Monday Night Football Preview: Carson Palmer Returns
With the Arizona Cardinals hosting the New York Jets this week, Monday Night Football features two teams off to disappointing starts, and the slow start for each team is reflected in how their quarterback has played.
Both Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick were impressive in 2015, leading their teams to 10-plus win seasons -- the Cardinals lost in the NFC Championship Game while the Jets narrowly missed the playoffs at 10-6. But through five weeks in 2016, both quarterbacks have failed to match their 2015 performance.
Palmer will return this week after a one-game absence due to a concussion, but in his four starts, the Cardinals have only won once. Palmer is completing only 58 percent of his passes and has thrown 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, leads the league in interceptions with 10 and has only thrown 5 touchdown passes through five games.
The Jets enter this matchup 1-4, losers of three straight. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are 2-3 and looking to build off a victory over the San Francisco 49ers with Drew Stanton filling in for Palmer and needing a win to avoid falling further behind the now 4-1 Seattle Seahawks.
Each team is looking for their quarterback to bounce back from a disappointing start, but this week, it may be Palmer who has the best chance to do so.
When Monday Night Football kicks off, here are four storylines to keep an eye on.
Carson Palmer Returns
At home, Palmer faces a plus matchup against a Jets passing defense that has been shredded by opposing quarterbacks through five weeks. According to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, the Jets; passing defense ranks third worst on the season, better than only the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions.
Through five games, the Jets' defense is allowing 303 passing yards per game, second-most in the league, trailing only the Oakland Raiders (330.6). The Jets have also allowed 12 touchdown passes on the season, fourth-most in the league.
Prior to suffering a concussion late in the Cardinals' Week 4 loss, Palmer had been up-and-down through his first 15 quarters of play.
If we look at numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures a player's efficiency based upon historical expectation, we can see that Palmer has been pretty mediocre.
Of the 30 quarterbacks to drop back at least 100 times on the season, Palmer's 0.15 Passing NEP NEP per drop back ranks 16th. Last season, among all quarterbacks to start multiple games, Palmer ranked second (0.33).
The Cardinals are banking on improved play from Palmer and are facing a struggling Jets defense. This might be the week Palmer gets back on the right track.
What Has Happened to Michael Floyd?
Over the final five weeks of 2015, Michael Floyd had three 100-yard receiving games, totaling 24 catches for 403 yards and a touchdown down the stretch.
Entering a contract year in 2016, Floyd has struggled through the first five games. He has just 12 receptions for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns and is now losing snaps to Jaron Brown.
Over the past two weeks, Floyd has fallen behind Brown, playing fewer snaps in each game. Despite being on the field less often, Floyd has seen more looks than Brown (10 targets to 8) over the past two games, but he has only produced 3 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown with those opportunities.
Floyd did enter the league's concussion protocol following the Cards Week 3 game, but he was cleared and hasn't been on the injury report since late September.
With Palmer back under center and playing against the aforementioned dismal Jets' passing defense, Floyd is in a prime bounce-back spot.
The Struggles of Ryan Fitzpatrick
The matchup this week isn't easy for Fitzpatrick, as the Cardinals have allowed only five passing touchdowns on the season while picking off seven passes.
According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Cardinals' pass defense has been the seventh-best unit to start the season. The Cardinals have also had little trouble getting after the opposing quarterback, ranking sixth in quarterback hits (31) and third in sacks (18).
After a contract stalemate that lasted well into training camp, Fitzpatrick has taken a step back following a 2015 season in which he set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick ranked 12th in Passing NEP per drop back among all quarterbacks to start multiple games in 2015, but among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs this season, Fitzpatrick ranks 26th in NEP per pass, only better than Brock Osweiler, Ryan Tannehill, Blaine Gabbert, and Case Keenum.
While the Jets are waiting for Fitzpatrick to play more like he did in 2015, this might not be the week it happens.
How Will the Jets Replace Eric Decker?
Quincy Enunwa had already been playing on the majority of offensive snaps for the Jets through five weeks, but in Decker's absence over the last two weeks, Robby Anderson has played on more than 85 percent of the Jets' offensive snaps. But Anderson, a rookie out of Temple, has been able to produce only 3 catches on 8 targets for 22 yards over the past two weeks in an expanded role.
Another player who could become more involved with Decker sidelined is tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins made his Jets debut in Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing on 34 percent of offensive snaps and catching both of his targets for 17 yards.
Jason La Canfora reported earlier in the week that Seferian-Jenkins may be in line to pick up more targets with Decker sidelined. Seferian-Jenkins was limited throughout practice this week with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable to play Monday.
Whether Anderson or Seferian-Jenkins can establish a bigger role in the passing game remains to be seen. In the meantime, look for Brandon Marshall and Enunwa to continue to be heavily-targeted. Through five weeks, Marshall has been targeted 54 times, fifth-most in the league.
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