Despite a relatively average start to the season, the Jets have been hearing a lot about how good they are after a 56-35 thrashing of the Cardinals in week four and are fully aware of the fact that they face four of the league’s worst teams in the next five weeks.
Their opponents this week (the Bengals) are still winless in 2008, despite playing much better than their record indicates (close losses to the Giants and Cowboys are two examples of this). Add in the potentially explosive nature of the Cincy offense, and the Jets would have to be wary of coming out flat.
Then, Carson Palmer got injured.
Now, instead of Palmer throwing to star receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Housmandzadeh, the untested Ryan Fitzpatrick will take the helm. Fitzpatrick performed poorly in his first career start, throwing three interceptions in a Week Four loss to the Browns.
Fitzpatrick should have a particularly tough time against the Jets' aggressive defense, which forced seven turnovers in its last game. The Jet pass rush is running on all cylinders right now, and ball hawks Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes won’t allow the young quarterback to get away with any mistakes.
No game in the NFL is ever a given. The Jets might still come out flat, and if they do they will have to scratch and claw to win the game, even against a bad team at home.
But, the Palmer injury changes everything. No matter how slowly they start, the Jets should feel comfortable establishing the run and doing whatever they want to do on offense—Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bengals can only put up so many points against the Jet defense.
With the fall of the Patriots, Colts, and Chargers so far in 2008, the AFC is wide open; whatever team ends up winning will probably need some luck during the year. If their upcoming schedule and the recent injury to Carson Palmer are any indication, a couple of bounces have already gone the Jets’ way.