Bills vs. Titans preview: 5 key players to watch in Week 6

0
357

Written by John Sparaco

The Buffalo Bills steamrolled the Kansas City Chiefs in their first rematch since the AFC Championship game, avenging their previous defeats from last season with a 38-20 victory on Sunday Night Football.

Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense overcame heavy rainfall throughout, even waiting out an hour-long weather delay at halftime while the entire team ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the cramped visiting locker room at Arrowhead Stadium. Allen’s deep ball was on point, passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns on only 15 completions, connecting with Emmanuel Sanders, Stefon Diggs, and Dawson Knox on deep passes that night. “Air Allen” also ran 11 times for 59 yards and one touchdown, hurdling Chiefs corner L’Jarius Sneed in the fourth quarter for a highlight-reel play that created bedlam amongst the Buffalo and NFL communities alike.

Buffalo’s defense kept Kansas City’s explosive offense in check, generating three turnovers including one additional fumble on special teams. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, who were both highlighted in last week’s article, finished the game with under 65 yards each. Patrick Mahomes threw two interceptions, one being a pick-six to Micah Hyde, with the other going to defensive end Greg Rousseau, who ended up being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his five tackles, one sack, and one interception performance.

Next on the schedule, Buffalo gets another opportunity to avenge a haunting defeat from last season, traveling to Nissan Stadium in Tennessee where they lost 42-16 to the Titans one year ago.

The circumstances of last year’s meeting were anything but normal. While the Titans dealt with a coronavirus outbreak within their facility, the Bills were left wondering whether their game would even happen, forced to decide whether to solely focus on the Titans or begin game-planning for the Chiefs, who they were scheduled to meet in a primetime game the following weekend.

Ultimately, the game was played on a Tuesday, which never happens in the NFL. To be fair, nothing was normal about last season.

Now, on Monday Night Football, the Bills (4-1) will meet a Titans (3-2) team that has had an up and down season to this point. They have experienced a blowout loss to the Cardinals, a blowout victory over the Jaguars last week, a thrilling overtime victory over Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, and a shocking overtime loss to give the Jets their lone win of the season so far.

Safe to say, with this Titans team, no one knows what to completely expect. As for the Bills, they look to continue their trend of sporting both the league’s top-scoring offense (34.4 PPG) and defense (12.8 PPG allowed) before heading into a Week 7 bye.

Players to watch:

Dawson Knox

Just a few months back, the talk of the town amongst Buffalo sports fans was whether or not Bills general manager Brandon Beane would pull off a trade for tight end Zach Ertz. On Friday, it was announced that the Philadephia Eagles traded Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for cornerback Tay Gowan and a fifth-round pick, yet Bills fans could not care less, all thanks to the performance of one man – Dawson Knox.

Knox impressed fans with his reliability and playmaking in the team’s first four games, something that was not always consistently there in his first two seasons. However, on Sunday Night, Knox experienced the game of his life to this point, breaking out as a serious big-play threat in Buffalo’s passing offense.

Knox made his three receptions count, totaling a career-high 117 yards including a 53-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.

Moving forward, defenses will have to respect Knox as a true receiving threat, as if defending Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, and Gabriel Davis was not enough. Game planning to take one of them out of the game will only leave another wide open to make plays, making Buffalo’s offense a nightmare to defend.

Derrick Henry

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a “Titan” as one that is gigantic in size or power. Arguably no one on the Tennessee Titans’ roster epitomizes his team name more than running back Derrick Henry.

Henry stands at 6-foot-3 while weighing 247 pounds, a monstrous figure at his position. To put in perspective how big Henry is, just take a look at Buffalo’s backfield. Neither Zack Moss nor Devin Singletary measure 5-foot-10 or higher or weigh over 205 pounds. The average NFL running back falls just under 6 feet tall, showing just how rare a halfback with Henry’s size is.

Henry uses his size to his advantage well, unforgivingly running over defenders on a regular basis. Commercials and other highlight shows have not let Bills fans forget what Henry did to Buffalo last year, frequently replaying when Henry tossed cornerback Josh Norman into the air with a ruthless stiff arm on a play that was ultimately called back due to a penalty.

As one would imagine, Tennessee leans heavily on Henry offensively. Through five games, Henry has carried the ball over 28 times per game, while also averaging roughly three receptions per game. Currently, Henry leads the NFL with 640 rushing yards, the next closest being Cleveland’s Nick Chubb with 523 while most of the top running backs have rushed for under 450 yards to this point.

Henry tests defenses’ willingness to tackle, especially in the latter stages of the game. Given the volume of work he receives, Buffalo’s run defense will need to be extra sharp this upcoming Monday.

Jordan Poyer

In his first game back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for one week, Jordan Poyer did not miss a beat. Poyer recorded eight tackles and one pass breakup, playing a crucial part in limiting the Chiefs’ offense.

Poyer continues to be one of the league’s most underrated talents, failing to receive All-Pro or even Pro Bowl recognition despite having stats that rival every top name at his position. Paired with Micah Hyde, the two have formed one of the most dominant safety duos in the NFL for the past five seasons.

In reference to Henry testing defenses’ willingness to tackle, Poyer is one of the most likely to answer the bell, leading the Bills in tackles in each of the past two seasons. Stopping Henry, as well as wide receivers, A.J Brown and Julio Jones, will be a collective team effort, but do not be surprised if Poyer leads the way against each of them on Monday night.

Harold Landry

Titans pass rusher Harold Landry is emerging as a legitimate breakout candidate in his contract year. The former second-round pick has tallied at least 4.5 sacks in each of his first three seasons with the team but through five games this season, he has already reached that mark.

Currently sitting with 4.5 sacks, Landry is the only player in the league to record at least five pressures in every game this season, disrupting quarterbacks week after week. In last week’s 37-19 victory against Jacksonville, Landry recorded seven tackles, two for a loss, three quarterback hits, and two sacks.

Now that Tennessee’s big free-agent acquisition, Bud Dupree, is returning this week after being sidelined since re-aggravating a knee injury in Week 2, the Titans have a very formidable pass rush to give their currently 21st ranked defense a boost.

Buffalo’s starting tackles, Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown have quite the challenge ahead of them, but if they can keep Landry and Dupree in check, Allen and the offense should have more than enough room to operate.

Cole Beasley

Despite the offensive explosion last week, Cole Beasley was left out of the fun, for the most part, playing just 22 snaps while catching one pass on two targets for five yards. Though it appeared to some that Beasley was being phased out permanently, Bills coach Sean McDermott assures that Beasley’s minimal usage last week was strictly game plan related.

“He’s a pro,” McDermott said Thursday. “It’s hard when you don’t get the football. And I get that. There’s only one football to go around, and sometimes it’s not just one game, it’s two games, it’s three games and how are you going to react?”

McDermott added that Beasley has been very professional in the way he has handled the situation, staying bought into the process knowing his time will come.

Following a week where he played the fewest snaps in his Bills career, Beasley has an opportunity to be a huge part of the game plan on Monday night. So far this season, the Titans have allowed the sixth-most yards to slot receivers (517 yards) and six touchdowns, tied for worst in the NFL.

Beasley continues to be one of the best slot receivers in the game, and with a favorable matchup ahead of him, there is a growing opportunity for him to have a big day production-wise.

Monday Night Football will kick off around 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Bills will be wearing white jerseys and blue pants for the first time this season, the same combination they wore in Tennessee last season. As of now, the weather forecast appears to be clear, a rare sight for a Bills team that has already played in rain three times this season, so neither team should be affected too much in that aspect.

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here