Following a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week, the New Orleans Saints (9-4) host the New York Jets (5-8) in week 15. New York experienced a critical setback last week, losing starting quarterback Josh McCown for the season with a broken hand. Second-year quarterback Bryce Petty will start in McCown’s place. On paper, this appears to be a very favorable matchup for New Orleans, but the Jets have hidden strengths that could present a challenge.
Week 15 New Orleans Saints Keys to Victory
Keep Up Current Pace on Offense
Kamara, along with fellow running back Mark Ingram lead a ground attack that ranks fourth in the NFL with 135.5 rushing yards per game. The Saints 4.9 yards per carry is the best rushing average in the league. Meanwhile, the Jets rank 21st in the league with 116.9 rushing yards allowed per game.
Through the air, the Saints put up 274.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the NFL. Quarterback Drew Brees is completing 71.7 percent of his passes, which is the highest percentage among NFL quarterbacks, and would break Sam Bradford‘s single-season record set in 2016. The Jets are allowing 230.3 passing yards per game (19th in the NFL), and have given up 25 touchdown passes, which is the fourth most league-wide.
If New Orleans just keeps doing what they’ve been doing on offense, they should have no trouble against an average Jets defense.
Prevent “Surprise” Performances by Jets Offense
One of the Jets problems is that they lack star-power on offense. Running back Matt Forte is probably their most recognizable name but is now in his 10th season and not as dangerous as he once was. The Jets most threatening offensive weapon is wide receiver Robby Anderson, who has 848 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Despite the lack of big names, this offense is still capable of producing big performances.
The Jets rushing attack has been both ineffective and great at different times this season. They’ve had less than 50 yards rushing in three games, yet they surpassed 150 rushing yards in three other games, including a 256-yard outing in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Saints are quietly vulnerable against the run. They’re allowing a fifth-worst 4.5-yard rushing average, and have surrendered 100 or more rushing yards in all but five games this season.
It’s unclear what effect Petty will have on this offense, but his numbers in 2016 were less than impressive. In six games last season (four starts), Petty threw three touchdown passes, seven interceptions, and finished the season with a 60.0 passer rating. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been valuable for the Jets on third downs, and he could be the safe target Petty needs in his first start of the season.
Key Stat: Completion Percentage
As you can see from some of the stats above, the Jets sit near or below average in many categories. Overall, they rank 23rd in total yardage and 21st in yards allowed, along with being 20th in scoring and 21st in points allowed. The one category where they excel is completion percentage, on both offense and defense.
Prior to his injury, McCown was having a solid season but he wasn’t putting up huge numbers. Among NFL quarterbacks, McCown ranks 17th in yards per game, and 16th in touchdown passes, yet his 67.3 percent completion percentage is the league’s third-best. Obviously a different quarterback will be playing against New Orleans, but if Petty can simply be efficient like McCown has been, the Jets offense should still have some life.
Defensively, the Jets have allowed opponents to complete 59.3 percent of their passes; the fifth lowest percentage among NFL defenses. This has been apparent in their surprising wins this season. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith completed 57.5 percent of his passes in a loss to the Jets, and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles posted a season-low 42.8 percent completion percentage against them. It’ll be interesting to see if Brees suffers a similar fate despite his historical pace in this category.