|National Football League|
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By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Things may be terrible for the Arizona Cardinals, but Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets are the butt of jokes nationally.
Coach Rex Ryan still thinks his beleaguered team has a chance at the playoffs.
Sanchez and the Jets will try to rebound from an embarrassing performance by beginning to capitalize on a seemingly favorable season-ending stretch of schedule Sunday against the Cardinals.
Arizona (4-7) opened the season 4-0 before its current seven-game tailspin put it practically out of playoff contention.
While New York (4-7) owns the same record, it feels it still has a chance to make a run at a postseason spot. However, the Jets resembled anything but a playoff team on national television on Thanksgiving, losing 49-19 to AFC East-leading New England. They surrendered 35 points in the second quarter with three touchdowns coming in a span of 52 seconds, including a fiasco of a play by Sanchez that typified their season to date.
The embattled quarterback tried to run the ball on a broken play, but ran into guard Brandon Moore's rear end and fell backwards to the turf while his fumble ended up being returned for Patriots TD.
"It's embarrassing," Sanchez said. "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."
Even stranger is the notion Ryan thinks New York can run the table in order to make the playoffs. While he's not willing to guarantee it, he did note the Jets' remaining five games come against teams with losing records.
After facing the Cardinals, New York is at Jacksonville (2-9), at Tennessee (4-7), home for San Diego (4-7) and at Buffalo (4-7).
"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."
Improvement from Sanchez would surely help. He's thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,214 yards with an 80.5 passer rating while the Jets have lost four of five.
Sanchez, who also has lost five fumbles this season, is facing a Cardinals' defense that ranks fourth in the league against the pass (203.7 yards pas game) and in interceptions (15). The unit has picked off seven passes in three games.
While the Jets continue to see their quarterback situation debated nationally as Tim Tebow continues to recover from two cracked ribs, the Cardinals are sticking with rookie Ryan Lindley over the ineffective John Skelton while Kevin Kolb heals from a rib injury.
"He isn't going to get in the game until we are sure that he can take a hit," coach Ken Whisenhunt said of Kolb. "With what happened with him, you just have to make sure that he's cleared to do that."
Until then, Whisenhunt will call upon Lindley, a sixth-round pick out of San Diego State. His inexperience showed in his first NFL start last weekend, tossing four interceptions - with two returned for scores - while completing 31 of 52 passes for 312 yards in a 31-17 loss to St. Louis.
For this game, he won't have Lyle Sendlein snapping him the ball after the ironman center was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn left MCL, snapping his string of 80 consecutive starts. He's expected to be replaced by Rich Ohrnberger, who started twice this year at right guard in place of an injured Adam Snyder.
"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."
Arizona is trying to avoid its first eight-game losing streak since Sept. 17-Nov. 12, 2006.
The Jets have won five in a row against the Cardinals since a loss on Nov. 23, 1975. They took the most recent meeting 56-35 at home on Sept. 28, 2008.
Updated November 29, 2012
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