The Buffalo Bills (4-1) travel to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans (3-2) in their second primetime game in as many weeks. Buffalo is coming off of an impressive victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, and quarterback Josh Allen hopes to lead the Bills to their fifth-straight win against a middling Titans squad.
Here are the four biggest storylines to watch on Monday Night Football.
Can Bills D limit Derrick Henry?
It’s no secret that Tennessee is going to lean on Derrick Henry when their offense is on the field. The 27-year old has been the NFL’s premier rusher for most of the last four seasons and he’s once again on a terrorizing pace in 2021. Through five games, the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder has already carried the ball 147 times for 640 yards (4.5 yards-per-carry), while finding the endzone seven times. The NFL’s leading rusher, Henry has 117 more yards on the ground then the second-place Nick Chubb.
Buffalo’s defense has been sensational this season, allowing the third-fewest rushing yards (392) and fewest touchdowns (1) to opposing ball carriers. The Bills’ run defense has been rejuvenated thanks to the return of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID, but the entire unit seems to have taken a step forward, as well.
On Monday, the Bills will look to prove that their defensive success through five games is no fluke against the most physically gifted running back in the NFL, who’s amassed 4,792 yards and 40 rushing touchdowns over his last 40 games.
More big plays coming for Josh Allen?
Josh Allen led an all-out aerial assault on the Chiefs in Week 5, throwing for 315 yards, despite completing just 15 passes. This week’s matchup against Tennessee is enticing for the fourth-year passer, as he’ll face a Titans defense that’s surrendering 13.2 yards-per-completion (third-worst), while opposing quarterbacks are averaging 8.4 yards-per-attempt (fifth-worst).
They’ve given up 20 pass plays of 20-plus yards, and six pass plays of 40-plus yards.
Tennessee’s secondary has struggled mightily, with safety Kevin Byard serving as the lone standout in a unit featuring Janoris Jenkins, Kristian Fulton, Chris Jackson and Elijah Molden.
The Titans are most susceptible in the slot, where they’ve given up 517 yards (fifth-most) and six touchdowns (most). Cole Beasley hasn’t been much of a factor on offense in recent weeks, thanks to the emergence of Emmanuel Sanders and Dawson Knox, but this could be a week that Brian Daboll looks to get the shifty veteran more involved.
Regardless of who Josh Allen is targeting on Monday night, there will be many opportunities for big plays in the passing game against one of the NFL’s more lackluster secondaries.
Who does Tre White trail?
Bills cornerback Tre White has been tasked with trailing Terry McLaurin, Brandin Cooks and Tyreek Hill in recent weeks. On Monday, it will be interesting to see how Leslie Frazier deploys his star defender against two of the league’s most talented receivers in A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Tennessee listed Brown as questionable due to an illness and Jones missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but is expected to be a full go on Monday.
Prior to going down in Week 3, Jones showcased the size and explosiveness that led the Titans to trade for the future Hall of Famer, catching 12 passes for 204 yards – an average of 17 yards-per-catch. Brown has been rather disappointing, however, reeling in just 10 passes for 130 yards and one score in four games.
Nonetheless, Jones and Brown form a lethal duo at the receiver position and White will need to continue his high level of play if Buffalo’s defense hopes to keep Tennessee one-dimensional.
Can Bills OL stymie Harold Landry?
The Titans big free agency splash was signing Bud Dupree, but with the former Steelers edge rusher missing the last three games due to injury, Harold Landry has been nothing short of dominant for Tennessee’s defense. Landry is the only player to record at least five pressures in each game this season, and has tallied 28 tackles, six tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 10 QB hits to go along with his 30 quarterback pressures.
Dupree returns to action this week, but the Bills will be relying on offensive tackles Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown to contain the former Boston College star. Landry is a long, athletic edge rusher that can bend. The Titans move him around, so Buffalo will need to account for him on every snap in order to keep Josh Allen upright.