After two consecutive Sunday’s without playing a game, the Tennessee Titans are back to playing football tonight as they’re set to take on the undefeated Buffalo Bills.
The headlines coming into this game? Well, I can tell you they’re more focused on the events occurring off the field — that’s for sure. The Titans are getting back on the field after spending two straight Sunday’s watching games from their homes, hoping to hear positive news wuth each passing day regarding their COVID-19 outbreak.
2 weeks of positive tests, schedule rearrangements, and talk of punishment from the NFL have all been rampant during this unexpected break for Mike Vrabel’s team. But through it all, the Titans have found their selves getting more healthy as the weeks have passed, and have even become “villains” of the league per say.
All that is in the past though.
Football is on deck, so let’s preview this game of unbeatens.
Major Storylines Heading Into The Game
The Titans’ Depth Will Be Tested Against a Red Hot Bills Squad
If you’ve been living under a rock or you simply just don’t care, allow me to get you updated regarding the Titans’ current COVID-19 situation.
As it stands now, the Titans will be without 3 starters during tonight’s game against Buffalo. WR’s Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and star DL Jeffery Simmons are all set to miss tonight’s game due to their placement on the COVID/Reserve list.
Humphries, Simmons, CB Kristian Fulton, OLB Kamalei Correa, WR Camerson Batson, and FB Khari Blasingame, all have a shot at being activated before tonight’s game. Since these players were some of the first players placed on the COVID/Reserve list when the outbreak list first started, their earliest return date can be lined up with tonight’s game.
But that’s only if they’ve been asymptomatic during the entirety of their stay on the COVID list.
If Humphries and Batson can’t go, expect to see more of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Kalif Raymond, and some potential call ups from the practice squad as replacements on the offensive side of the ball. As for the defensive side, expect to see more of Matt Dickerson if Simmons isn’t activated in time.
This sort of situation is unfavorable as it gets for the Titans, especially since the Buffalo Bills come into this matchup as one of the hottest teams in football.
Which brings me to my next point.
The Buffalo Bills Are One of The Best Teams In Football Right Now
Who would’ve thought Josh Allen would be playing like an MVP candidate through the first 4 weeks of the 2020 season?
If you raised your hand, put it down, you’re only lying to yourself.
In all seriousness, Allen has been on an absolute tear. The ex-Wyoming product has thrown for just over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns through the first four weeks of this season, and he’s done it while avoiding the back breaking turnovers that plagued him during his first two years in the league.
What if we told you Josh Allen is off to a better start this season than Lamar Jackson was during his MVP campaign?
1,326 Pass Yds 1,110
15 Total TD 11
70.9 CMP % 64.9
4-0 Record 2-2#BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/MFr0fTG0Fs
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 6, 2020
He’s used his legs often, rushing the ball 25 times, good for 3rd among all quarterbacks. But the story with Allen has been his massive improvement as a pocket passer.
The accuracy issues have always been a knack on Allen, and his erratic play has caused some headaches for OC Brian Daboll and the Bills’ staff. But he’s cleaned up on those mistakes so far, and has absolutely played out of his mind in the meantime.
Now that Allen has a legit set of weapons surrounding him, he’s taking full advantage of their skillsets, and making sure he’s getting them the ball in favorable positions on the field.
It’s been a wild experience witnessing the turnaround from Allen, and he’ll have a good shot at continuing his torrid pace against a Titans that defense that’ll potentially be without a couple of important pieces.
Matchups to Watch
Titans Shorthanded Defense vs. Stacked Bills Offense
I’ve already touched on the success Josh Allen and the Bills have had on offense this year. It’s been no fluke, they’ve played like one of the best offenses in football so far.
That spells trouble for a Titans defense that has already been playing some bad football. If you add in the fact that the Titans’ best defensive lineman might not be able to suit up, you could be looking at a big night for Brian Daboll’s offense.
With that being said, it’ll be interesting to see how the team functions without Simmons. Like I said before, he’s easily been their best defensive lineman this year, and maybe even their best defensive player period.
A deeper dive into the fantastic day #Titans iDL Jeffery Simmons had yesterday. He's become a force on this defense in only his 2nd year, very impressive to say the least. https://t.co/2ct6tJIpoK
— TreJean Watkins (@TreWatkins099) September 29, 2020
He’s a force in the run game, and he’s shown off some incredible skill as an interior pass rusher. Losing that sort of skillset against a red hot offense, and a running game that’s shown it can be dominant at times is a gigantic red flag.
What Will The Titans’ Passing Game Look Like?
If Adam Humphries and Cameron Batson aren’t available for tonight’s game, then this Titans passing game could end up running into some trouble all night long.
Corey Davis isn’t eligible to come off the COVID/Reserve list according to the guidelines for the NFL’s return to play plan. That leaves the Titans with 2 presumed healthy wide receivers on the roster right now, Kalif Raymond and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
Obviously that’s no bueno when you’re going up against one of the stingiest defenses in all of football.
Add in the fact that star 2nd year wideout AJ Brown will most likely be running at less than 100% if he does play, and the concern only grows for this Titans passing game.
The numbers in the WR core will be filled in regardless if Humphries and Batson can’t play, but it’s still an unfortunate situation.
The running game will be leaned on heavily throughout the night, but if Ryan Tannehill is forced into a drop back game, then we could be seeing a stagnant day on the offensive side of the ball.
Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry, Titans Offensive Line
The run game will be heavily emphasized tonight, even if Humphries and Batson get activated off the COVID/Reserve list before the game.
Derrick Henry started off slow the first two games, but he started to find his groove in the second half of the Titans’ week 3 win in Minnesota. If he can get going early and take pressure off a likely shorthanded Titans passing attack, the Titans could find a way to squeak out a week 5 win.
The same mindset goes for the offensive line as well.
Pass protection and flawlessness in the run game will be a must if the Titans want to add another win to their tally.
Buffalo Bills: Devin Singletary
The Bills’ rushing attack hasn’t been as dominant as it was last season, but they’ll have a chance to give it a good ole jumpstart against a poor Titans run defense.
The #Titans’ run defense has been brutal all year even with Jones and Simmons in the lineup.
If they aren’t available next weekend against Buffalo, oooooh boy. And that’s IF the game is played.
— TreJean Watkins (@TreWatkins099) October 3, 2020
The Titans have the 2nd worst run defense in football in terms of yardage allowed(170 YPG), and rank dead last in terms of yards per carry(5.8)
Devin Singletary should be licking his chops at the opportunity to get his season on track.
If the Titans had all their guys healthy and all COVID concerns were out the window, I’d still have a hard time picking them to win this game.
The Bills are playing some great football on both sides of the ball, and have shown zero signs of slowing down.
Give me the Bills big in this one.