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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Week 5 Preview: 3 Key Matchups to Watch During Bills vs. Titans

Much like everything else this year, nothing has gone to plan when it comes to preparing for this week’s game against the Titans. Initially scheduled for Sunday afternoon, the game was pushed back to a rare Tuesday night match to accommodate the Titans, who saw an outbreak of positive tests continue to roll into this week after postponing last week’s game vs. Pittsburgh. As for the Bills, they have been continuing to prepare as if the game is on, simultaneously game planning for both the Titans and the Chiefs in case the game gets cancelled. Despite a late scare yesterday where a Titans assistant coach tested positive for the virus, it appears that the game will go on as scheduled barring any last minute setbacks.

Key Matchups

1. Bills Secondary Depth vs. AJ Brown 

Although the Bills have had over a week to recover since their victory over the Raiders, they are still heading into Tennessee with some uncertainty when it comes to injuries. Matt Milano has already been ruled out with a pectoral injury. One of the biggest mysteries, however, is what star CB Tre’Davious White’s status will be at gametime tomorrow. White has been held out of practice for a majority of the week with a back injury, and may be in danger of missing tomorrow’s game. Obviously, Tre White’s presence would be greatly missed on the defense, but even more so with Levi Wallace on IR. Josh Norman made a great first impression in his debut last week, practically single handedly giving the Bills the spark they needed to close out the victory. Performances like that will certainly keep Norman in the starting lineup, but the CB depth behind him looks a bit thin if White cannot go. The Bills may have to rely on Siran Neal and Cam Lewis to play significant snaps on the outside, which could be a tough task given their matchup. Titans WR A.J. Brown is expected to return to the lineup despite being listed as questionable, and the exciting young receiver is always a tough test no matter who lines up across from him. Other than Brown, the Bills may face a bit of a break with other starting receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries unlikely to move off the reserve/COVID-19 list before the game. The potentially depleted Bills secondary will have to key in on stopping Brown if they hope to shut down the Titans offense.

2.  Bills Run Defense vs. Derrick Henry

Buffalo’s run defense bounced back nicely last week after struggling mightily for the first few games. They were able to hold star RB Josh Jacobs to only 48 rushing yards on 15 attempts, which was crucial towards slowing down the Raiders in the second half. Despite an encouraging performance by the Bills defense, the matchup does not get any easier this week against one of the most physically dominant backs in the league, Derrick Henry. At an imposing 6’3” and 238 pounds, Henry bulldozed his way to a rushing title last season while carrying Tennessee all the way to the AFC Championship Game. The Bills fared well against Henry last year, holding him to just 78 yards on the ground on 3.9 yards per carry. Obviously, stopping Henry will not get any easier after the Bills ruled out key LB Matt Milano. As HC Sean McDermott always mentions, it will be important that the Bills have “gap integrity” when defending the run. The Bills also hope that MLB Tremaine Edmunds plays up to his potential as he has looked a bit slow since his shoulder injury a few weeks back.

3. Josh Allen vs. Titans Defense

Bills QB Josh Allen has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. Taking a giant leap forward from Year 2 to Year 3Allen’s success in Buffalo’s remodeled air raid offense has placed him in early MVP conversations around the league. Allen has the ability to torment defenses with both his mobility and his arm, which could be a nightmare matchup for a Titans defense who has had minimal time to prepare and stay conditioned for the past two weeks. Additionally, the Titans defense should be missing some huge pieces on their defense. Starting CB Adoree Jackson is on IR, and the Titans could also miss key starters such as LB Kamalei Correa, DL Jeffrey Simmons, and rookie CB Kristian Fulton who are all currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list. While these are not ideal conditions, Josh Allen has a giant opportunity to light up a depleted Titans defense on national television. As previously mentioned, the Titans have not been able to practice for two weeks (although they were rumored to have broken protocol and held workouts last week), so it should be interesting to see how well they can keep up with guys like Stefon Diggs, Devin Singletary, and of course Josh Allen towards the end of the game. The Titans could also be at major risk of injuries given their lack of training, which is certainly a concern to keep an eye on.

It is fair to say that the Titans are one of the least respected organizations in professional sports right now due to their blatant disregard to rules, regulations, and everyone else’s health and safety. Their actions have negatively impacted the Steelers, Bills, and now several other team’s scheduling, and it is widely expected that their organization could face serious punishments once the league wraps up their investigation. The Bills certainly are not thrilled with their current predicament, and it would not be surprising if they come out of the gates even more fired up than usual as long as they get the opportunity to do so.

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