THE GAME: The Jets (5-9) at the New Orleans Saints (9-4) at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. ET.
THE WEATHER: It's a dome, so I wouldn't worry about it.
WHAT IT MEANS: Well, technically the Jets are alive.
They are two games behind the Bills, Ravens and Chargers (who are all 7-6 and tied for the sixth seed in the AFC) with three games to play. So if the Jets lose and one of them wins, it's all over. But really, it's probably all over anyway - especially with Josh McCown (hand) on injured reserve. That means the rest of this season is about looking at QB Bryce Petty and seeing what he can do (and maybe Christian Hackenberg if the Jets wise up and give him a shot), and possibly evaluating coach Todd Bowles. He's impressed everyone with the way he's developed this young team over the course of the season and got them to mostly exceed expectations. But a few bad losses - like the 23-0 no-show in Denver last Sunday - hang over his head. A few more like those down the stretch and his job could be in serious jeopardy.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jets QB Bryce Petty. There is no one in the Jets organization that seems to think he has a shot to be the team's franchise quarterback of the future, especially after his unimpressive short stint as a starter last season. Still, he seems to be far more advanced than Christian Hackenberg and he certainly could make a case for the Jets to keep him around next year with a strong showing down the stretch - maybe as a backup, or maybe as the bridge to someone coming out of the draft. Who knows? But for Petty, he's playing for his career the rest of the way.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Saints RB Alvin Kamara vs. the Jets LBs. The Saints passing game is usually their most dangerous aspect, but this year they've added a rushing attack powered by their inside-outside duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
But Kamara, a Rookie of the Year candidate, is the one who gives defenses the most trouble because he's a two-way threat. He's only rushed 87 times for 608 yards, but that's an average of seven yards per carry and he has seven touchdowns. And he's also caught 62 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. His speed and versatility can put a tremendous amount of strain on a linebacking corps. The Jets linebackers have done a decent job this season, but they really haven't faced someone as dangerous as Kamara, who becomes even more dangerous when the creative Saints scheme gets him isolated with one of those linebackers one-on-one.
THE PICK: There is absolutely no place in the league worse for a young quarterback to be making his first start of the year than the Superdome. The noise and the energy in there when the Saints are going good is indescribable, and it's like a tidal wave when the Saints get on a roll and the fans smell blood. So it's really almost impossible to see Bryce Petty having much success in this environment. Jets offensive coordinator John Morton, a former Saints assistant, probably knows the best thing he can do is run a ball-control offense all day long and try to keep the Saints off the field anyway.
As for the Jets' defense … Well, even they've admitted this week that they don't really know where to start when they think about stopping - or just slowing down - the Saints offense, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL (400.7 yards per game), No. 4 in rushing (135.5), No. 5 in passing (265.2) and third in scoring (28.5). And their scoring average at home is actually 31.2. Given the Jets' showing last week in Denver (or non-showing) and the fact that McCown is out and he's been the engine of their offense all season, it's really, really hard to find a way to imagine the Jets staying in this game for very long. Even if it's competitive early, it almost certainly won't be by the end. … Saints 38, Jets 10.
MY RECORD: 6-7
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING JETS TO WIN: 2-4
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING JETS TO LOSE: 4-3