Top storyline: Ryan twins square off for the 10th time
Make no mistake about it, this is not the way New York Jets coach Rex Ryan wanted to stand across a football field from his twin brother, Rob, the New Orleans Saints’ first-year defensive coordinator.
For the 10th time in their coaching careers, which has spanned more than half of their nearly 51 years on this planet, Rex and Ryan will put their close family ties on hold for 31/2 hours or so and try to get the best of each other when the Jets and Saints meet in MetLife Stadium.
The problem for Rex: The Jets’ fifth-year coach doesn’t relish having to face his brother — especially with his team coming off a 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The other problem for Rex: His 4-4 team has to go against a Saints’ offense led by quarterback Drew Brees.
Rex Ryan said after his team was crushed by the Bengals that if they play that way this week Brees will “break every record known to man against us.”
The bad thing is he won’t get any help defending Brees and his offense from brother Rob, who’s trying to beat Rex for the first time in the NFL.
At least the meeting was a nice distraction for Rex Ryan after last week’s loss went down as his second-largest margin of defeat since taking the Jets job in 2009.
When their teams have met over the years, the twins have taken turns making fun of each other — like Wednesday when Rex held up a picture of his brother with a pained expression on his face after the Saints’ only loss of the season.
For the record, Rex holds a 4-0 edge in their NFL matchups — the most recent in 2011 — while Rob has a 3-2 lead from their days in college coaching.
About the Jets
The Jets have had the ultimate up-and-down, rollercoaster ride of a season in reaching the halfway point of their schedule with a 4-4 record.
After winning their opener in dramatic fashion against the Tampa Bay Bucs, they’ve alternated losing and winning in the succeeding seven weeks.
But they’re definitely feeling the sting of their most recent defeat — a 49-9 pounding at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.
The disturbing thing for coach Rex Ryan is that it hasn’t been very pretty, in victory or defeat, for the Jets.
Their four victories have come by a combined 13 points — which includes wins of one, two and three points — with the latter coming in overtime.
On the other hand, they haven’t exactly been competitive in three of their four setbacks — losing them by a total of 78 points. The other loss was a three-pointer at New England — which is certainly no disgrace.
Ryan said he expects his team to play a lot better against the Saints than it did last week. He can only hope.
Key matchup: Cam Jordan vs. Jets RT Austin Howard
Playing either left or right end, Cameron Jordan has provided the biggest push for a Saints defense that has 24 sacks in seven games — just six sacks fewer than they had in 16 games a year ago.
Jordan recorded one of the Saints’ four sacks of Bills quarterback Thad Lewis last Sunday, and this week he and his teammates face another youngster in Jets’ rookie Geno Smith.
Jordan will at times be battling the 6-foot-7, 333-pound Howard, who held Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams without a sack Sept. 22.
But the Saints will likely bring a lot of heat from elsewhere as well considering the Jets have allowed 29 sacks — with Smith going down 28 times.
X factor: Saints RB Darren Sproles
In a 35-17 win against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, Sproles, for one of the few times since signing with the Saints in 2011, was not a factor.
He certainly was far from the player who has created many a matchup problem for the past 21/2 seasons.
Sproles, a scatback who set an NFL record for all-purpose yards two years ago, did not run the ball against the Bills and had zero yards on four receptions.
With the Jets leading the NFL in rushing defense at 77.9 yards per game, it’ll probably be tough to run, considering the Saints rank 25th in rushing and average a scant 3.4 yards per carry.
But Sproles may be able to loosen the Jets up at least a little with his ability to get out into open space on pass plays — especially if tight end Jimmy Graham gets most of the attention.
So getting Sproles, who averaged 77.4 yards from scrimmage in his first 35 games with the Saints, more involved in the game plan this week will likely be a big priority for Sean Payton.
Three and out
1 DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!: The Saints’ aggressive defensive unit has allowed just 13 points in the third quarter of their seven games — the lowest total in the NFL going into Week 9. The Buccaneers are next in giving up 20 points, also in seven games.
2 CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN: The Jets are tied for the worst turnover differential in the league at minus-12 after giving the ball up 17 times in their eight games. To compound the problem, they have just five takeaways — with only three by interception.
3 MEADOWLANDS MAGIC?: The Saints have won the past three games they’ve played the Jets in the New Jersey Meadowlands, just across the Hudson River from New York City. They won in 1992 and 1995, both by shutout, then prevailed 21-19 in 2005.