Well, things can't really get much worse. The Jets now sit at 1-4 with 3 brutal inter-conference losses to potential playoff teams. Last week's loss really encapsulated the Jets' struggles on both sides of the ball. A Jets corner got burned badly for a 50+ yard TD. Horrible defensive miscommunications led to embarrassingly poor coverage on another TD. The defense was shredded as a whole, failing to cover any receiving target effectively and without any pressure from the line. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked uneven, and his best play was more luck than skill. The Jets looked competent for stretches, but the holes eventually revealed themselves. To top it off, the coach's in game decisions and schemes were abysmal. Another week, another disappointment.
Where We Are
The Jets have an above average roster in terms of talent in the NFL due to their veteran-heavy approach. You wouldn't expect me to say that considering how bad they've looked on game days, but I do believe it. Some blame should definitely be assigned to the players, but on the defensive side of the ball, I place a lot of the blame on Todd Bowles and his coaches. His decisions to kick the extra point against the Bills or punt the ball twice against the Steelers in the fourth were simply terrible. For the first time since last year's game 17 meltdown, I screamed at my TV. On top of this, the players just don't know what they're doing out there. Every game has at least one horrific miscommunication, with last week's Jesse James TD taking the cake on embarrassment. On the offensive side, Fitzpatrick has been just terrible. Despite working with some excellent receivers and working in a pass-friendly system, Fitz ranks dead last in passer rating for QBs with at least 50 attempts. You may know that he leads the NFL in INTs and INT percentage, but did you know he's also tied for the lead in fumbles and second to last in completion percentage with a minimum of 50 attempts (shockingly ahead of only Aaron Rodgers.) All this despite an above average supporting cast and playing against defenses limping through the start of the season with injuries and suspensions. Now how will he fair without receiver 1A Eric Decker?
Where They Are
The Cardinals are coming off one of the uglier wins shown on primetime TV. For a popular Super Bowl pick, the Cardinals have really laid an egg this season. With wins only against the hapless Bucs and spiraling 49er, the Cardinals have not looked like a playoff team this year. They haven't even looked like a good team. They've looked bad. Now a lot of this rests on Carson Palmer's play this season and the horrendous effort by Drew Stanton against a pathetic 49ers team. Palmer's passer rating is down over 20 points from last season despite the emergence of David Johnson and an impressive receiving corps. The disappointing return of the Honey Badger hasn't helped a defense that has struggled to return to its 2014-15 form despite the addition of talented pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Cardinals could always turn it around (Lord knows they have the talent), but the on field product thus far has been pretty poor and time is running out in a strong division.
|Robby Anderson||WR||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Nick Mangold||C||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Jalin Marshall||WR||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Muhammad Wilkerson||DE||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Quincy Enunwa||WR||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Ryan Clady||T||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Rontez Miles||S||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|David Harris||LB||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Brandon Marshall||WR||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Brian Winters||G||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Bryce Petty||QB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Matt Forte||RB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Austin Seferian-Jenkins||TE||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Darrelle Revis||CB||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Braedon Bowman||TE||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Darryl Roberts||CB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Carson Palmer||QB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Justin Bethel||CB||--||Limited Participation in Practice|
|Ed Stinson||DT||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Mike Iupati||G||--||Did Not Participate In Practice|
|Josh Mauro||DT||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Darren Fells||TE||--||Limited Participation in Practice||
|Kevin Minter||LB||--||Full Participation in Practice|
|Frostee Rucker||DT||--||Full Participation in Practice|
I always try to pick one player to be a the game's X-Factor, but I would really like to pick the trio of rookie receivers replacing Decker's production. As this is not an option, I will go with Muhammad Wilkerson in this game. Much has been made of the lack of production by the defensive line in weeks 2-5. During this span, Wilkerson has 9 total tackles and no sacks. That's pretty horrific production for a player who just signed a megadeal worth $86M this offseason. The fact is that Wilkerson and Richardson were once considered among the elite defensive line teams with Damon Harrison. This season, Leonard Williams has been far and away the best player on the line, and it shows in the stat sheet (19 tackles, 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.) Excuses aside, the Jets paid Wilkerson to be a difference maker. He needs to step up.
While the return of Carson Palmer after entering concussion protocol and missing last week's game may be the biggest wild card for this game, the Cardinals really have the ultimate X-Factor on the roster already. I was slow to buy into the hype, but the production speaks for itself: David Johnson is a boss. He has 695 total yards in just 5 games while averaging 5 yards per carry and 14 yards per reception. He's shown speed, power, agility, and slippery cuts with the ball in his hands. He can pass protect and he's probably a better hands catcher than most of the Jets' wideouts. He's a matchup nightmare similar to Le'Veon Bell from last week: He can just do it all. To make matters worse, the Jets struggle mightily at covering receiving backs and while the secondary is struggling so heavily, the extra resources being used to cover the pass mean that the running lanes are dangerously open. There's no number of yards from scrimmage that would shock me from David Johnson this week. Possibly 80 bajillion.
Keys To Victory
Offense: Run the ball. The Cardinals have some very good players in the secondary, but their focus on speed means they can sometimes be bullied in the run game and the size and blocking ability of the Jets receivers means that outside lanes could open up for big gains.
Defense: Cover someone.
The Bottom Line
I don't really know what to expect from either of these teams. They have both completely stunk it up in 2016 after great 2015 seasons. The Cardinals are more talented overall, but both teams have looked terrible this year. I'll pick the Cardinals because I really don't have any faith in the Jets' defense right now...or the Jets offense. There's a lot of depressing history between these teams, actually. Both teams were expected to make playoff runs this season and both look like early draft pickers thus far in the season (relax Cards fans, I still have faith your team turn it around.) Their last matchup was a 7-6 Jets victory that was arguably the worst game of football I've ever seen on the professional level. The Jets have actually won the last 6 games between the two clubs, with the Cardinal's last victory taking place over 40 years ago. Look for that to change on Monday Night Football.