National Football League
             === It's Rex vs. Rob as Jets host Saints in Jersey ===
 ( - 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
 Not exactly the scenario of choice for the league's two most-outspoken twin
 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
 "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
 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."
 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.
 Exacting Revenge.
 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
 11/01 09:08:52 ET