The Jets edged Carolina on the road 13-12 in a win without an offensive touchdown, but one that nonetheless lifted them to 4-3, a half-game behind AFC East-leading Miami (4-2).
"Sometimes you have to win ugly," says VINNY TESTAVERDE.
The standings don't count style points. The Saints pushed arch NFC West-rival St. Louis from their perch Sunday as the NFL's lone unbeaten team by coming back from an 18-point deficit on the road to win 34-31.
It should be a ground-shaking meeting of the NFL's conference-leading running backs. CURTIS MARTIN leads the league in rushing with 738 yards – 262 away from joining BARRY SANDERS and ERIC DICKERSON as the only backs in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of their first seven seasons.
The Saints' RICKY WILLIAMS leads the NFC with 557 yards. Each also tops his conference in total scrimmage yards.
Jets defensive coordinator TED COTTRELL knows what his charges are up against in Williams. "He's got those big ol' powerful thighs," says Cottrell. "My goodness, he can go."
The game will also be a matchup of each conference's top takeaway/giveaway teams. The Jets are +13 on the year, the Saints +12. Each has a combination of 20 takeaways, tops (Saints) or tying for the top (Jets with San Diego) in their conference.
New Orleans head coach JIM HASLETT will switch the team's training schedule in preparation for its first 2001 prime-time game. He will give his players off during the day Friday and hold practice at the Louisiana Superdome that night to simulate game conditions. "The players will like it because it will be like a dress rehearsal," says Haslett.