Ryan Fitzpatrick has as many NFL starts as the number on Brett Favre's iconic No. 4 jersey, but his fifth start Sunday in The Meadowlands against Favre's 258th in place of the ailing Carson Palmer will have the luxury of experience.
"I've got that first game out of the way. I've been there," Fitzpatrick said of the 20-12 loss to the Browns two weeks ago. "I've been in a live rush situation. I'm going to be smarter with the ball. I'm not going to try and make things happen. I'm just going to stay within myself and run the offense."
The first clue that this Friday might be different than last Friday came when Palmer didn't emerge from the training room until almost all of his teammates were on the field for the beginning of practice.
Then instead of heading that way, he veered to what looked to be the weight room with rehab director Nick Cosgray, and he didn't appear on the field until after stretching and during the specialists set.
Palmer was dressed, but without his helmet and wasn't throwing. He had what looked to be ice wrapped around the elbow while Fitzpatrick threw routes to the tight ends and wide receivers.
Lewis wouldn't rule out Palmer backing up at No. 2 instead of being No. 3 like he was against Cleveland, but he did rule out a season-ending injury. Officially he has been listed as doubtful. Lewis said the club wants to rest him so it doesn't become a week-to-week issue.
"We want to get the thing calmed down so it doesn't give him any irritation or problems at all," Lewis said.
All indications are that Palmer didn't have another MRI and that there is no major damage involving ligaments or tendons. After resting against Cleveland, he had his best game of the season with his first multi-touchdown pass game, but Palmer said this past Wednesday he didn't feel comfortable at times throwing certain passes and that the elbow simply didn't feel like it did before Giants cornerback Corey Webster bent it back on a blitz as Palmer tried to throw.
Fitzpatrick, making his second start as a Bengal, said he feels much better than he did the Friday before the Browns. That was his only day of reps that week. Since then, he's been the first team quarterback on passing downs for five of the last six practices.
Since he came over in the trade from St. Louis just before the 2007 season, Fitzpatrick didn't throw to the starting wide receivers in anything beyond 1-on-1s until the Friday before the Cleveland game.
"They're easy to throw to," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm really comfortable throwing to all of them.
"I dislocated Slim's finger on his first day back last year (from suspension)," said Fitzpatrick of wide receiver Chris Henry. "I've worked with Antonio (Chatman) a lot. I never did stuff before in terms of seven-on-seven, or game-type situations (with the starters). Regardless if I play or not, it's good to work with the guys."
He's looking to take better care of the ball and manage the game better after turning it over four times against the Browns. He threw three interceptions and suffered a fumble during a sack with 2:04 left in the game at his own 19 and Cleveland leading, 17-12.
"I feel great now being able to digest the game plan and have three full days of practice," Fitzpatrick said. "I had a feeling throughout the week (he would start). The way his elbow was feeling and just the communication with us."
Besides practice snaps, Fitzpatrick also has something else against the Jets that he didn't have against Cleveland:
Henry, whose first game back from suspension was last week.
"We've got enough playmakers on this team that it's just going to happen naturally in the game," Fitzpatrick said. "With the four wideouts we have for this game. With Slim playing and Tone playing well and Chad (Ocho Cinco) and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh).
"It's clicked a little bit the last few weeks, but one of these times we're going to be firing on all cylinders. Hopefully we'll get it figured out this week."
Sunday was supposed to be No. 4 vs. No. 9. Now it's No. 11 looking to spring the upset of the week against the NFL's highest-rated passer. Fitzpatrick, 25, has five NFL touchdown passes. Favre, 38, has three MVP awards.
Yes, Favre was Fitzpatrick's favorite QB as a kid, although the Arizona product also liked Jake Plummer. And his younger brother had a No. 4 Favre jersey.
"I'm excited just to watch him play and see him do his thing," Fitzpatrick said. "I might be looking at some stuff, but I'm not going to lie. I'll probably be peeking on the Jumbotron every now and again, too."
Fitzpatrick will want his left tackle. But Levi Jones (back) didn't dress. He didn't work Wednesday, either, and was limited Thursday. Yet Lewis indicated he's be OK because sitting him Friday is part of the treatment for his knee. He's listed as questionable.
Kicker Shayne Graham said he's counting on his sore groin being OK for Sunday. Graham, who doesn't kick Fridays, said he has been sore and decided to rest it Thursday but didn't expect there to be a problem big enough to put him on the shelf.
Lewis, however, said Friday the club is working out some kickers and might possibly add one to handle kickoff duties this Sunday. Lewis thinks Graham can kick field goals but maybe not kick off, which is why the Bengals may need to get some help in that area.
Officially Graham is listed as questionable.
And Graham had one of his best days ever kicking off in Dallas last week. He had two touchbacks out of his five kicks, and drove another into the end zone that got returned. He said the injury isn't related to a hit he took on the onside kick.
Lewis said defensive tackle John Thornton (Achilles) didn't work because he had an MRI but indicated he thinks he'll be OK. He's listed as questionable The hope is to activate third-rounder Pat Sims at the tackle spot for the first time, but the plan hit a snag when he hurt his thigh in Wednesday's practice.
But "he moved better today than yesterday," Lewis said, and it sounds like he might be able to go.
On the injury report Sims is listed as probable after going through a full practice.
Safety Dexter Jackson (thumb) was limited and is questionable.