The New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills will face off in a crucial divisional matchup on Sunday, with tons of potential playoff ramifications on the line.
Gang Green is coming off a tough loss to the New England Patriots in Week 8, and sit at 5–3 on the season.
Meanwhile, the first-place Bills are riding a four-game winning streak, and find themselves atop the AFC with a 6–1 record.
The two New York teams will kick off at 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium, and here are five things fans should be looking out for.
Can Zach Wilson rebound?
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had a rough outing last week, when he completed just 20 of 41 passes and tossed three interceptions against New England.
That came during the first game without rookie running back Breece Hall, who tore his ACL the previous week after becoming the team’s most potent offensive player.
On the season, the second-year quarterback boasts a 54.93% completion rate, while throwing three touchdowns and five interceptions.
Despite the rough outing Sunday, both head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas made sure to reinforce that Wilson will remain under center for the remainder of the season, barring injury.
“We love Zach. We love his approach every week,” said Douglas. “We love how he competes. He’s our quarterback.”
The vote of confidence aside, fans should be looking at whether Wilson can rebound against the dominant Bills team.
Jets pass protection vs. Bills pass rush.
Gang Green quarterbacks have been sacked 19 times this season, which is 11th most in the NFL. The Bills, meanwhile, have sacked opposing passers 21 times.
Much of that has been due to the team’s decimated offensive line, which has seen significant injuries all season. Most recently they lost Alijah Vera-Tucker, their starting guard to injury, which was simply the latest in a string of bad luck on the year for that unit.
Making matters worse, Zach Wilson is the worst quarterback while under pressure in the NFL, by passer rating (7.1) and completion percentage (19.1%).
If the Jets want to have any chance of winning this game, and competing with the solid Josh Allen-led Bills offense, they are going to need to put up lots of points — and that starts with protecting Wilson.
Will Sauce Gardner’s dominance continue?
The rookie cornerback, who the Jets drafted fourth overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, has been dominant this season for Gang Green.
Through 323 coverage snaps, he’s allowed catches on just •44.2% of targets, and defended 12 passes. He’s allied just 147 yards this year.
Now, he’ll face the best quarterback he’s ever played in the NFL in Josh Allen.
Fans should be on the lookout for Gardner this week and see if he can continue his stellar play.
Can the Bills Run Defense Rebound?
After not allowing any running back to rush for over 50 yards in a game during the first even weeks of the season, the Bills were gashed on the ground by the Green Bay Packers last week for 209 yards. Aaron Jones led the way with 143 yards, but the Packers were able to gain massive chunks of yardage on almost every rush attempt. This allowed Green Bay to sustain long drives and keep the Buffalo offense off of the field.
Surely the Jets took notice, and it’s highly likely they employ the same strategy to try to keep the ball out of Zach Wilson’s hands as much as possible. In Michael Carter and James Robinson, the Jets have two solid but not spectacular backs, but both of them are able to break big plays if given a lane. The Bills run defense will need to recapture some of that early-season magic if they want to win this game emphatically.
What Will the Bills Secondary Look Like?
There are two huge questions for the Bills’ secondary heading into Sunday’s game. The first is how much Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White will play. White was activated off of the IR this week and has been practicing with the team for two weeks; however, head coach Sean McDermott is still calling him day-to-day.
It’s highly unlikely he will play a full complement of snaps on Sunday, but the question will be just how much White sees the field and whether the Bills immediately have confidence in his reconstructed knee to put him in the one-on-one matchups he has thrived in during his career.
The next question is about the health of Jordan Poyer. The Buffalo safety has battled multiple injuries this season and re-injured his elbow late in the win over the Packers. Since the Bills traded for reserve safety Dean Marlowe on Tuesday, it’s possible that Poyer will be limited or unavailable for Sunday’s game. With Micah Hyde already out for the year, Poyer missing the game would be a big deal for this Buffalo secondary.