The 2-3 Arizona Cardinals will look to improve to .500 on the season when they welcome the 1-4 New York Jets to town on Monday Night Football.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles will make his return to Glendale after spending two seasons as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator under Bruce Arians. The Cards are coming off a win over the 49ers, while the Jets have lost three straight.
Can the Cardinals improve to 3-3 before the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks come to town next weekend? Here are three questions and a prediction for Cards vs. Jets, which will begin Monday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.
1. Will the good Carson Palmer return?
Maybe a week off will end up doing some good for Carson Palmer. After a pair of awful performances in the 2015 postseason, the 36-year-old Cards quarterback hasn’t looked like himself so far in 2016, as his passer rating of 81.9 is far below last season’s mark of 104.6.
Palmer missed the Cards’ Thursday Night Football matchup in San Francisco with concussion symptoms, and backup QB Drew Stanton and the Cards were able to grind out a victory without him. Now that Palmer has had a couple weeks to clear his head (literally and otherwise), will he pick apart a Jets defense that has allowed an NFL-worst 118.6 passer rating this season?
2. Can David Johnson grind out a good game?
Palmer may need to have a stellar game if the Jets’ rushing defense continues to be as dominant as it has been this season.
David Johnson did what he was supposed to do against the 49ers, rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries against an awful San Francisco rushing defense. But the Cards’ second-year rusher will face a Jets D on Monday that’s second in the NFL in both rushing yards allowed per game (68.4) and per carry (3.0).
Johnson is averaging 5.0 yards per carry this season, so something clearly has to give here. D.J. probably won’t have an amazing game Monday, but can he do enough damage on the ground to keep the Jets’ defense honest and open up the pass game for Palmer?
3. Can the Cards take care of the ball again?
Turnovers are the most telling statistic in nearly every NFL game, as it’s tough to win when you give the ball up more than you take it away. Case in point: The Cards turned the ball over five times apiece in losses to the Bills and Rams before having a turnover-free game and forcing three turnovers in their win at the 49ers.
The Jets have been the gift that keeps on giving this season, as they come into Monday’s matchup with an NFL-worst minus-10 turnover margin. Most of those giveaways have come via QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown 10 interceptions in five games. The Cards have picked off seven passes this season; only the Chiefs (eight) had more coming into Sunday’s games – and six of those came off Fitzpatrick in Week 3.
So, the Cards seem to be a good bet to win the turnover margin for a second straight game. Can they get it done?
The Cardinals have lost three of their last four regular-season home games dating back to last season, and perhaps no other NFL coach (other than Bruce Arians) knows the inner workings of the Cardinals better than Bowles does. If the Cards approach this game the way they did Buffalo and Los Angeles, they’ll be in trouble.
Still, the Jets have scored just 33 points in their last three games (all losses) after scoring 37 in a road win at Buffalo in Week 2. Combine that with their inability to defend the pass and their propensity to turn the ball over, and that’s why the Cardinals should win at home – not because I expect the Cards to turn in an A-plus performance, but because few NFL teams are better at beating themselves than the New York Jets are.
Cardinals 20, Jets 19