(Sports Network) - Among the certainties of life are death, taxes and Rex Ryan
being Rex Ryan.
The fourth-year New York Jets coach is in the midst of his worst season since
succeeding Eric Mangini, but nonetheless left the door open for a late-stage
playoff run in which his team will overcome a 4-7 start and feast on the
league's lesser lights en route to the postseason.
He's not guaranteeing it, mind you -- a la an old-school Jim Fassel of the
cross-stadium New York Giants -- but he's not ruling it out either.
"I'm saying right now that I'm not going to make a guarantee that we're going
to make the playoffs or that deal," Ryan said. "We have to get better. It has
to start right now."
Week 12 brings a home matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, who started the
season with four straight wins and have followed them up with -- as the record
indicates -- seven straight losses.
Arizona hasn't lost eight straight since 2006.
New York's contrast hasn't been quite as stark, but the optimism of a 2-1
start and an acceptable 3-3 record after six games has been replaced by the
recent ignominy of a 30-point nationally televised home loss to a bitter rival
before a primetime network television audience.
The Jets were beaten, 49-19, by the New England Patriots in a game that
featured a 35-point second quarter for the visitors -- including three
touchdowns in 52 seconds. One of the scores came on a play that's had
subsequent shelf life for late-night comics, in which quarterback Mark Sanchez
missed a handoff, turned toward the offensive line and ran face-first into the
rear end of guard Brandon Moore.
Oh yeah, he fumbled the ball and it was returned for a TD by the Patriots.
Perhaps worse, though, the still-frame image of his facemask in Moore's behind
was cover-worthy material in the next morning's New York Post alongside the
back-page headline, "Butt Ugly."
"It's embarrassing," said Sanchez, who's lost five fumbles in 11 games. "You
screw up the play and I'm trying to do the right thing. It's not like I'm
trying to force something. I start to slide and I slide right in the worst
spot I possibly could: right into Brandon Moore. I guess (I was) more stunned
than anything. Just like a car accident. I was like, 'Whoa. What just
happened?' Then, the ball's gone. It was weird."
Some might suggest Ryan be checked for damage as well with the playoff
suggestion, though the schedule from now until season's end does include
perceived lightweights in Jacksonville (2-9), Tennessee (4-7), San Diego (4-7)
and Buffalo (4-7).
The Jets have lost four of five in their latest negative stretch, during which
Sanchez has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions with a 61.3
completion percentage, 1,214 yards and an 80.5 passer rating. That said, the
shouts for his replacement by backup Tim Tebow were quieted a bit last week
when Ryan said Tebow had sustained cracked ribs in a game against Seattle.
It's a tough matchup for the Jets offense, which encounters an Arizona defense
that's fourth in the league in terms of passing yardage allowed (203.7 per
game) and interceptions (15). The Cardinals have seven INTs in their last
three games, though they've lost them all.
An injury will play a continuing role in the Arizona QB situation as well.
Early season starter Kevin Kolb remains on the shelf with his own rib issue,
and, until he's ready to go, coach Ken Whisenhunt has decided to go with
rookie Ryan Lindley over previous No. 2 man John Skelton.
"(Kolb) isn't going to get in the game until we are sure that he can take a
hit," Whisenhunt said. "With what happened with him, you just have to make
sure that he's cleared to do that."
A sixth-round pick from San Diego State, Lindley threw four interceptions --
including two pick-6s -- amid 52 passes in his initial start last week, a
loss to St. Louis. Also changing this week is the starting center after Lyle
Sendlein tore his left MCL and is out for the season after 80 straight starts.
Sendlein's replacement is Rich Ohrnberger, a spot starter at right guard.
"As a backup guy you've got to be ready no matter what the circumstances,"
Ohrnberger said. "It's just another one of those situations where you get put
in there and have got to keep the thing running."
The Jets lead the all-time series, 5-2, and have won five straight, including
a 56-35 shootout in 2008 in which quarterback Brett Favre threw six touchdown
passes and cornerback Darrelle Revis had two interceptions. New York's last
loss to the Cardinals was in 1975, when they played in St. Louis and the Jets
were based at Shea Stadium.
Whisenhunt is 0-1 against New York and Ryan has never faced the Cardinals.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The arrival of Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator was expected to signal a
renewed era of ground-and-pound schemes for the Jets, but it's instead
resulted in frustration as the team has failed to consistently establish
itself as a running threat.
That needs to change against the Cardinals, who've been successful in
defending the pass through 11 games but are just 23rd in the league against
the run -- allowing 124.2 yards per week. The average was swelled after last
week, in which Arizona was dinged for 173 yards against the Rams. New York,
which has mustered 3.8 yards per carry, figures to try and boost that figure
It's an iffy proposition at best for the Jets, who've appeared on the verge of
complete implosion for several weeks. The humbling defeat by the Patriots may
be the perfect trigger, or the arrival of the similarly slumping Cardinals may
legitimize Ryan's reed-thin postseason banter. If nothing else, it may provide
one final chance for Sparano's old-school offense against an opponent that
seems particularly vulnerable. If not, a Tebow coronation next week at
Jacksonville may be the end result.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Jets 17, Cardinals 14
The Sports Network