points per game in losses, 26.3 in wins.
5. WAIT FOR IT. The Saints will have opportunities, but there will be times when discretion will be the wise choice. The Jets get to the quarterback – they have 25 sacks. So Brees, at times, might have to eat a play and live to fight another down. That's OK; it's a recipe that has served New Orleans well this season, especially given the way the defense has performed. But there will be chances for the Saints and they'll have to take advantage when they present themselves. The shot plays will open up because they always do.

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