Did we all miss the news of a divisional realignment in the NFL? With the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans set to face off for the fifth straight year, it seems they should be considered members of the AFC East at this point. For the first time in 22 years, the Bills’ home opener will be in primetime. The last time? September 3rd, 2000 on Sunday Night Football against… you guessed it… the Tennessee Titans. The game was a rematch of the
Music City Miracle Illegal Forward Lateral, in which the Bills prevailed 16-13. With Buffalo’s offensive fire power, I would bet we see more than 29 points combined here on Monday night. Let’s dive into the matchup.
The Last Five
Titans 34 Bills 31 (2021)
Titans 42 Bills 16 (2020)
Bills 14 Titans 7 (2019)
Bills 13 Titans 12 (2018)
Bills 14 Titans 13 (2015)
The Tennessee Titans are one of two teams that have tripped up the Bills over the last two seasons. Last year, Buffalo was a Josh Allen slip away from winning a thrilling game in Nashville. The year before was one of the more humbling losses in Sean McDermott’s tenure as Bills coach. These two teams have a knack for playing close games against another, with the exception of the 2020 game. The margin of victory since 2015 has been 1, 1, 7, 26, and 3.
What to Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Plan For Henry – Derrick Henry has run all over the Buffalo Bills the past two years. Coming out of last week’s game in Los Angeles, I was much more confident in the Bills’ ability to shut down Derrick Henry than I am after seeing the Bills injury report. The plan to shut him down starts with the Bills’ revamped defensive line, highlighted by rising star Ed Oliver and assisted by free agent addition Tim Settle. As of Friday, neither player had practiced this week. Oliver has already been ruled out and Settle is listed as doubtful for Monday night. The Bills added DT Prince Emili to the practice squad this week, signaling some concern on the availability for one, if not both players, for this game and possibly beyond.
The Bills must find a way to contain Henry if they want to win this football game. Last year, Henry ran for 143 and 3 TDs. Nearly half of those yards came on a long TD run that should have been called back on a hold. Nevertheless, the point remains that the smallest missed assignment can prove to be costly with Henry in the backfield. With the Bills having to downgrade the talent level at DT, this Henry vs. D-Line matchup, which I felt so confident about one week ago, is back to keeping me up at night.
Motor? Moss? Cook? – Many fans are curious about Ken Dorsey’s approach in the backfield. Will it vary by weekly game plan and match up? Last week, Devin Singletary lead the RB room with 59% of the snaps, Moss had 37% and Cook had 5% (just three plays). The Bills didn’t use a second round pick on James Cook to have him play just three snaps. They also didn’t draft him to turn the football over, either. I suspect Dorsey will want to build Cook’s confidence early in the game, getting the ball in his hands and using the momentum of the home crowd behind him to build up his mojo again.
Manage The Expectations – Watching how the Bills handle the hype and pressure of high expectations will be something to watch throughout the year. The Bills aced their first test, dominating the defending champs in their own house as the nation watched the 2022 season kickoff. The message out of One Bills Drive this week has been one of familiarity: humble and hungry. I almost feel silly bringing this up as McDermott has proven time and time again that he can keep a team measured and focused. Yet, with last year’s home opener letdown fresh in all of our minds, how the Bills come out on Monday night will be under a microscope.
What to Watch For: Tennessee Titans
Injuries In The Wrong Places – The Bills aren’t the only team with injuries in wrong places heading into this game. Starting cornerback Kristian Fulton was ruled out of Monday’s game. The Titans pass rush will have to get to Allen before he has a chance to pick apart the back end of the defense.
Robert Woods – Woods was a fan favorite while in Buffalo and will be making his first return to Buffalo with fans in the stands. (His 2020 return with the Rams was in an empty stadium.) With Tre’Davious White still out and Dane Jackson questionable to play, Woods could make an impact for the Titans. Buffalo’s big win last week overshadowed an excellent day for Cooper Kupp, the Rams’ best receiver. Woods is a sneaky bet for a big night this week.
Buffalo Bills 33 Tennessee Titans 17 The Bills lived up to their offseason hype last week, kicking off their 2022 Revenge Tour on national television in dominating fashion… I expect nothing different this week. This game might be closer than some expected, with the injuries on the Bills defensive line, but some late scores by the Bills will widen the margin of victory. The Bills won’t pass up an opportunity to go 2.5 games up on last year’s #1 seed in the AFC.
Featured Image: AP Photo/Mark Zaleski