It’s only Week 6 of the 2016 NFL season, but the upcoming matchup on “Monday Night Football” is a virtual must-win for both teams. The 2-3 Arizona Cardinals host the New York Jets, who have lost four of their first five games and could put themselves into an insurmountable hole with another defeat.
After reaching last year’s NFC Championship Game, the Cardinals might no longer be one of the league’s top teams. Arizona has already matched last year’s loss total and they've suffered two defeats at home. But while the Cardinals might only be a borderline playoff contender, it’s looking like the Jets could be among the worst teams in the NFL.
Aside from the winless Cleveland Browns, no team has had a worse start to the season than New York. They’ve lost three consecutive games by double-digits, and injuries to their top stars could mean things won’t get better anytime soon.
It hasn’t been just one side of the ball that’s hurt the Jets. Their offense and defense have been equally bad. Visiting an Arizona team that could be ready for a breakout performance, New York has a tough matchup in front of them.
As much as the Cardinals have struggled, their defense has largely played well. Arizona ranks eighth in yards allowed, playing especially well against the pass. Only the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings have held opposing quarterbacks to a lower passer rating, and they’ll face the NFL’s lowest-rated passer on Monday.
It’s been a nightmarish start to the season for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s been the worst quarterback in football when it comes to passer rating (64.7) and interceptions (10), and only Aaron Rodgers has thrown for a lower completion percentage. Fitzpatrick might improve upon his numbers somewhat, but he’ll remain a subpar quarterback.
Even as the Jets won 10 games and he threw 31 touchdown passes last year, Fitzpatrick’s numbers across the board were less than impressive. He was 29th in completion percentage (59.6), 27th in yards per attempt (6.95) and tied for fifth with 15 interceptions. The quarterback is without the injured Eric Decker, who totaled 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2015, for the rest of the year. Decker caught six catches for 126 yards in Fitzpatrick’s only impressive performance this season, and the quarterback has clearly missed his second-favorite target.
New York’s only chance to pull off the upset might be to win a low-scoring affair. Arizona is a decided 7.5-point favorite at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, and it would likely benefit the Jets for the final score to finish below the over/under of 46.5.
The Jets seemingly have the talent to be among the league’s top units, especially considering they finished fourth in total defense a year ago. But it’s been the complete opposite in 2016 for a defense that can’t seem to stop anyone. New York has allowed at least 23 points in every game, and their once dominant defensive front is losing the battle at the line of scrimmage.
A struggling New York secondary has surrendered a league-worst 118.6 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. The unit is led by Darrelle Revis, who missed last week’s game and still isn’t practicing. The cornerback has looked like a shell of his old self when he’s been on the field
Carson Palmer returns for the Cardinals after missing Week 5 with a concussion. He hasn’t played particularly well in 2016, going 1-3 as a starter and throwing four interceptions in Arizona’s Week 3 loss. Dating back to the NFC Championship Game, Palmer has thrown seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.
But Arizona still has a talented offense with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson. Palmer was terrific in Week 2 when the Cardinals faced a poor Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense, and he could have a similar performance on Monday.
Prediction: Arizona over New York, 30-17