The New York Jets (5-7) are in the midst of a disappointing season due in large part to a major regression by quarterback Mark Sanchez. While he was never relied on to win games with his arm alone, his status as a game manager has taken an enormous hit.
After throwing for just 97 yards and three interceptions during Week 13's 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Sanchez found himself on the bench. Backup Greg McElroy came in to throw a touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland to ensure the win.
While the decision to start Sanchez may surprise some—as it shows a sign of instability by Ryan—it may also have a positive effect needed for the fourth-year quarterback to regain a little confidence.
His leash is sure to be short on Sunday, but Jacksonville is just the type of team that could allow Sanchez to get back on track.
The Jaguars feature the league's 31st-ranked defense, allowing 404.9 total yards per game—including 260.9 yards through the air. Their 13 quarterback sacks ranks last in the NFL as well.
It is up to Sanchez to take advantage of this opportunity against such a great individual matchup. Failure to do so could further damage his future in this league.
The NFL never lends itself to looking ahead on the schedule, but Sanchez actually finds himself in a very favorable position to close out the 2012 season.
Assuming Sanchez emerges from the Jaguars game in good standing with Ryan, the Jets have a road game with the Tennessee Titans, followed by a home game with the San Diego Chargers before finishing on the road against the Buffalo Bills—all three teams with suspect pass defenses, whether in terms of yardage, touchdowns allowed or a lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Not only do the Jets have a fair shot of finishing the season at .500, but Sanchez has a rare chance to win back one of the most unforgiving sports cities around.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.