Barring the unforeseen, the New Orleans Saints should not encounter any major problems moving from Week 15 to Week 16 of the NFL season.
A simple Sunday stroll in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Black and Gold (9-4) seems in order, according to national oddsmakers, who give the visiting New York Jets little more than a puncher’s chance of pulling off a monumental upset.
Normally, I would caution the Saints to be wary of a “barking dog.” But the Jets (4-9) seem to have lost their bite under coach Todd Bowles whose team failed to show up in a 23-0 loss at Denver last week and now must play out the string with unproven Bryce Petty under center after losing starting quarterback Josh McCown to a broken hand.
They also may have lost their will to win based upon a startling admission from Jets’ offensive coordinator John Morton, who essentially threw in the towel early in the fourth quarter against the Broncos and called nothing but running plays.
“We didn’t have a chance (trailing 23-0),” Morton conceded, acknowledging the loss of McCown and the emergency insertion of Petty put them at a distinct disadvantage.
I seriously wonder if the Jets’ chances are any better Sunday in New Orleans, against a superior opponent in the Saints who envision themselves winning the NFC South, securing at the bare minimum a first-round home playoff game and eventually playing deep into the postseason.
With Carolina (9-4) and Atlanta (8-5) breathing down their necks, a misstep against the low-flying Jets would be disastrous and possibly prevent the Saints from realizing their lofty goals.
It bodes well that sensational rookie running back Alvin Kamara is expected to play Sunday after being cleared from the league’s concussion protocol. Fellow rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore is expected to be at full strength from an injured ankle after huffing and puffing his way through the Saints’ 20-17 loss in Week 14 at Atlanta.
Their presence is critical to the Saints’ stretch run.
Could the Saints possibly stumble and fall to the Jets? Sure, anything is possible.
But it won’t be because the Saints are overlooking the Jets in anticipation of next week’s Christmas Eve showdown against the Falcons inside the Superdome.
“What we control is right here in front of us — our preparation for this week and this game,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “It just happens to be that we also control our own destiny. In regards to where we end up at the end of the day, (if) we keep winning, then all of our hopes and dreams are alive.”
It sounds like a good plan.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who: New York Jets at New Orleans Saints
When: Noon, Sunday
Radio: 870 AM, 105.3 FM