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'Monday Night Football' preview: What to watch for in Bills-Titans

Buffalo Bills
2021 · 4-1-0
Tennessee Titans
2021 · 3-2-0

8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Nissan Stadium


Continuing to refer to the Bills as the "little brother" at this point would be like ignoring a six-inch growth spurt. It's hard to deny what's directly in front of you, and every card-carrying member of Bills Mafia has to be loving what they're seeing right now. Since falling in Week 1, Buffalo has run roughshod across the NFL, winning games by an average of nearly 29 points -- a feat not accomplished during a four-game winning streak since the 1950s. Up next is a Monday Night Football clash in the Music City where the Titans will look to stave off their sluggish start and end the Bills' night on a sour note.


Here are four things to watch for Monday night when the Titans host the Bills:


1) King Henry looking to slay Buffalo's defense. No one man should outproduce a rotation's worth of players. But this is Derrick Henry we're talking about, and he's far from the average running back. In the last two weeks alone, the Titans workhorse has rushed for 287 yards and four TDs; that's more than what the Bills have allowed on the ground thus far (249 yds., 0 TDs). Sure, those recent contests were against the Jets and Jaguars but that matters little when you consider that Henry has kicked off 2021 at a better rate than his historic 2,000-yard campaign. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year has accumulated 640 yards and seven scores this season -- both of which are career highs through five weeks. Even with all of that in mind, the tale of the tape suggests that the Bills could give him some trouble, especially since they were the only team to hold him under 60 yards in 2020. But, it's like the legendary Mike Tyson once said: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." In football terms, that momentum-swinging blow could come via a Henry stiff arm or a monster carry, and we all know he's good for at least one of those on any given week.


2) Can the Bills offense be stopped? At the time of this writing, it definitely doesn't appear so. Josh Allen, who outperformed Patrick Mahomes in a convincing win last week, has looked every part of the MVP candidate he was projected to be during the offseason. With a well-rounded receiving corps by his side, Allen has guided his squad to a league-best 34.4 PPG and the eighth-most total YPG (410.4) while tossing 12 TDs to just 2 picks. Breakout tight end Dawson Knox, fresh off a career-best 117 yards against the Chiefs, is transitioning from being an overnight red-zone revelation to a potential No. 2 option behind Stefon Diggs. Allen's BFF has continued to produce handsomely but Knox, who leads all TEs with five TDs, could start giving him a run for that title if he keeps this up. Haters will say the Bills have not been truly tested, which is fair since their opponents were a combined 8-17 prior to Sunday. But it's all about beating who's in front of you, and they've done that with force. Facing a stale Titans defense that ranks among the league's worst at defending the deep ball, an area Allen just so happens to be quite proficient in, sets the stage for this to be another fruitful outing for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's bunch.


3) Titans need less one-man show, more ensemble performance. Ryan Tannehill's third year with Mike Vrabel -- and first under OC Todd Downing -- has paled in comparison to the first two. A big reason for this has been lingering hamstring injuries to top targets A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, both of whom enter MNF as unknown quantities (if you can believe that). A late addition to the injury report for a different reason, Brown (illness) has been questionable beyond the designation he incurred Sunday afternoon. He has mustered up a meager 10 catches in four games played for 130 yards and a score, which came all the way back in Week 1. Jones' 12 catches for 204 yards (three appearances) have hardly made a dent either; he also hasn't found the end zone since Week 9, 2020. The lack of reliable options, plus an O-line that can't hold up against pressure (20 sacks), has contributed to Tannehill posting his lowest completion rate (63.6) since 2015. At times, Henry's production looks to be all the Titans need to survive but that is simply not sustainable. And unless this offense plays like it did when it outscored the Bills 42-16 and handed them their first loss last October, it'll be hard for them to survive in prime time.


4) Making a statement before the bye. The Bills' three winning campaigns under Sean McDermott all concluded in postseason berths, with 2020 producing a 13-3 record and a trip to the AFC Championship Game. There's still plenty of football left to be played in 2021 but the impressive start bodes well for McDermott's fifth year at the helm. A win over Tennessee would give Buffalo its second 5-1 start in three years (2019) and firmly place them next to the 5-1 Ravens as the conference's best, based on the current state of affairs. Not to mention, further cementing their status atop the AFC while avenging their biggest loss since Week 9 of 2018 would be a great way to head into the bye week. But then again, losing before last season's bye (Week 11) worked out pretty well for Buffalo, which didn't lose another game until meeting Kansas City in late January. Certainly, Bills Mafia wouldn't mind a similar path albeit with a much different outcome.

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