The AFC East is wide open. As good as the Buffalo Bills (9-3) have been, they only have a two-game lead on the New York Jets (7-5). If New York wins, it can sweep Buffalo. With those wins in hand, all the Jets would need to do to pass the Bills is have an equal record or better.
So this game is enormously consequential for the AFC and AFC East standings. The four AFC East teams are all among the top eight AFC teams. It’s a tight race for every one of them. A game like this is a golden opportunity for both squads.
So let’s dive into burning questions for this week’s matchup.
Mike White will start at quarterback, but no matter who is under center for the Jets, Garrett Wilson has managed to put up big numbers. Last week, he managed eight catches for 162 yards. He is the team’s No. 1 offensive option. They want to get the ball in his hands. And Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has taken note.
“Wow, he really stands out,” Frazier said Monday. “He’s a guy that they’re for sure targeting and getting the ball in his hands. He’s making things happen. He’s going to be a really good player. He is a good player. His future is very bright. We’re going to have our hands full trying to contend with him, but he’s a guy that they are making a focal-point.”
The Bills have been giving cornerback Tre’Davious White more snaps as he recovers from an ACL injury. He is back in the mix with Xavier Rhodes, Dane Jackson, Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam — all five DBs have contributed. It will be interesting to see how much they can limit Wilson and which cornerback gets the bulk of Willson’s coverage.
Does Mike White make a difference for the Jets — or for the Bills?
The Jets won this matchup in Week 9 with Zach Wilson under center. And I’ve been making the case that White is the better quarterback. Now, it’s not a one-for-one comparison between this matchup and the one in Week 9. But if White wants to make the statement that he’s as competent as — or more competent than — Wilson, then he needs to win on Sunday.
The Bills are hoping White makes a difference in the sense that he yields Buffalo a win, of course. Buffalo couldn’t get Wilson to make a game-changing mistake. Maybe the Bills can force one out of White, who is 1-1 as the team’s starter this season.
Zach Wilson didn’t figure out how to lead the Jets
Retired NFL quarterback Mike Simms joins The Carton Show to talk about his former team, the New York Jets, and their QB dilemma. Mike White has been taking the field with the Jets with Zach Wilson sidelined, and Simms offers some advice for Wilson.
Von Miller underwent exploratory surgery on his knee and doctors found the outside linebacker needed ACL surgery, per multiple reports. That meant he is out for the rest of the year after the team initially expected him to return. It’s time for Shaq Lawson, Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham to step up. Epenesa reflected last Thursday — before knowing Miller would miss the year — upon what the unit would have to do in Miller’s absence.
“It’s that time,” A.J. Epenesa said. “All four of us edge rush guys — it’s our time in the season, it’s time for us to step up this opportunity to make plays. I know the four of us are gonna make the most of it. So we’re looking forward to the next couple weeks.”
Against the Patriots, the defensive line put Mac Jones on the run. He faced 21 pressures, 17 hurries, three quarterback hits and one sack. That’s pretty darn good, especially considering Jones finished the game completing 61.1% of his passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. The stats don’t show just how out of sorts he looked. He was a mess. Buffalo needs to have a similar effect on White — except the Bills rushers surely hope they’ll get home for a few more sacks.
Which playmaker steps up for the Bills? (It can’t just be Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs)
The Bills seemed interested in conducting an experiment where their offense extended itself beyond Josh Allen — as a runner and a passer — and Stefon Diggs. They were becoming one-dimensional and that showed up most clearly in their loss to the New York Jets.
Much like the Jets get to compare the state of their offense under White and Wilson against the same defense, the Bills get to check out the state of their evolving offense with its newfound focus on getting every skill player involved. But it’s not easy to beat this Jets defense, which boasts one of the best defenses in the NFL. It will be a great test for Buffalo’s adjusted offense.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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