The Buffalo Bills travel south this weekend, crossing over into the state of New Jersey to square off against the New York Jets. For Buffalo, it’s just their second divisional matchup of the year. The Bills lost their only division game so far, dropping a 21-19 decision against the Miami Dolphins in September.
The Jets are situated well at 5-3 right now, although they are coming off a 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots. That dropped New York’s divisional record to 1-1, as they hold a blowout victory over the Dolphins, having defeated them 40-17 while quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was sidelined.
If the Bills are going to leave MetLife Stadium with a win, they’ll have to move the ball against a phenomenal defense that has elite players at every level. They’ll also need to make the Jets one-dimensional, forcing second-year quarterback Zach Wilson to beat them with his arm.
Here are our five players to watch this week.
RB James Robinson
The newly-acquired back isn’t nearly as dynamic as rookie Breece Hall, who will miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Robinson is coming off a major injury himself, as he suffered a torn Achilles tendon last season. With the Jacksonville Jaguars this year, Robinson carried the ball 81 times for 340 yards and three touchdowns—good for an average of 4.2 yards per carry. In his Jets debut last week, he rushed five times for just 17 yards, and he didn’t catch a pass out of the backfield.
Buffalo has to be better against the run this week than they were last week, when the Green Bay Packers gained over 200 yards on the ground. That was partially by scheme, though, as the Bills were clearly giving the Packers the run before they let Aaron Rodgers beat them. The opposite has to be true this week, as the Jets’ offense has been most effective when the running game is covering for Wilson this year. If Buffalo looks more like the team that was allowing just 76 yards per game on the ground entering last week, then they’ll be in great shape. If Wilson can hand the ball off and find himself in second or third downs that are short and manageable? Then the game will be a bit more difficult for the Bills.
WR Garrett Wilson
One of three players the Jets selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Wilson has been nothing short of phenomenal so far this year. He is the most targeted receiver on the Jets by far, as he’s seen 59 passes thrown his way this year. He leads the team in receptions (34) and receiving yards (429), and he only trails tight end Tyler Conklin in receiving touchdowns (Conklin has three, Wilson has two).
With Buffalo having activated cornerback Tre’Davious White, the possibility of watching an All-Pro player take on a stud rookie is tempting. However, the MetLife turf is notoriously bad for knee ligaments, and with White making his way back from an ACL tear, this might not be the week for him to make his 2022 debut. Wilson could see a healthy dose of fellow rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam this week in what could be the first of many meetings between a pair of excellent young players.
DL Quinnen Williams
The former first-round pick is a menace, and he finally seems like he’s put it all together this year. Williams has already tied his career-high in sacks, and he leads the Jets in that category with six so far this year. He also has 16 quarterback hits, which is tied with veteran defensive end Carl Lawson for the most on New York’s roster. Williams is going to give Buffalo’s interior offensive line problems, and with the Bills already expected to be without starting right tackle Spencer Brown, that means that the reserve ranks will be thinner. David Quessenberry is likely to at right tackle, which means Buffalo is one injury away from Bobby Hart lining up across from Williams. Buffalo will need to help center Mitch Morse, as well as guards Rodger Saffold and Ryan Bates, or else they might be in rough shape.
LB C.J. Mosley
Speaking of guys who are absolute menaces, Mosley picked up right where he left off last year when he made 168 total tackles. He’s on a similar pace again this year, as Mosley has 82 tackles through eight games already. He is an excellent all-around linebacker—one who can cover in zones, spy the quarterback, and deliver huge hits on opposing ballcarriers. He’s talented enough to cause problems if Buffalo’s offensive linemen can’t climb to the second level in run blocking, and if quarterback Josh Allen has another run of mental lapses like he did in the fourth quarter of the Green Bay game.
Mosley has the talent to disrupt passing lanes, as well. If the Bills can isolate him in man coverage on running backs or tight ends, though, it’s a win for the Bills, as that is the one area where Mosley can be exploited. With newly-acquired running back Nyheim Hines serving as the receiving-back extraordinaire, it’s something to monitor.
CB Sauce Gardner
Last week, it was Jaire Alexander versus everyone—mostly Gabe Davis, but sometimes Khalil Shakir, and a few times Stefon Diggs. This week, Diggs will be tasked with staying out of the Sauce, as the rookie Gardner has proven himself to be an elite-level lockdown corner already. He has 12 pass breakups through eight games as a rookie, but just one interception on the season.
Gardner has allowed just 52% of the passes thrown his way to be completed, for an average of 8.2 yards per catch. He’s allowed just one touchdown, and a 61.6 quarterback rating on passes when he’s the closest defender in coverage. It will be interesting to see if the Jets use Gardner to shadow Diggs, or if they utilize the Bill Belichick strategy and use a double-team on Diggs while Gardner shadows Davis. I think that Gardner and Diggs will end up mano e mano more often than not on Sunday, and that’s going to be a great matchup all afternoon.