Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 344d

Jets set to face Ryan Fitzpatrick in rare matchup with one of their exes

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- When the New York Jets get rid of a quarterback, the player usually fades into oblivion. It's because their ex-quarterbacks usually are on the downside of their careers or have little or no upside.

What we have this week -- the Jets versus Ryan Fitzpatrick -- is a rarity. The last time the Jets faced a former starter was Oct. 11, 2010, when Brett Favre came to town with the Minnesota Vikings. In the final year of his legendary career, Favre delivered a few memorable moments (264 yards and three touchdowns), but the Jets won the game, 29-20.

It wasn't a huge story because Favre was a one-and-done with the Jets, a hired gun who ran out of bullets down the home stretch. The bigger "ex" matchup occurred in 2008, when the popular Chad Pennington -- unceremoniously dumped after the Favre trade -- returned to New Jersey and beat his old team to win the AFC East title for the Miami Dolphins on the final day of the season. Owner Woody Johnson was so angry that he fired coach Eric Mangini.

The stakes won't be that high Sunday when the Jets face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) on the road, but Fitzpatrick had enough history with the Jets to make this a compelling matchup. It will be his first start for the Bucs in place of the injured Jameis Winston.

Fitzpatrick knows the Jets, they know him. Who gets the edge?

"You’re more playing the scheme than you are the player," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "He’s familiar with us as well, as we're familiar with him. He’s got 52 guys behind him, and we’re a different team and have tweaked some things since he’s been gone. It’s a little different for both parties."

Fitzpatrick is smart enough to figure out the Jets' blitz-heavy scheme, but he's not the same quarterback he was in 2015 and he inherits a mistake-prone offense that will be without wide receiver Mike Evans, who faces a one-game suspension for a cheap shot on New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

A closer look at the Bucs:


WR DeSean Jackson -- What a disappointment. He was one of the biggest free-agent signings (three years, $33.5 million), but he has only 27 catches and two touchdowns. He's their deep guy, averaging 19 air yards per target. Without Evans, the Jets can roll coverage to Jackson.

TE O.J. Howard -- The Jets considered Howard with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft, opting instead for safety Jamal Adams. Adams probably will be asked to cover the 6-foot-6 rookie, who has only 14 catches and three touchdowns. Actually, Howard is the No. 2 tight end, behind Cameron Brate.


LB Lavonte David -- The Bucs aren't very good on defense (25th in scoring), but you can't blame the former Pro Bowl linebacker, a sideline-to-sideline defender with four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a touchdown.

DT Gerald McCoy -- You loved him on HBO's "Hard Knocks," didn't you? The big fella has quite a personality, but he won't be in a pleasant mood toward the Jets. McCoy's numbers are down (only two sacks), but he still has the ability to dominate. He moves around, but he spends most of his time over the right guard.

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