Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#273 New Orleans Saints vs.
#274 New York Jets
Saturday, August 24, 2019 at 7:30pm EDT
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford
Written by Chris Altruda

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#273 New Orleans
#274 New York
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New Orleans Saints at New York Jets

When and Where: Saturday, Aug. 24, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J., 7:30 p.m. EDT.

Sam Darnold’s first handoff to Le’Veon Bell will not come until the Jets play their season opener, so the second-year quarterback looks to remain sharp with Ty Montgomery in the backfield as New York hosts the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.

Payton hoping Saints clean up mistakes in red zone

New Orleans rallied for a 19-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday as Taysom Hill engineered a second-half comeback from 14 points down. Hill, who is used as in the Saints’ version of the Wildcat formation, threw a pair of touchdown passes and directed a 9-play, 50-yard drive that was capped by Wil Lutz’s go-ahead 28-yard field goal with 1:05 to play.

“I felt like we were able to move the ball,” Hill told the Saints’ official website as he continues to vie for the No. 2 job with Teddy Bridgewater. “Things broke down and we were able to avoid negative plays. We had a sack but we were able to come back from that and convert on third down. I think having the ability to make plays and things like that, it just makes us more difficult to stop and avoid making negative plays.”

Hill is trying to show that he’s more than just a gimmicky quarterback. Some are starting to compare him to a right-handed version of Steve Young, who also played at BYU. Both are built like running backs and have outstanding speed.

“If you look back at Steve’s career, people don’t remember the time before he came to the NFL, you have a very athletic player that, I think, advanced when he got to San Francisco,” Payton said. “He always had great ability with his legs, so you’re trying to create visions for players, and that’s no different than how you’d evaluate how he see Teddy Bridgewater progressing and what we think he can be. That’s the business we’re in.”

Bridgewater completed just 5 of 12 passes for 40 yards with an interception, but he was also battling an illness. Coach Sean Payton admitted he should have taken Bridgewater out during the first half, but the signal-caller opted to gut it out to make sure Payton did not bring Drew Brees off the bench for any reason.

The 40-year-old Brees has yet to take a preseason snap, but the work he got in during the joint practices with the Chargers leading up to Sunday’s game was a suitable substitute.

“Yeah, I’d say for me it’s even more valuable,” Brees said after practice Thursday, “because I’m getting a lot more reps obviously in these practices than I would be getting in a preseason game. You script situations you do not always encounter every situation in a preseason game.”

It is possible he will play a series or two in this game, but Payton has yet to commit to any sort of rotation among his three quarterbacks. Injuries to back-up offensive linemen Chris Clark and Michael Ola during the win over the Chargers and their availability could play a role in that decision.

New Orleans played its first-string defense for the first three series against the Chargers, and rookie linebacker Kadeen Ellis has seen the bulk of snaps in both games learning his roles in the Saints’ 4-3 defense. Ellis, who played a team-high 38 snaps, only came off the field when New Orleans employed a nickel package.

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Darnold sharp again early for Jets

The decision to sit Bell, who signed a 4-year, $52 million free-agent deal in the offseason was made Sunday by first-year coach Adam Gase after the team’s Green and White scrimmage.

Gase cited Bell’s increased workload in practice as sufficient for Bell, who sat out all of last season in a protracted contract holdout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to that Bell had a staggering workload as a dual-threat back in Pittsburgh’s offense, clearing 400 combined touches in 2017 and more than 330 when he played in at least 12 games in both 2014 and 2016.

“We will be holding him until the season,” Gase said. “I was about 99% sure heading into the season, it was all based off how he practiced, conditioned, those types of things. We talked about it before we started. I told him, ‘We wanted to increase the reps last week,’ and we’re going to do the same thing this week where we just get him as game-ready as possible because he’s not really going to know until we get in a real game.”

The decision to hold out Bell has resulted in extended playing time for Montgomery, who had seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown in New York’s 22-10 victory at Atlanta last Thursday. Darnold was again sharp on the team’s opening drive, directing a 66-yard touchdown drive, and played three series total.

The defense, though, continues to be plagued by injuries and took a substantial blow in losing linebacker Avery Williamson for the season with a torn ACL. Gase took the blame for that since Williamson was the only defensive starter on the field late in the second quarter when the injury took place.

“Looking back on it, hindsight is 20/20. I wish I would have gotten him out of there a series earlier,” Gase told NorthJersey.com on Sunday. “But I’ve talked with him and it’s on me. I’m the one that has to make that call and get him out of there. But we didn’t and that’s a shame because he was having a good camp.”

The Jets signed Albert McClellan on Monday after putting Williamson on injured reserve, and Neville Hewitt was the first to receive first-string reps at practice Monday. New York also has personnel shortages at cornerback, where Trumaine Johnson is nursing a hamstring injury. Veteran Marcus Cooper was signed last week to help address those issues and should make his debut in this game.

Gase is hoping on players like C.J. Mosley to help change the culture of the defense.

“I think where our locker room is right now where guys are really working hard and trying to focus on creating the best team we can possibly be. The unselfishness here is outstanding,” Gase said. “Guys just, they work. It’s not about them, it’s about the team and I’ve been very impressed with how our players have gone about their business.”

Update: (8/23): The Jets are expected to play most of their starters at least a half. That includes center Ryan Kalil and safety Marcus Maye.

“We’re targeting to see if we can kind of get him rolling there for about a quarter,” Gase said of Kalil, who participated in team periods Sunday for the first time since joining the team. Aug. 1. “I really want Jonotthan (Harrison) to be with Sam (Darnold) as well. We’ll probably split that time.”

“I’m just excited about this week, going up against such a high-powered offense and team in general,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “What better team to face in the third preseason game than the Saints? I’m really excited about it.”

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This is little more than a lean given Brees’ status is uncertain, but the expectation is for Payton to harp on the red zone mistakes all week in practice to ensure better decision-making by Bridgewater and Hill. The Jets played better defensively in Atlanta, but facing a potent Saints offense without Williamson while having a beat-up secondary does not portend good things.

Prediction: Saints -3

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The hook is an annoyance, but as mentioned previously, the expectation is for the Saints to be better offensively all game. Additionally, Darnold likely will be extended to play the entire first half, which will give him chances beyond the scripted offense he has run to great effect.

That should result in more points for the Jets, who will likely need them to keep up with the Saints offense.

Prediction: OVER 42.5 points
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Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is a freelance sportswriter based in Chicago. He has worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Can be followed on Twitter at @AlTruda73.