Before leaving the Atlantic Health Training Complex on Friday, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was informed that Bengals backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start this afternoon against the Jets in place of an injured Carson Palmer.
"It's surprising," Revis said. "We didn't expect that. We've seen him on film. He throws a good ball. He's a scrambler and he'll move more than Carson Palmer."
Fitzpatrick, a 6'2", 225-pounder in his fourth year out of Harvard, has an 0-4 career mark as a starter. The 25-year-old passer made his first Bengals start in Cinci's Week 4 loss to Cleveland. Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and he also lost a fumble after a sack at Paul Brown Stadium.
"You have to respect him, the fact that he's in the NFL — he's a second-stringer but when your number is called, you have to go out there and do your job," Revis said. "We have to play either way."
All week long, the Jets defense expected to face Palmer. He played well in his team's close loss to the Cowboys last week and an offensive unit that was averaging just 14.8 points per game during the team's 0-5 start looked to be finally turning the corner.
"They were starting to find their identity and they were moving forward," Revis said.
The Jets, who will don their Titans throwbacks for a second consecutive game today, can't possibly have a lot of video on Fitzpatrick. He made three starts back in 2005 with the Rams, completing 56.3 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and eight interceptions.
But that was many moons ago. The Jets do know Fitzpatrick will tuck the ball and run, as evidenced by his 41-yard rush total against the Browns.
"With pressure, he got a couple of first downs and I actually saw him try to run somebody over, too," Revis said. "That just shows you he's a tough guy."
While the inexperienced QB will lead the Bengals, Brett Favre is set to make his 258th consecutive start. Sixteen years ago, Favre came off the bench to lead the Green Bay Packers to a come-from-behind 24-23 victory over the Bengals.
After completing 22 of 39 for 289 yards, Favre would begin his ironman streak the following week. When asked about that game on Thursday, Favre described it as his "first true test."
"I played the previous week, but we were getting blown out. It holds a special place for the reason that we won," he said. "I came in in relief and led us from behind. It really was the start of my career. I never sat out after that point. It just happened to be against Cincinnati."
This will be the Jets' first game since their bye. They hung 56 points on the Arizona Cardinals in their last contest as Favre — the NFL's all-time leader in TD passes with 454 — is coming off a personal-best six scoring tosses.
"We had a couple good practices and concentrated more on things that we needed to improve on as opposed to getting ready for Cincinnati. It was a good week," he said. "We'll find out after this game if it was productive. All in all, all the bye weeks that I've been through, it went by without a hitch."
The Bengals are the ones with a snag. Desperate for a win, they're in New York and without one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see how they try to attack a Jets defense that has been terrific against the run, limiting opponents to 75.5 yards per game, but teams have also averaged 265 yards through the air on them, not to mention 29 points a game.
But if you look closely, some of those numbers may be skewed. Since the Jets have improved against the run, clubs view passing as a better option. Also the Cardinals, playing in a catchup mode, piled up a ton of yards in the second half.
"I think some of it is a function of us having to play better complementary football," said head coach Eric Mangini. "We've had the worst starting field position in the NFL defensively. That makes it harder when you're starting on a short field."
The Jets would like to make it a long day for Fitzpatrick. They've already racked up 13 sacks and nine takeaways and the Green & White will get their chance to go after a green quarterback.
"It's kind of tough," Revis said of preparing for someone the Jets don't know too much about. "You have to roll with the punches, though."