The Buffalo Bills go on the road this week, taking their longest journey to date in 2019 to square off against the Tennessee Titans. Buffalo is 2-0 on the road this season, though both of those victories came in the same building, MetLife Stadium, in the season’s first two weeks.
In another pivotal early season AFC match-up, Buffalo needs to beat Tennessee in order to stay ahead of the Titans in the playoff picture. Sure, it’s early to talk about these things, but a Buffalo win makes the Bills 4-1 overall (3-1 in the conference), and it would leave Tennessee at 2-3 (1-3 in the conference). Add in that the Bills would own the head-to-head tiebreak over Tennessee, and a win becomes fairly critical. A loss would leave the teams with identical records, both overall (3-2) and in the conference (2-2), and would cede that tiebreaker to the Titans.
The Bills are dealing with some injuries this week at critical positions, as well, with the status of quarterback Josh Allen (concussion) and running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) up in the air. Which Bills will need to step up this week? Here’s who we’ll be watching.
RB Devin Singletary
While the rookie was limited in practice on Wednesday, the fact that he began practicing last week leads me to believe that he’s closer to returning than not. Rather than leading off by writing about either Matt Barkley or Josh Allen (who are both obvious players to watch) I’ll start with the impact rookie, whose big-play ability has been sorely missed over the last two weeks. If Singletary can suit up this week, he gives the offense a dynamic play-maker that it lacks in the running game. While Frank Gore has played very well thus far, he isn’t quite the consistent breakaway threat that Singletary has shown himself to be (even though Gore did look pretty spry on that 41-yard run against the New England Patriots last weekend). Whether Buffalo’s quarterback is No.17 or No. 5, having Singletary will make his job a whole lot easier.
LT Dion Dawkins
Let’s face it—the third-year player has to be better. After a solid rookie season, Dawkins suffered through a miserable second year where he was one of the league’s most-penalized offensive linemen, committing 11 penalties worth 91 yards on the season. Add in that he allowed eight sacks last year, and Dawkins was a player with a lot to prove this year. In the season’s first four games, he hasn’t shown that same ability that he did as a rookie. Dawkins has already committed three penalties worth 19 yards on the year, putting him on pace to surpass his season total in both categories from last year. He’s also allowed 2.5 sacks. Against a strong Titans defensive front that includes edge rushers Harold Landry (three sacks in four games) and Cameron Wake (2.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits in only 79 defensive snaps), Dawkins will need to bring his “A” game.
DT Ed Oliver
I’m calling my shot—the rookie will have his first career NFL sack this week against Marcus Mariota. While Tennessee’s quarterback is known for his mobility, he is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league this season. Overall, Mariota has been sacked 17 times, trailing only Kyler Murray, Andy Dalton, and Deshaun Watson. In terms of sack percentage, Mariota has been taken down on 12.5% of his passing attempts, a total that leads the league. If Buffalo uses its edge rushers to contain the mobile Mariota, the middle rushers will have a chance to burst through Tennessee’s offensive line. This is where Oliver notches sack number one.
LB Matt Milano
Whether he ends up in coverage on stud tight end Delanie Walker or shifty running back Dion Lewis, Milano will play a big role this weekend. He will also be a big part of containing bruising running back Derrick Henry, who has 3” and 24 lbs on him. What Milano lacks in size he makes up for in toughness, and that heart will come in handy this weekend. Milano is currently third on the team with 26 tackles, and he will find himself in plenty of positions to add to that total this Sunday.
S Micah Hyde
Buffalo’s stud at safety was phenomenal last weekend, helping to hold future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady in check all afternoon. Hyde will be relied upon not only to cover Walker, but to help out on Tennessee’s hulking wideouts in Corey Davis (6’3” and 209 lbs), Tajae Sharp (6’2” and 194 lbs), and A.J. Brown (6’ and 226 lbs). Slot ace Adam Humphries, while smaller than the rest, is another player who Hyde will have to help out with in the middle of the field. This is where the 28-year-old’s immense talent can be put on full display, as Hyde has the ability to cover anyone in the league. If he can have another game like the one he had last week, it will go a long way towards frustrating Tennessee’s offense.