5 Players to Focus On as Jets Go to Buffalo to Battle Longtime Division Rivals

Bills Will Have Had 10 Days of Rest & Preparation for Green & White, Who Beat Them 20-17 at MetLife in November


"Meaningful games in December" is a phrase that has morphed from theory to reality for the Jets. Even though they lost at Minnesota, their offense and defense came out roaring (except in the red zone) in the second half, their inspirational comeback bid fell just short, and they remain in the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC conference standings.

Now all they have to do is play another tough team in another rough road venue. The Bills, like the Vikings, come into their game with the Jets with nine wins and in first place in their division. Their key rankings are even higher up the NFL ladder than the Vikes' metrics were. It's a doubly intense battle for both sides because it's an AFC East matchup.

And the Bills will have had 10 days since their Thursday night win at New England to rest up and prepare to exact revenge on the Jets, the 20-17 winners of the teams' first meeting at MetLife Stadium in early November.

"Buffalo is super-talented," head coach Robert Saleh said. "This is an ultimate challenge for us to go out there and just stay focused."

Here are five Jets players to stay focused on as the Green & White enter their second game of December in the middle of the AFC playoff conversation:

QB Mike White — Everyone in green remembers White's first starts last season and this season. His last start in '21? Not so memorable, disintegrating from a 10-3 game in the second quarter to a 45-17 loss in which he threw 4 INTs. "I learned a lot from that game," the QB said. "I think that's when you learn the most is when the games don't go so well." White, although he had the offense in position to pull out the comeback win at Minnesota, was hit 8 times by the Vikings and had 13 passes defensed (two intercepted). The Bills last year treated him similarly, whacking him 7 times and batting away 10 passes, and this season they're 8th in yards allowed/pass play and 3rd in INT rate.

RB Michael Carter — Carter's ankle kept him out vs. the Vikings. Free agent rookie Zonovan Knight picked up any MC slack with his second 100-scrimmage-yards outing in his 2 pro games, and White will have WRs Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis, et al., to throw to. But to open up those receivers, Carter could provide a jolt. He had his best rushing game of the season vs. the Bills with 12 carries for 76 yards (6.3 per carry) and the Jets' first of two TDs that day. He ignited a 174-yard rushing game, their second-best of the season, that helped them to a 5½-minute edge in possession time. The Jets will need something similar from Carter, "Bam," Ty Johnson and James Robinson to prevail again.

DL Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins — Five weeks ago the Green & White sacked Josh Allen 5 times, hit him 8 times, intercepted him twice and stripped him twice. Two of the rattlers were Williams, with a sack, and Rankins, with a strip. The Jets' pass rush continued to fare well against the Vikes' Kirk Cousins, only 2 sacks but 9 hits, a few of the thunderous variety. "Q" is now at 9 sacks, most on the Jets and tied for 10th in the NFL, and 21 QB hits, most among interior linemen. Rankins is back from his elbow issue and had two of the Cousins hits. Those two and their pressure pals will need to keep the heat on Allen, who had 2 turnovers in the Bills' last 3 games, all victories.

CB Sauce Gardner — Sunday's road loss featured Jets RCB D.J. Reed often working against WR Justin Jefferson, with Reed holding his own except for the 10-yard fourth-quarter TD pass from Cousins. Now the secondary spotlight could swing back on Sauce, who stood out in the first Bills game with his 2nd pro INT, another big downfield breakup and a team-high 7 tackles. It's only natural to watch when WR Stefon Diggs (91 receptions, 1,202 yards, 10 TDs) matches up with Gardner, who continues to lead the NFL with 15 pass defenses.

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