Sunday's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans pits a pair of teams looking to prove they are legitimate contenders in the AFC. The Bills come to Nashville after suffering their first loss of the season, falling 16-10 at home to Patriots. Buffalo had little trouble moving the ball, but four turnovers, five sacks, and a blocked punt for a touchdown by New England were too much to overcome.
Meanwhile, the Titans continue to be one of the most mystifying teams in the NFL. When they are expected to lose, they win. When they are expected to win, they lose. Maybe, just maybe, the Titans are a microcosm of the NFL being a week-to-week league. Tennessee returns home 2-2, after a convincing, 24-10 road win against the Falcons last Sunday. This was preceded by a disappointing 20-7 road loss to Jacksonville.
If recent history is any indicator, don't be surprised to see this game played in the teens with the slimmest of margins. The 2018 meeting was won by Buffalo, 13-12. The 2015 meeting was a 14-13 final, also won by the Bills. But at least the Titans still have the Music City Miracle, right?
Buffalo at Tennessee
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Tennessee -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Titans hoping they can bring road show to Nissan Stadium
Tennessee is coming off of a pristine offensive performance last week against Atlanta. Marcus Mariota had three touchdowns passes and still has yet to throw an interception. After giving up 17 sacks in the first three games, the Titans' much-maligned offensive line yielded zero to the Falcons. Running back Derrick Henry hit the century mark on the ground and wide receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown each found the end zone (Brown twice) and posted 90-plus receiving yards.
The game plan was stout and the execution almost flawless. Now it's a matter of how the team and first-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith follows up that performance against a stingy Bills defense that made Tom Brady look mortal last week. Points will likely be at a premium, so execution, pass protection, and ball security will be critical. The Titans will get a boost in the return of Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan, who is eligible after serving his four-game suspension.
2. Plan A(llen) or B(arkley) at quarterback for Buffalo?
There's plenty of uncertainty at the most important position on the field for the Bills heading into Sunday's game. Second-year signal-caller Josh Allen was knocked out of Sunday's game in the fourth quarter and entered concussion protocol. He is progressing but it's no guarantee he will be cleared in time to play. If he is unable to go, the Bills, will turn to veteran backup Matt Barkley. If Barkley does in fact make the start expect head coach Sean McDermott and the Bills to lean on aging, yet still productive veteran running back Frank Gore with rookie Devin Singletary still being bothered by a lingering hamstring injury. If Gore can find success on the ground that will open up things in the passing game for wide receivers John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Zay Jones, as well as rookie tight end Dawson Knox.
3. Points may be at a premium
If you like stout defenses this is your kind of Sunday. The Titans are fourth in the NFL in points per game allowed at 15.5 and the Bills are right behind 15.8. The Titans have had success getting after the passer (13, tied for sixth in league), an issue that plagued their defense in 2018. The Bills are second in total defense (280.8 yards per game) and are coming off of a week where Tom Brady struggled (18-for-39, 150 yards, INT) and the Patriots offense totaled just 224 yards and 11 first downs. Expect the struggle to be real for both offenses Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
The Titans have lost to the Bills twice in the last four years by a single point in each game. The Titans, however, are 16-6 in their last 22 home games and should certainly be looking for revenge after last year's 13-12 clunker in upstate New York. This game won't be pretty. Don't expect huge stats from any players you may have on your fantasy team or the scoreboard to get a workout. Won't happen. These two teams are mirror images of each other, with Tennessee being a slightly more talented version. Another nail-biter awaits, but this time the Titans prevail in another grind-it-out affair.
Prediction: Titans 16, Bills 13
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.