In a matchup of friends, Cardinals face sputtering Jets
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The New York Jets travel across the country in something of a funk, as their coach Todd Bowles returns to familiar turf.
His longtime friend and former boss, Arizona coach Bruce Arians, has had problems of his own.
The Cardinals (2-3) were ballyhooed as a sure-fire contender, but already have lost as many games as they did all of last season.
They are coming off a 33-21 victory over San Francisco , though, and quarterback Carson Palmer returns after sitting out the 49ers game with a concussion.
The Jets (1-4) are having a tough time against a schedule that opened with four of their first five foes having participated in the playoffs last season.
New York lost the first three of those matchups, most recently a 31-13 beating at Pittsburgh , as they head into a Monday night encounter with the Cardinals.
Bowles was a popular defensive coordinator with the Cardinals for two seasons before getting the job with the Jets.
"The only other guy I've been around that had the amount of respect that his defensive guys have for him is with Mike Zimmer," Palmer said of the coach of unbeaten Minnesota, who was defensive coordinator in Cincinnati when Palmer was with the Bengals.
It's also a homecoming for New York quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who grew up in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.
Here are some things to watch for when the Jets face the Cardinals in New York's first trip to Arizona since 2004:
Arians and Bowles, whose relationship spans three decades, aren't the only good buddies on opposite sides of the field Monday night. Palmer calls Fitzpatrick "a great friend."
Their relationship stems from their two seasons as teammates in Cincinnati in 2007 and `08.
"Whenever I'm not playing against him, I'm rooting for him so hard," Fitzpatrick said, "because of just the way that he approaches everything and the way that he lives his life on and off the field. I think he's one of the more impressive guys I've ever met in my life."
Jets wide receiver Eric Decker was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, and will have season-ending surgery. He was inactive for two games after initially being injured at Buffalo in Week 2 and the shoulder worsening at Kansas City the following week.
It's a big blow to the Jets' struggling offense, which still has Brandon Marshall (24 catches) and Quincy Enunwa (team-leading 27 receptions), but the rest of the receiving corps is young and inexperienced. Rookies Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake could see increased snaps, starting with the game at Arizona.
David Johnson rushed for 157 yards and two against the 49ers, earning NFC offensive player of the week honors, but it will be a lot tougher against a Jets defense that has given up just 68 rushing yards per game, second-best in the NFL.
It's even more challenging because Arizona lost starting guards Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis to ankle injuries in the San Francisco game. The replacements are Earl Watford and John Wetzel, who normally plays tackle.
"They've got their hands full," Arians said. "They were uncovered for most of the game in San Francisco, blocking linebackers. They're going to have big, strong dudes on top of them this game."
The Cardinals have had trouble making the big passing plays that were their trademark in their 13-3 season last year.
That could change against a Jets team that has had issues with giving up big plays through the air. New York's pass defense ranks 31st out of 32 teams.
That's a stunning spot for the Jets, who went into the season thinking the secondary would be a strength. But Darrelle Revis struggled during the first few games before missing last week's game at Pittsburgh with a hamstring injury. He's uncertain to play against Arizona.
Darryl Roberts saw a lot of snaps against the Steelers before injuring a shoulder in the game, but fully practiced Thursday. Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams, rookie Juston Burris and the recently signed Nick Marshall are the Jets' other healthy cornerbacks.
After an alarming stretch in which he threw nine interceptions in two games, Fitzpatrick got through the game against the Steelers without getting picked off. It was his best performance since Week 2, when he threw for 374 yards and a touchdown in 37-31 victory at Buffalo, after which he was selected the AFC offensive player of the week.
He still leads the NFL with 10 INTs, though, two more than Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston.
Fitzpatrick has just five touchdown passes through five games, way off his pace from last season, when he set the franchise record with 31 TD tosses.
"Ryan will bounce back. He's just that guy," Palmer said. "Hopefully, it's not against us."