Failure to launch: Jets give Cardinals prime bounce-back opportunity
Desperately needing a win to get back above .500 and their confidence in check, the Arizona Cardinals head east to take on the New York Jets.
The game has quickly turned from an early layup to a critical point in the season for a Cardinals team that has dropped its last two games to sub-.500 squads.
Sunday’s matchup with the 0-4 Jets is undoubtedly a get-right game.
Not only are the Jets winless, they enter Week 5 without starting quarterback Sam Darnold. In his place is 35-year-old signal caller Joe Flacco, who makes his first start since Oct. 27, 2019.
If Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones is looking for his bounce-back game, it’s this one. The Jets have allowed 11 sacks, the fifth-most in the NFL. Throw in the stationary Flacco, who was inactive the first three weeks of play, and Jones’ chances of adding to his one sack on the season are greatly enhanced.
The defense as a whole should be able to capitalize on a New York team that has been dreadful throughout the season.
The Jets have scored just 65 total points through four weeks, second-fewest to only the New York Giants (47). It’s not much better on the other side of the football, either, as the team has allowed the third-most points to opponents this year with 131. The Atlanta Falcons (138) and Dallas Cowboys (146) are the lone teams worse off than the Jets in that category.
The Jets’ 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener is the fewest points allowed all season for New York.
Offensively, the team’s 179.5 yards per game through the air is the bottom of the NFL barrel, and their completion percentage (60%) is a tenth of a point away from tying the Denver Broncos’ low mark of 59.9%.
The running game isn’t much better, with the team averaging 98.5 yards per game.
The blame can be shared on both an offensive line that has a ton of holes and the absence of starting RB Le’Veon Bell. The running back, who hasn’t played since Week 1, is trending in the right direction to suit up on Sunday after spending the last three weeks on the injured reserve for a hamstring injury.
Bell is not quite the same running back we came to know in Pittsburgh. It was a tough 2019 for Bell with his new team as he failed to reach 1,000 yards for the third time in his six seasons. Bell’s yards per carry were a career-low 3.2.
Yet he still has the ability to move the chains. Even with the downturn in play, Bell represents the best option for the Jets’ backfield, with 37-year-old Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Perine handling the reps while Bell has been sidelined.
The duo has accounted for 230 yards and no touchdowns as Bell’s replacements on the gridiron. Darnold and running back Josh Adams, who has just three carries, are the only players with rushing scores on the team.
Quite frankly, Darnold has been the team’s most effective rusher — 14 attempts for 114 yards (8.4 a carry) and a TD — even if not by design.
As for the pass catchers on the team, the Jets figure to at least have Jamison Crowder and Chris Hogan on the gridiron come Sunday.
Crowder has seen just two games this season as he’s dealt with a hamstring issue. He’s far and away the team’s top receiving threat, having garnered 14 receptions off of 23 targets for 219 yards and a touchdown. The next closest receiver is Braxton Berrios, whose 10 catches for 123 yards sits behind Crowder through four games played.
If there was a bright spot to this Jets team, it would have to come in the form of kicker Sam Ficken. Ficken has connected on all eight of his field goal tries, while converting 5-of-5 extra points. He has the most points scored among all Jets players.
There are no redos in sports, but if the Cardinals can take home a convincing win over the struggling Jets, some, if not most, the bad taste of the two previous weeks should subside.