Before the New York Jets move into their bye week, they'll finish the first quarter of their 2008 schedule today against Arizona. This is a critical game for the 1-2 Jets as they hope to avoid falling into an early-season hole, and their 2-1 opponent is not a pushover.
"This may be an underestimated team across the league — at least from a fan standpoint and maybe even from the media," said quarterback Brett Favre of the Cardinals. "You don't know much about them. If you watch the film like we watched this morning, they're pretty good."
Favre, who rolled his ankle in Monday night's loss to the Chargers, practiced with the Green & White throughout the week and will make his 257th consecutive start this afternoon. He expects to see pressure from a Cards defensive unit that has amassed eight sacks and five takeaways while limiting their first three opponents to 15.7 points per game.
"They're active. They get after the quarterback, a lot like San Diego did to us the other night," said the veteran passer. "They changed their philosophy a little bit and they just turned it loose. They turn it loose every game."
Offensively, the Cards have a pair of spectacular wideouts the Jets would like to contain in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. And only six days after facing the NFL's leading passer in Philip Rivers, the Jets encounter the second-ranked passer in Kurt Warner.
"If Warner gets on track and has rhythm early in the game, he can be deadly," said S Kerry Rhodes. "We've seen that in the past and we know we can do that, but you want to get to him early and disrupt. But if he's on early, it can be a long day."
More than 14 years ago, Warner, a Northern Iowa product, signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. Favre, in his fourth pro season at the time, was just beginning to carve out his legacy.
"When [Steve] Mariucci was our quarterback coach, he asked him to go in on a particular play," Favre recalled. "It was camp and he said, 'No, I'm not going in.' He wasn't ready."
Favre actually shared a laugh about the incident with Mariucci, now an NFL Network analyst, a couple of weeks ago. Warner, though, says he can't remember too many specifics about his first pro experience.
"They made it easy for me to fit in, even though I wasn't there long," he said. "As far as the football stuff, I don't really remember a whole bunch from that."
Both the 37-year-old Warner and the 38-year-old Favre have had fantastic NFL careers. Each man has collected a Super Bowl ring and has appeared in two championship games and both are still playing at high levels today.
"I never forgot how to play football," said Warner, who's completing 64.3 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns with just one interception. "There wasn't a day that I couldn't throw the football. It was more of being in the right situation."
While Favre's situation is new, he's not making excuses for the Jets' early struggles following a historic 16-year run in Green Bay. The NFL's 10th-rated passer has completed 70 percent of his balls with six touchdowns and he experienced some second-half success last week working out of the shotgun with an empty backfield.
"The bottom line is winning. How we get to that remains to be seen. Eric [Mangini] stressed this the other day before and after the game," he said. "I think it's so true, that once this team starts believing, all 53 guys start believing that it can be done, then it will be."
Under head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the improved Cards have compiled just a 3-7 mark on the road. After last week's 24-17 loss to the Redskins, Whisenhunt kept his team in Washington and they practiced this week at Catholic University before training up to New York on Saturday.
"One of the things that we struggle with around here is winning on the road and being able to travel well and play the same kind of football on the road that we play at home," Warner said. "We understand that we're going to have to win these kinds of games if we want to be a playoff-caliber team."
We should be in for a good intraconference battle between two interesting clubs with something to prove. It was a short week for the Jets but this game couldn't have come soon enough for a team wanting to break a two-game slide.
"I wish we could play today," Rhodes said Wednesday. "My body's not ready yet, but we want to get out and try to get the bad taste out of our mouths from the game Monday. It's just another chance to prove that we are a decent team and we can get it done."