THE WEEKEND'S BEST
New Orleans @ N.Y. Jets
The time: 1 p.m. (all times EST)
The line: Saints by 6
The story: People wonder how Geno Smith beats these guys, and the answer is: He doesn't. If the Jets plan to pull the upset -- and, remember, they haven't lost consecutive games all season -- they don't do it with Smith; they do it with their running game and defense.
First of all, the Jets have the backs to overcome the mistake-prone Smith. Second, the Saints can't stop the run, allowing a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry. So ride Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, throw in assorted scrambles by Smith and -- presto! -- you keep Drew Brees and Co. off the field and maybe, just maybe, shock the Bayou.
Even if that doesn't happen, the Jets can expect more fireworks from Brees ... not just because he loves to throw deep but because that's where New York is vulnerable -- and we call Andy Dalton to the witness stand. Besides, nobody runs well vs. the Jets. They not only allow 77.9 yards rushing per game, best in the NFL; they've allowed only 12 runs of 10 or more yards, also tops in the league.
Granted, the Saints are one of the game's elite teams, and the Jets aren't, but New York can't possibly be as rotten as it was a week ago when it hemorrhaged 49 points. Plus, Smith is a different quarterback after losses, with six touchdowns, three interceptions and a 3-0 record.
Something to consider: Since 2006, the Saints have the league's second-best road record (35-24). Only New England (44-16) is better. The Saints are 2-1 away from home this season.
THREE OTHER GAMES WORTH WATCHING
Baltimore @ Cleveland
The time: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Ravens by 2 1/2
The story: This is where we discover who or what the Baltimore Ravens are. They spent the bye week reshaping their roster, cutting veterans Marcus Spears and Michael Huff, and now they try to recover from a two-game bender that has them 3-4 for the first time in the John Harbaugh era.
The good news is they draw Cleveland, a club they've beaten 11 straight times. The bad news is they draw Cleveland. Though the Browns are 3-5, they're resilient, taking Kansas City to the mat last weekend before tapping out ... in Kansas City, no less. Now they're home, where they won two of their last three, and feeling pretty good about their chances.
"The Ravens aren't the Ravens of old," Browns cornerback Joe Haden said.
Well, no kidding. Unfortunately for Joe, the Browns are.
Cleveland starts Jason Campbell again, and it should. He looked downright decent against the Chiefs, and while he didn't get the win he had the Browns in the game until the end. Campbell's mission is beating a rested Ravens team coming off a bye, and good luck. Since Harbaugh took over in 2008, Baltimore hasn't lost a game immediately following a weekend off.
Something to consider: The Ravens have a plus-13 turnover differential during their 11-game winning streak over the Browns.
Pittsburgh @ New England
The time: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Patriots by 6 1/2
The story: Normally, this game tops the marquee, but there's nothing normal about what's going on with either of these teams. The Steelers stink, with their latest loss vs. Oakland, while the Patriots struggle with lesser opponents. OK, so they're 6-2, but look closely at that record: Three of the victories were by a combined eight points and a fourth was achieved after overcoming a 17-3 third-quarter deficit.
The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger made headlines this week by saying Tom Brady is the game's best quarterback ... and duh. The earth is round, too. Brady's record speaks for itself, with the guy going to the Super Bowl five times, winning three, and reaching the playoffs in all but one season he finished.
Anyway, Brady is everything to the Patriots, and lately he's not been himself -- with two touchdown passes the last four games. He used to throw two TDs in four minutes, but this is a different New England team -- with unknown wide receivers, an offensive line that just lost starter Sebastian Vollmer and a defense that subtracted its top two players. In short, New England doesn't have much around Brady, and it shows.