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By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(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contrast hasn't been quite as stark, but the optimism of a 2-1 start and an acceptable 3-3 record after six games has been replaced by the recent ignominy of a 30-point nationally televised home loss to a bitter rival before a primetime network television audience.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 31-17 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 here.
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
11/29 13:29:42 ET
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