Last year, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Buffalo Bills in embarrassing fashion, winning 42-16 in what was Buffalo’s first loss of the 2020 season. The Titans scored four touchdowns on drives of 30 yards or less, as they capitalized on three Buffalo turnovers and a huge punt return to make the short field their friend.
Two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter when the game was already well in hand. One was a passing touchdown to make the score 42-16. That’s the kind of thing that teams remember year over year, and while Buffalo has done some rubbing of opponents proverbial noses in it over the last 21 regular season games, they haven’t had many instances where they’ve been blown off the field.
After avenging two big losses to the Kansas City Chiefs with a 38-20 victory last week, Buffalo looks to make it two-for-two on the 2021 revenge tour this week. In order to do that, they’ll need to slow Tennessee’s top players.
Here’s who we’re watching this week.
QB Ryan Tannehill
Since leaving the Miami Dolphins and the horrors of Adam Gase, Tannehill has been closer to Ryan Montannehill than he has been the artist we used to know as Ryan Tannehill. The 33-year-old quarterback is 21-10 over 31 starts with the Titans, completing 66.6 percent of his passes for 7,812 yards and 61 touchdowns against just 16 interceptions. In the matchup with Buffalo last year, Tannehill was lights out, throwing for 195 yards and three touchdowns, adding 41 yards and a touchdown rushing, as well. Given the short fields he worked with all night, he didn’t need to do much more than what he did. Buffalo will need to keep Tennessee in 3rd & LONG situations so as to lessen the impact of the play-action game. If they can do that, they could make Tannehill look more like the Miami version they dominated for years.
RB Derrick Henry
Henry is off to another fantastic start, as the 6’3”, 247-lb battering ram once again leads the NFL in rushing attempts (142), rushing yards (640), and rushing touchdowns (7) through the season’s first five games. The Bills kept Henry in check last year, holding him to 57 yards on 19 carries. By total yards and average per carry, that was his worst output of a 2020 season where he rushed for 2,027 yards in total. However, Henry ran for two touchdowns against Buffalo last year. The Bills will need to hold him down again if they want to make Tennessee beat them through the air, which absolutely needs to be the goal. The best run defense could be a solid offense, as well, so if Buffalo can hang a quick 20 on them, a negative game script could limit Henry’s usage.
WR A.J. Brown
This kid is a stud. Brown is everything you want in a wideout—he’s big, he’s fast, and he’s physical. While he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury this year, he practiced in full on Thursday, so I expect that he’ll be full go on Monday night. Thanks to Julio Jones lining up across from him, Buffalo won’t be able to just shadow Brown with Tre’Davious White all night, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of chances for Buffalo’s top corner to go against Tennessee’s top wideout. A matchup against Levi Wallace is a mismatch in Tennessee’s favor, so giving him some help when he has to cover Brown will help the Bills be more successful.
EDGE Harold Landry
The pass rusher leads the Titans with 4.5 sacks and ten quarterback hits through five games, so he’s been plenty effective at rushing the passer so far. Buffalo’s offensive line has looked much better ever since rookie Spencer Brown slid in at right tackle, but he’ll have his hands full if Landry ends up across from him. I’d almost argue that Brown has been better in his two games than left tackle Dion Dawkins has been in his five, but maybe I’ll lay off the heavy accolades for at least another week. If Brown can stone Landry and help keep quarterback Josh Allen upright all game, then that praise is going to come in heaps.
S Kevin Byard
Buffalo threw the ball deep with ease last week, as safety Daniel Sorensen was continuously burned by Buffalo’s pass-catching group. Byard certainly saw that film, and the Bills will be looking for more chances at chunk plays this week. He’ll need to be assignment-sound all throughout this one; otherwise, the Bills can flip the field with a flick of Josh Allen’s wrist. This year, Byard has been the closest man in coverage on 17 passes, and he’s allowed just seven completions on those throws. If he can keep up that pace, the Bills will have to take shorter throws to matriculate down the field. If he can’t? Well, it could be a long night in Nashville for the home team.