The Jets host the Cardinals Sunday at MetLife Stadium, another 4-7 team searching for answers. A quick look :
1. The Cards are on a historically bad run -- a seven-game losing streak. In fact, they're the first team in NFL history to fall to 4-7 after a 4-0 start, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They hope to avoid their first eight-game losing streak since 2006.
2. They feature two former Jets -- S Kerry Rhodes and PK Jay Feely, both of whom played on the 2009 team that reached the AFC Championship Game. Rhodes has two interceptions and Feely is 18-for-21 on field goals. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is a former Jets tight end and assistant coach under Al Groh (2000).
3. The Cards have the worst quarterback situation in the league. With Kevin Kolb (ribs, shoulder) banged up, rookie Ryan Lindley is expected to make his second straight start. It can't be worse than the first -- four interceptions against the Rams, including two returned for TDs. They also have former Fordham standout John Skelton, who was benched.
4. Kolb suffered three detached ribs in Week 7 against the Bills. It came on a botched running play. See, the Jets aren't the only team that can turn an aborted running play into headline news, but at least Kolb didn't run into a lineman's backside.
5. The Cards' offense makes the Jets resemble the Greatest Show on Turf. They've scored only eight TDs in their last seven games, failing to surpass 19 points in any of those games. How they upset the Patriots in Week 2, 20-18, truly is one of the mysteries of the 2012 season. The Cards are 31st in total offense and 31st in scoring offense. They just lost C Lyle Sendlein, who was placed on IR with a knee injury.
6. They still have one of the great players in the sport, WR Larry Fitzgerald, who leads the team with 55 receptions. His numbers are down, but it's because of a horrible QB situation. Last week, Lindley was 0-for-6 with two interceptions when targeting Fitzgerald at least 15 yards downfield, with all six incompletions resulting from off-target passes, per ESPN Stats.
7. Despite their woes, the Cards can play defense. In fact, they're No. 7 in total defense and 11th in scoring defense. ILB Daryl Washington (team-high nine sacks) is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season and DE Calais Campbell is expected to return this week from a calf injury. The Cards like to bring pressure, and they're good at it. They've held opponents to a league-low 47-percent completion percentage when sending 5-plus pass rushers, according to ESPN Stats.
8. The Cards are 3-4 against common opponents; the Jets are 4-4.
Former Jets S Kerry Rhodes gets his first crack Sunday at his old team and the old coach who called him a "selfish-ass guy" obsessed with his "Hollywood" image.
On Wednesday, Rhodes, now starting for the Cardinals (4-7), passed on an opportunity to fire back at Rex Ryan."I'm not going to go that route,Ē Rhodes told the Arizona Republic. "It's been almost three years now. He has stuff he has to worry about with that team and I have stuff I have to worry about here ... Everybody knows what I can do. I think I've proven it, that I'm still a good player in this league."Rhodes played five mostly productive seasons with the Jets, but he fell out of favor with Ryan and was traded after the 2009 season. A year later, Ryan trashed him in his book.Rhodes said his experience in New York "made me a man. It helped me grow up." He added, "You can be on top of the world but you can also be at the lowest of lows. It's one of those opportunity places. You have smaller endorsement deals out here, but in New York, when you're playing well, you're doing Campbell's Soup commercials like Victor Cruz or Subway commercials like Justin Tuck.
"When you win there itís a big deal."
Jets LB Calvin Pace, who began his career in Arizona, painted a less flattering picture of the New York media. He said it was easier to win in Arizona because there's less media attention."You didn't have to worry about so many media outlets in the city, just making up random stuff and blowing a lot of stuff out of proportion that really is nothing," Pace said on a conference call with the Arizona media. "Itís really unfair as a player. Most fans wonít ever be able to come into our building and see guys for the people that they really are. They just donít understand this organization does everything they can to win games. They bring in great talent, and even better people."I'm not saying it's all the reporters up here, but its two or three people who come into the building, and their whole goal is to try to start controversy. That's probably the most hassle that I have to deal with being here. But, it's part of the territory. You've just got to go out and be professional, and go out and try to win games.Ē
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 last 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 last two games (73 percent), and he has only one interception in his last 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 last 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-percent 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 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 last 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.
Despite a disappointing season to this point, the Jets begin the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. The Jets will not play a team that currently has a record of .500 or better and their opponents are a combined 17-33 beginning with the Arizona Cardinals.The Cardinals have started three different quarterbacks this year including rookie Ryan Lindley who threw four interceptions last week. Lindley has a Total QBR of 10.4 in two games, the worst rating of any player with at least 25 snaps at quarterback. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has not been able to produce as a result because he has been under or overthrown on the highest percentage of targets among qualified NFL players.
Highest % of Over/Underthrown Targets
L. Fitzgerald, ARI 37.0
D. Jackson, PHI 35.1
M. Williams, TB 34.8
T. Smith, BAL 32.5
S. Johnson, BUF 31.4
Arizona enters this game in a tailspin, losing their last seven games after beginning the season a perfect 4-0.
Letís analyze three keys to this Sunday matchup in New York :
1. Ryan Lindley has gotten in trouble by forcing throws downfield with an average pass length of 9.5 yards. Among quarterbacks with at least 50 total attempts, that is the second longest average in the NFC.On throws that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the air, Lindley has a completion percentage of 68.8 percent, which is better than the NFL average. However, on throws that travel 11 yards or more, Lindley has completed 29.2 percent which is the worst rate of any player with as many attempts.While it may sound surprising, since losing Darrelle Revis the Jets rank fifth among NFL defenses in lowest completion percentage and Total QBR allowed on passes thrown 11 yards or more.
2. Despite a struggling offense, the bread and butter for the Cardinals has been their defense which ranks second in lowest Total QBR allowed among NFC teams. The Birds have been disruptive near the line of scrimmage with the most interceptions and the lowest completion percentage allowed of any NFC defense on throws that traveled 14 air yards or less.As a result, if Mark Sanchez needs time to let deep receivers get open, the big men up front will be a problem where the Cardinals lead the conference in fewest opponent dropbacks between sacks.
Fewest Dropbacks per Sack, NFC Defenses
3. The Cardinals are particularly effective with their aggressive pass rush which uses five or more defenders on 39.7 percent of dropbacks, the second-highest rate among NFC defenses, and if there's any player in the NFL prone to added pressure, it's Mark Sanchez who has faced it on 38.2 percent of dropbacks, the highest rate in the NFL.The Arizona secondary has helped the front seven create pressure by clamping down with the third-most defended passes in the league on such plays. That's compared to 32nd in defended passes when sending four defenders or fewer.The Jets may need to keep an extra blocker in the backfield to protect Sanchez against the inevitable blitz since he ranks 31st out of 34 qualified passers in Total QBR against it.