The Chicago Bears make their second trip out to New Jersey this season when they take on the New York Jets in Week 12. The Bears (3-8) are reeling after another close loss, this time to the Atlanta Falcons, in which they fell short right at the end. The Jets (6-4) meanwhile could be on the verge of unravelling as they’re dealing with a quarterback issue following their last-second loss to the New England Patriots.
A week ago, it was a lock that we would see second-year quarterbacks Justin Fields and Zach Wilson start for the Bears and Jets, respectively. But with Fields dealing with a shoulder injury and Wilson getting benched, it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see either of them. Here are five players that should be watched, however, when the game kicks off.
1. QB Mike White
Sep 18, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) warms up before the game between the Jets and the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets decided to bench Wilson due to his poor play and lack of accountability following their loss to the Jets. That means backup Mike White is set to make his 2022 debut as the starter. White burst onto the scene in 2021 in relief of Wilson, throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals. Two games later, however, he tossed four interceptions in his latest start, coming against the Buffalo Bills. It’s anyone’s guess as to which player will show up on Sunday but White faces a struggling Bears defense that is banged up in the secondary. With a desperate Jets team looking to stay afloat in the AFC, it could be a strong performance from the backup quarterback.
2. WR Garrett Wilson
Sep 18, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) celebrates after catching a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Should Fields be unable to go on Sunday, at least one dynamic player from Ohio State will be available on offense. Rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson, a former teammate of Fields, has been the Jets’ best offensive weapon since they lost running back Breece Hall to a torn ACL earlier in the season. Wilson leads the team with 44 receptions for 533 yards and two touchdowns. He’s eclipsed 90 yards receiving in two of his last three games and could see more production with White at the helm. Wilson was critical of the offense’s performance following last week’s loss and will be counted on to move the ball. Like White, he might benefit from a Bears secondary that’s dealing with injuries.
3. DT Quinnen Williams
Nov 6, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (95) celebrates a defensive stop being Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins (73) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
It took a bit of time, but defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is finally playing to his potential in his fourth season as a pro. The 2019 third overall pick got off to a rough start and was the subject of trade rumors as early as his second season. But he’s on his way to a career year with 38 total tackles, seven for a loss, eight sacks and a forced fumble. Like Grady Jarrett did last week, Williams could give the Bears interior offensive line headaches on Sunday and take down Fields or backup Trevor Siemian. Whoever is lining up under center will need to keep their head on a swivel with Williams on the line.
4. CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner
Nov 6, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates his interception with teammates during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets defense has been formidable this season and much of that has been due to the play of rookie cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. The fourth overall pick has made an immediate impact, totaling 45 tackles, two interceptions, and 14 passes defensed, which leads the league. He’s quickly becoming a star and is the clubhouse leader to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year when the season wraps up. Gardner may have an easier test on Sunday if Fields is unable to go. Siemian doesn’t have the scrambling ability Fields does and could throw up some bad passes if he gets under pressure. That’s music to Gardner’s ears.