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By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - This time last fall, it was the NFL's Blowhard Bowl.
After eight weeks in 2012, coach Rex Ryan's New York Jets were two games under .500, coming off an ugly 21-point loss to a division rival and en route to the first losing season in the four microphone-friendly years of the Buddy Ryan progeny's reign.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's Cowboys had also lost more than they'd won, were licking wounds from a home loss to the New York Giants and had allowed 27 or more points in four of the seven games they'd played.
Not exactly the scenario of choice for the league's two most-outspoken twin brothers.
But this year, the actions are closer to backing up the talk.
Rex's Jets have been a pleasant, albeit maddeningly inconsistent, surprise, winning four of their first eight games on a 2013 schedule many assumed wouldn't yield that many Ws as a whole.
And though he was jettisoned from Dallas after one disappointing year, Rob has managed to land on his feet and has spent his return year making a long-porous team downright stingy.
His New Orleans Saints enter the Week 9 road test at Met Life Stadium as the fourth-best scoring defense in the league, a season after they were 31st in the same category; and the 12th-best in yardage allowed, a year after they were dead last in the NFL.
It's a drastic departure from recent tradition in the Big Easy, where even the 2009 Super Bowl championship team was only 25th best in total defense.
Linebacker Curtis Lofton, who leads New Orleans in tackles with 55, said it's no mystery why the same players are producing significantly different results.
"People think that those players that were playing in that scheme were terrible," he said. "So you get a new defensive coordinator that comes in and plays to the strengths of players in this locker room, and guys are playing out there confident, playing fast, like it's a whole different team."
Undaunted by the Cowboys disaster, Ryan came to town and championed a 3-4 defensive alignment whose focus was getting to the quarterback and creating havoc. It's paid off handsomely through seven games - in which the Saints have lost just once - with the team ranked fourth in the league in turnover margin (plus-8) and tops in the NFC in sacks (3.4 per game).
"It's a highly motivated group," Ryan said.
This week, it's a trouble making coach's dream: a rookie QB who's thrown 13 interceptions in eight NFL starts. But that rookie, New York's Geno Smith, insists his confidence has taken no hits in spite of the early-stage ups and downs.
"I'm the type of guy that's always going to put it behind me because you can't get it back," Smith said. "It's come and gone. As bad as I want to take some of those throws back, to have some of those plays back, you can't get them back."
Smith, who's been sacked 28 times, has seven touchdowns and four interceptions in the Jets' four wins while posting a 93.7 passer rating. In the four losses, he's thrown one TD, seven interceptions and compiled an ugly 51.7 rating.
New York has alternated wins and losses through eight weeks and comes into the Saints contest off the ugliest loss of the season - a 49-9 debacle in which Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton threw five touchdown passes and the defense was gashed for 402 total yards.
The Bengals also returned two Smith TDs for touchdowns. In fact, things were so comprehensively bad that the Jets skipped their routine Monday film review session and went straight to game prep for New Orleans.
Against the Saints, they'll face another productive passer in Drew Brees, who's second in the NFC in yardage (2,290) and leads the conference in both passer rating (109.2) and TD passes (19).
He hit rookie Kenny Stills three times last week - in a 35-17 defeat of Buffalo - for 129 yards and two scores, including a 69-yarder.
"I thought it would be more beneficial just to move on to New Orleans, get a start on them," Ryan said, "and that's exactly what we did."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Airing it Out.
It's hardly a news flash to say Brees is a prolific passer, but he's particularly devastating when throwing the ball down the field -- completing 39.5 percent of attempts beyond 20 yards for eight touchdowns and just one interception. Against a Jets defense that's struggled to contain teams with more than one receiving threat, he could flourish in a big way.
Jets running back Chris Ivory was a weapon, but not a frequently used one, while playing 24 games in three seasons with New Orleans. Ivory galloped for more than 100 yards while carrying the ball 34 times against New England two weeks ago, and would figure to want to get a heavy workload against a Saints team that's 20th-best in the league against the run.
For Jets fans frustrated by the team's comprehensive inconsistency, this could be the week you've (sort of) been waiting for.
Rather than continuing the flip-flop that's been evident since the opener in September, the poor matchups here seem destined to make it two straight flops for Gang Green, thanks mainly to Brees and his full complement of targets.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Saints 31, Jets 18
10/31 13:02:41 ET
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