Jets vs. Cardinals, key matchups: Sanchez vs. Arizona defense, Larry Fitzgerald vs. Antonio Cromartie

Jamie Squire

Mark Sanchez has struggled this season, and he faces a tough Arizona passing defense this Sunday.

While you wouldn't normally be too concerned about facing a 4-7 team from the west coast, in your building on the east coast, in a 1:00 PM ET kickoff, well you're normally not the New York Jets. No game is easy for the Jets, 4-7 themselves, and despite hosting an Arizona Cardinals team that's currently rocking a seven-game losing streak you can count this one as another tough task. The Jets are likely only playing for pride at this point, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to that fact after getting mutilated at home on Thanksgiving night by the rival New England Patriots.

A main matchup to watch for on Sunday is how Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez does against Arizona's pass defense. Usually a good defense will win you games, and it did in the first quarter of the season for the Cardinals even if it hasn't come to root since. Still, the Cardinals sport one of the league's top pass defenses, they rank 4th in the league in pass yards against per game, allowing their opponents to net only 204 yards a game. Couple that with the fact that Gang Green's passing attack is at bottom five status at an average of only 201 yards, and you can envision this being a tough one for Sanchez and the Jets in the air.

It's an interesting game from that perspective for Sanchez, given that his personal stakes outweigh anything the team might be playing for. Beginning with Sunday's game, Sanchez is not just playing for his status as the Jets starter, he's also likely playing for his status as an NFL starting quarterback for the remainder of his career. If Sanchez flames out down the stretch, there's a good chance he's not the Jets' starter next season, although he'll likely be on the roster given the guaranteed money they Jets owe him. But if he loses his job with the Jets now, who else in the league is going to make him their starter? While the Jets do have some cupcakes on their schedule the rest of the season - including the Cardinals - this won't exactly be a walk in the park for Sanchez. Additionally, his already-thin receiving corps is even thinner, with Clyde Gates out and Chaz Schilens questionable.

The Jets' passing defense has been mostly solid all season, and Arizona probably has the worst quarterback situation in the league at this point. Ryan Lindley will get the start on Sunday, although he still does have a few bigtime weapons, none bigger than Larry Fitzgerald. Antonio Cromartie has played at an All-Pro level all season, which presents an intriguing battle. Cromartie generally does well with bigger receivers, so you'd think the matchup will skew in his favor, but Fitzgerald is unquestionably one of the league's best receivers and can be a nightmare on any day. The matchup between Jets' No. 2 corner Kyle Wilson and Cardinals' receiver Andre Roberts is also worth watching. If the Jets give up some big plays in the passing game, it will make getting their fifth win of the season a lot tougher.

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