PREVIEW: NY JETS (4-7) vs. AZ CARDINALS (4-7)

The New York Jets host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in a game where both teams are surprised about where they stand at this point in the season.

“We feel we’re a better football team than our record indicates, and I’m sure they do as well,” said Rex Ryan on Wednesday.  “They should feel that way. Both teams are hungry for a win, and I think there probably are some similarities there.”

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said more of the same.  “We’re playing a team that is a lot like us.  They’ve had moments where they’ve looked very good and other moments where they haven’t.  They’ve had their mistakes.”

The players on the Jets realize their playoff hopes exist by the slimmest of margins, where even winning the rest of the remaining games on their schedule may not be enough.

“I think we’re mentally prepared for it, (and) physically, we had a good little break. We treat it like any other game,” said Mark Sanchez.  “Guys are excited just knowing these next five games are crucial to our success and crucial to making the postseason. I think we have the right mindset, just take it one at a time, really focus on ourselves and avoid beating ourselves like we have in the past.”

Rex Ryan expects Stephen Hill to have a big game on Sunday against Arizona. His production thus far suggests otherwise.

Bryan Thomas echoed a similar sentiment.  “The sole focus is on this one game.  You can’t look ahead.  What are we going to look ahead for?  We’re not playing those guys.  We’re playing Arizona.  We’re playing the Cardinals.”

For the obvious statement of the week, Sanchez and the offense will have to limit the turnovers against a stingy Cardinals defense. “I think our biggest thing that we need to do offensively is protect the football. I think there are other things we’re making strides in, but obviously, we have to protect the football,” said Ryan.  “When you turn it over five times, you’re not going to beat anybody. That’s clearly something that we’ve talked about.”

The Cardinals rank seventh in overall defense, along with ranking fourth in the NFL in interceptions (15) and second in opponent completion percentage (55.6).

Ryan had high praise for Arizona’s defense, who lines up players such as linebacker Daryl Washington and defensive ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. “When you look at that defense, this is a really talented defense. Some of the guys up front, you have two Pro-Bowl type players in Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. They really get after it.”

The Jets improbable road to the playoffs begins Sunday at Metlife Stadium.

WHEN: December 2, 2012 @ 1:00 pm EST

WHERE: East Rutherford, NJ / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

SERIES HISTORY: Eighth meeting; Jets lead regular season match-up 5-2

LAST MEETING: Jets 56 —Cardinals 35  (09/28/08 @ Giants Stadium)

NOTABLE: The Arizona Cardinals began the season as a surprise team throughout the league starting 4-0. Since then, the Cardinals have dropped their last seven games.

HEAD COACHES:

  • Cardinals – Ken Whisenhunt / 6th Season with Cardinals / 48-49 with Cardinals (including playoffs)
  • Jets — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / 36-29 (including postseason).

INJURY REPORT:

  • Cardinals — LIMITED -Laron Byrd, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet, Kevin Kolb, Andre Roberts, Chris Wells. FULL- Justin Bethel, Mike Leach, William Powell, Kerry Rhodes.
  • JETS — DOUBTFUL- Clyde Gates LIMITED – Sione Po’uha (back),  Aaron Berry (quad), Tim Tebow (ribs),. FULL - Bilal Powell (shoulder), Mark Sanchez (low back), Brandon Moore (hip/foot), Matt Slauson (knee), Mike DeVito (finger), Jeff Cumberland (wrist),  Calvin Pace (shoulder), Stephen Hill (ankle), LaRon Landry (heel), Nick Mangold (thumb).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Jets WR vs. Cardinals Secondary — The Jets WR’s have had trouble separating all season.  If Sanchez makes a mistake in this game combined with the athletes in Arizona’s secondary, players like Adrian Wilson or Patrick Paterson could be dancing in the end zone.
  • Jets vs. Themselves- It is easy to say so I will.  It would be nice to see the Jets play a full game without shooting themselves in the foot. The battle against self restarts every week.

X-FACTOR:

  • Stephen Hill, WR, Jets — Rex Ryan said it’s time to expect rookie WR Hill to have a breakout game against Arizona and “wants the ball.” Hill has had plenty of games to forget this season, but he could start a fresh second half with a strong game in Arizona.

THE PICK: Too many question marks under center for Arizona. The Jets five game season begins Sunday and I expect them to start it just as they did the real start to the regular season (blowing out Buffalo). Jets 24 – Cardinals 10

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