Friday, November 30, 2012
W2W4: Cardinals vs. Jets
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Cue the laugh track, the Jets are ready to take the field again.
Coming off one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history, a game in which the phrase "butt fumble" was introduced into football vernacular, the Jets face the Cardinals on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It's 4-7 versus 4-7, featuring two of the worst offenses in the league.
The Jets have dropped four of their past five, and the Cards have lost seven in a row, becoming the first team in history to drop seven straight after a 4-0 start. This should be a classic.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. What to watch for:
1. The Sanchez audition. With $8.25 million in guaranteed money for 2013, QB Mark Sanchez is a virtual lock to be on the team next season, but his status as the starter could hinge on how he plays over the final five games. If he doesn't improve, the Jets almost certainly will bring in a challenger. Alex Smith? Michael Vick? Matt Flynn? Those are some of the names that will surface as possibilities.
Sanchez has improved his accuracy over the past two games (73 percent), and he has only one interception in his past 68 attempts, but most of it came against non-blitzing teams. That won't be the case against the Cards, who like to bring extra pressure. Sanchez, who has 41 turnovers in his past 27 games, has to avoid big mistakes in scoring territory. Six of his 10 interceptions this season have come inside the opponents' 37.
The Jets need to account for Daryl Washington at all times.
2. Desert Storm. The Cards are a bad team, but don't blame the defense. This is a unit that intercepted Matt Ryan five times, a defense with the second-best opponent passer rating in the league (74.3). The Cards are fast, opportunistic and create pressure with a variety of blitz packages. They've held opposing passers to a league-low 47 completion percentage when sending five-plus rushers.
The Cards have playmakers at all three levels of the defense, but their top guy is Daryl Washington, who has nine sacks from an inside linebacker position -- unheard of. The Jets will go after CB William Gay, the weak link in an otherwise solid secondary. They'd better watch out for ex-Jet Kerry Rhodes, a deep safety who'd like nothing better than to haunt his former team.
3. From Brady to Lindley. In a span of 10 days, the Jets will have seen both ends of the NFL quarterback spectrum -- from one of the best (Tom Brady) to quite possibly the worst (Ryan Lindley). With Kevin Kolb (ribs) still banged up, the rookie is expected to make his second straight start. Lindley, a sixth-round pick from San Diego State, has only seven quarters of NFL experience -- and they haven't been pretty. He threw four interceptions last week against a Rams defense that hadn't produced a turnover since Week 5. So what does that tell you?
Lindley has more skill-position talent around him than Sanchez, with WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB Beanie Wells, but the Cards' line is awful (a league-high 46 sacks allowed). Lindley is 0-for-10 on throws of more than 20 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Fitzgerald can take over a game, but he can't do that unless he gets the ball.
4. The Sad Sack Exchange. If the Jets can't put some meat on their bare-bones sack total this week, their pass-rushers should make like Fireman Ed and just leave the building. The Cards just placed C Lyle Sendlein on injured reserve, and they're starting two rookies at tackle, LT Nate Potter and RT Bobby Massie. Massie has allowed a league-high 13 sacks and 36 QB hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Can you say "turnstile"?
The Jets invested three high draft picks in defensive linemen the past two years, and yet Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Kenrick Ellis have combined for only four sacks. Their leading sacker is LB Bryan Thomas (2.5), who was actually unemployed for a few days in September before re-signing.
5. Protect the damn ball. Key words around the Jets' facility this week: "Ball security." That's what happens when you treat the ball like a wet bar of soap. The Jets turned it over five times against the Patriots, including four fumbles. They took a back-to-basics approach, studying video on proper ball-carrying technique. The Jets have a total of 22 fumbles, including 12 lost (five by Sanchez). The easiest way to lose to a team like the Cards, who can't score on their own, is to give the ball away.