NASHVILLE, TN — At long last, the Bills are set to take on the Tennessee Titans in a clash between two unbeaten teams. Buffalo comes in at 4-0, while Tennessee is coming off a forced-bye week and enters tonight’s game at 3-0.
The Titans were unable to play in Week 4 after positive COVID-19 tests ran rampant throughout their organization, causing the league to postpone Tennessee’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers until Week 7. This past week, with more positive tests surfacing in Tennessee, many believed the NFL would once again force the Titans to take a second bye week. Instead, the league decided to postpone the Bill-Titans game until tonight, making it only the second Tuesday night football game in NFL history.
The only other Tuesday night game came during the 2010 season when a blizzard hit Philadelphia, which caused the league to postpone the Eagles-Vikings game.
This game will undoubtedly be unique, and this past couple of weeks have been as odd as any the NFL has ever seen. But it’s time to put all that aside and get down to business. After all, a game is to be played. And the Bills are looking to go to 5-0 for the first time since 1991.
Here are a few things to watch for during tonight’s game:
WHERE/WHEN TO WATCH
It may be a silly thing to point out, but this isn’t your ordinary NFL game. In fact, before yesterday even I wasn’t sure what station was showing the game. However, after some detailed research, I’ve discovered that CBS will broadcast tonight’s game with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tom McCarthy and Jay Feely will be on the call from Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Starting linebacker, Matt Milano has been declared OUT for tonight’s game against the Titans, leaving a significant hole for the Bills on defense. Also, All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White is questionable going into tonight’s game after being absent from practice last week.
Both are irreplaceable losses for the Bills, as Milano’s ability, both in the run game and the passing game, is something the Bills can’t replace, especially when you consider the underperformance of free-agent signing, LB A.J. Klein. Klein was expected to be the team’s third linebacker this season and has failed to produce, leaving undrafted rookie Tyrel Dodson to supersede Klein in terms of playing time.
As far as White is concerned, while the team hasn’t ruled him out, his absence from practice late last week is unsettling and makes one think Buffalo may decide to hold him out against Tennessee. If that’s the case, the Bills will be even more short-handed, as they’re already dealing with the loss of starting cornerback Levi Wallace who landed on injured reserve last week with an ankle injury. While the return of Josh Norman in Week 4 provided a boost to the Bills’ secondary, the loss of Wallace and the potential loss of White could have the opposite effect on the Bills’ secondary this week.
The Bills lack incredible depth at cornerback, and if White is unable to play, it may lead to increased roles for Taron Johnson or Siran Neal, or even former UB Bull Cam Lewis, who was elevated from the practice squad last week. All three are a far cry from what White brings to the table as a complete defender.
While Buffalo has avoided the major back-breaking injury this season, the Bills have been banged up the past few weeks, and it’s only a matter of time before the injury bug comes back to bite them.
It’s the third-straight season in which the Bills have gone up against the Titans and their starting running back Derrick Henry. Although he is widely considered one of the best running backs in the NFL, the Bills have done an excellent job against Henry in the past, limiting the Tennessee RB to just 134 rushing yards and a touchdown through two games.
In his first matchup with Buffalo, Henry ran for 56 yards on only 11 carries while fellow Titans’ RB, Dion Lewis out-carried him with 12 totes for 34 yards. Henry was the focal point of the Tennessee rushing attack in their game against the Bills last season and carried the ball 20 times for 78 yards and a score.
Expect much more of what you saw from Henry last season, as he has quickly transformed into not only the focal point of the Titans running game, but also the focal point of their offense - and rightfully so. Henry had an unbelievable season in ‘19 in which he recorded over 300 carries (303) for a total of 1,540 rushing yards to go with 16 touchdowns. Henry is one of the premier running backs in the league, and the Bills, who have struggled at times to stop the run this season, will have their hands full with Henry tonight.
One positive when it comes to defending Henry, he isn’t much of a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, as he has yet to eclipse 20 catches in a single season during his five-year NFL career. Henry has five catches for 26 yards this season.
The Bills’ old foe from his days in Miami, Tannehill is enjoying a career revitalization of sorts, the likes of which you don’t typically see from an NFL quarterback who was once believed to have nothing left in the tank. Instead, Tannehill has proven he has plenty left in him, bringing the Titans to the AFC Championship game last year and starting this season right where he left off in ‘19.
Tannehill recorded his first 300-yard game of the season last week in Tennessee’s win over the Minnesota Vikings. But in the weeks prior, he also put forth solid passing performances. In Week 1, Tannehill began the season throwing for 249 yards and two scores against the Denver Broncos, and followed that up in Week 2 with 239 yards and four touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now, Tannehill and the Titans have yet to play one the league’s top-teams (opponents’ combined record 3-11), but this isn’t a case of a team beating up on lesser competition, leading many to believe they’re better than their record indicates. The Titans are a team, and Tannehill is a quarterback that proved it last year and the success they enjoyed last season has carried over to this year.
The name Tannehill might not strike fear in the hearts of Bills fans who watched the former Dolphins quarterback finish his years in Miami 4-7 against Buffalo. However, this isn’t your father’s Ryan Tannehill. This is a player that has improved his game and will present a tough challenge for the Bills’ banged-up secondary tonight.
This segment is simple. Will Josh Allen solidify his spot in the MVP race with another exceptional performance - this time on national television? The world will be watching tonight, which makes this a huge game for Allen. It’s an excellent opportunity for him to disprove his many doubters - if you care about that sort of thing.
If you don’t care about that sort of thing, this is a huge game for Allen anyway. A game in the national spotlight against one of the league’s top teams, tonight will be big in terms of Allen’s continued progression, which has reached a rapid pace. As he continues to ascend, Allen may run into a few stumbling blocks here or there, and one of those could be tonight against the Titans.
With that said, if Allen can come out, throw for 300+ yards and a few touchdowns without any turnovers, you’ll find it difficult to find any remaining Josh Allen critics out there.
PLAYING FOR HISTORY
The Bills are looking for their first 5-0 start since the 1991 season and their first five-game winning streak since 2004. There has been plenty of history already made by this year’s team, and as Buffalo continues to forge ahead through this extraordinary season, Bills fans are going to have to get used to records being broken and new marks being set week in and week out. This is where we are with this team.
Unbeaten through the first quarter of the season, the Bills continue to prove they’re anything but ordinary, but rather a once in a generation squad that has once in a generation potential. Teams like the ‘20 Bills don’t come around often, and what we are enjoying this season is something many of us have never seen, and may never see again.