The Buffalo Bills had the most impressive win of NFL Week 1, going into the defending Super Bowl champ’s house and topping the Rams 31-10 on Thursday Night Football. It showed why Buffalo is the odds-on favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season and proved that quarterback Josh Allen is indeed elite. Now the attention gets turned to Monday as the Bills host the thorn in their side that is the Tennessee Titans. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on once things kick off in Orchard Park.
Game of Dethrones
The Titans have been a pesky team for Buffalo the last couple of years, knocking them off 34-31 in a heartbreaker for Sean McDermott and the Bills last year and destroying them 42-16 in that weird Covid game two seasons ago. Buffalo comes into this one as a resounding favorite. Tennessee is 9.5 point dogs at the time of writing this post. It sounds like this should be an easy win for the Bills, but in the words of Lee Corso “not so fast my friend.”
McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier need to figure out how to check Derrick Henry. King Henry has feasted on the Bills in his last three games against them. The two-time rushing leader has six touchdowns with 278 yards rushing on just 59 carries over that span. Ed Oliver, Tremaine Edmunds, and the rest of the front seven will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Rack up the Sacks
When you sign future Hall-of-Famer Von Miller, you expect big things, but I’m not sure Leslie Frazier even hoped for a pair of sacks and constant disruption from the EDGE as he pushed his active sack leader number to 117.5 last week. Aside from Miller, Buffalo brought Matt Stafford down five other times for a total of seven sacks in the 21-point win. Those seven sacks are currently tied with Pittsburgh for the most in the NFL and Buffalo didn’t have the benefit of overtime.
On the other side, the Titans only gave up one sack to the Giants during Week 1, but let’s not pretend those two fronts are created equal. The Bills being able to get to Ryan Tannehill early and forcing them into unfavorable down and distances could go a long way to hindering the Tennessee offense and slowing down King Henry (see above).
Do you think Oliver realizes that offenses are going to account for Miller? Look at how he peeks at the guard and when the guard leaves to help the OT, Oliver transitions to the Rip. pic.twitter.com/y4eKY2u98Z— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 13, 2022
Rev Your Motor
If you watched the Giants topple the Titans 21-20 on Sunday, you know that running back Saquon Barkley was the best player on the field. The former first-round pick (selected five spots ahead of Josh Allen in 2018) ran for 164 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. That’s an astounding 9.1 yards per attempt. He added six catches for 30 and the game-winning two-point conversion through the air.
Devin Singletary showed he is the Bills’ true number one back on Thursday, toting the rock eight times for 48 yards and bringing in both of his targets for another 14 yards. What may be most important about his performance was that he didn’t fumble like both of his backfield mates. Now I’m not trying to say that Singletary is Saquon, but there were holes to run through in the Titans’ defense, and the Bills’ lead back should be able to prove he deserves that spot for the season in Week 2.
Monday Mad Man
Josh Allen has been an absolute monster on Monday Night Football during his brief NFL career. The 2018 draft pick has played in five of these spotlight games, racking up 1,315 passing yards and 14 touchdowns through the air with just two interceptions. He has a 110.8 passer rating and completed over 68% of his passes. Oh, and this all includes that awful weather game in Orchard Park last year. It’s pretty safe to say, with normal circumstances, that Allen’s stats would be even better. The only negative to those five games is that Buffalo has a 2-3 record and lost the last two by a combined seven points, including that 34-31 loss at Tennessee a year ago.
Buckle up! We’re about to get nerdy with numbers here. The Bills played both of their rookie corners in Week 1 with Christian Benford taking 39 snaps and Kaiir Elam hitting the field 30 times. Those numbers seem close, but in fact, the sixth-round pick (Benford) was on the field for 13% more of the Bills’ snaps than the first-rounder (Elam), which isn’t nothing.
Using numbers provided by Pro Football Focus (PFF) it is obvious who was the better rookie corner on night number one. Benford allowed three catches on his five targets for a completion percentage of 60 while Elam allowed a reception all three times he was targeted. PFF also has Benford down for a forced incompletion and a pass breakup. Elam has a zero in either category. The one place that Elam did have the leg up was yards allowed, 55 vs. 23, but this may be explained away by their opponents’ Average Depth of Target (aDot) where Benford was tasked with covering guys 17.2 yards downfield and Elam’s opposition was just 4.0 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. When you take all this data and put it into the PFF calculator you end up with a 66.9 coverage grade for Benford and 49.3 for Elam. It was just one game, but the eye test and analytics point to the sixth-rounder out playing the first-rounder, but again: ONE GAME.