Four plays that determined the Buffalo Bills’ Tuesday night fate vs. Tennessee

Finally allowed to kick off, the Buffalo Bills were on the wrong end of a one-sided loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Empire State football’s propensity for tough-to-watch football finally made its way up to Western New York.

Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill united for six touchdowns, while their Tennessee Titans teammates countered Josh Allen’s two scores with two interceptions. Allen’s Bills were thus doomed to their first loss of the season, falling to Tennessee by a 42-16 final at Nissan Stadium. It was safe to say that the Titans (4-0) took full advantage of the 16 days of rest brought upon by positive tests for COVID-19.

How did the undefeated trek of the Bills (4-1) come to an unceremonious end in the Music City? ESM highlights four plays that shaped Buffalo’s present and future, for better or worse, over a rare Tuesday night excursion…

1st Quarter: A Good Return

Andre Roberts has the initials “WR” next to his name on the official roster, but it’s safe to say that he has made a far bigger name for himself by removing the W and changing the meaning of the R…in other words, he’s a returner. But Tuesday saw Roberts get plenty of snaps on offense, particularly in the early going. Roberts looked out of place on the first drive, as his would-be reception became a tip into the hands of Malcolm Butler, whose interception set up the first Tennessee score of the day.

Roberts, however, made up for the gaffe on Buffalo’s next possession, a rare point in the game where they looked like the Bills of September if only for a short while. Facing 3rd and 15 at the cusp of the Tennessee red zone, an illegal shift penalty nullified a Buffalo touchdown. An Allen rollout, however, found Roberts at the edge of the sidelines, as his tiptoe catch was the last of four third-down conversions the Bills earned on their way to the end zone. Two plays later, Allen hooked up with Isaiah McKenzie to tie the game.

2nd Quarter: PI on the Case

Penalties were a major problem for the Bills on Tuesday. The Bills doubled their average penalty tally from the first four games, drawing ten flags over the course of the evening. While the infractions were mostly minor, the lost yardage reaching 56, the numbers taken turned out to be vital in the long runs.

Buffalo’s most costly penalty came in the late stages of the first half. Corey Bojorquez “saved” the season by following up a three-and-out with a punt that situated the Titans at their own 10. Tennessee, however, embarked on a methodic drive that reached Buffalo territory. Bills penalties on rare Tennessee third downs allowed the drive to stay alive. Josh Norman was called for a seven-yard pass interference at the 35, while Jerry Hughes jumped offside on third-and-four at the 22 (though it was declined after the Titans got the first down anyway). Tannehill could score from 10 yards out after the Hughes infraction to permanently set momentum in the Nashville corner, creating a 21-10 halftime lead.

3rd Quarter: The Butler Did It

Enough can’t be said about the progress Allen has shown in his third season under Buffalo center, but Tuesday showed some troubling flashbacks to his turnover-laden rookie season. Allen wasn’t afraid to take some risks, but some of those proved costly, like an underthrown cross-body pass intended for Gabriel Davis that went right into the hands of Butler, who broke out of an attempt Cole Beasley tackle to take it back to the Buffalo red zone.

From this brutal evening comes a huge opportunity for Allen. This is the first time both he and his team is facing major adversity in his junior season, and the chance to redeem themselves comes against the defending champion Chiefs on Monday. A true test awaits to see just how much he has learned.

4th Quarter: Five From New York

There were no truly dangerous or egregious penalties on the Buffalo end…no ridiculous roughing the passers, no late hits, no spot-of-the-foul pass interference calls that set the Titans up deep in opposing territory. But what the Bills did in their misdemeanors was set Tennessee up with must-win situations that were far more manageable. They put in a touchdown (a 22-yard Allen pass to TJ Yeldon that capped off a 90-yard trek) at the end of the final frame’s first-third, and had a fighting chance down 28-16 as time began to wind down.

Tennessee responded to that score with a strong drive of their own. They reached the Bills’ 29, but there was still a chance to keep things situated at two possessions by forcing a third down. Seven stood between the Bills and more time off the clock…but they were all-too-happy to wipe away a majority of the deficit when A.J. Epenesa invaded the neutral zone. Blessed with a shorter distance, the Titans took advantage with a seven-yard interior run from Jeremy McNichols that more or less decimated Buffalo’s will. Three plays later, a Henry score officially put the game out of reach.

The Bills return to action next Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs (5 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Dabo Swinney hints at Trevor Lawrence going to New York

Narratives shape up around every season, and this year, one of the main ones for the New York Giants might not have anything to do with the season at all. Not directly, anyway. This, of course, is the narrative around the NFL Draft this offseason and what player the Giants will take. After the team started 0-5 and lost once again despite scoring more than 30 points, it’s getting easier to see why the Giants are projected to pick number one overall.

And if the team does pick that high, it puts them in an interesting position. The crown jewel of this year’s draft class looks like potential franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but the Giants already have their man. Supposedly. Daniel Jones may or may not have good job security right now, and we likely won’t know which way the decision makers are leaning until close to the Draft. The Giants could decide to stick to Jones and have faith that the current rebuild will yield results.

Or, they could push the reset button and take Lawrence, deciding that Jones was overdrafted out of a desire to quickly find Eli Manning’s replacement. As the results grow worse and Jones struggles on the field, more analysts are leaning towards the latter in their predictions.

Lawrence can spike the ball “when he gets to New York”

Trevor Lawrence’s college head coach, Dabo Swinney, is even aware of the hype about Lawrence heading to one of the New York teams.

Swinney bringing it up shows just how fast this narrative has spread through the league. But it’s easy to see why it formed so quickly. Both of the New York teams are in a terrible state right now, with the Giants being on pace for the first pick and the Jets starting with the same record and releasing running back Le’veon Bell recently.

The odds are getting higher with each week that one New York team or the other will have the first pick. Whether that’s the Jets or Giants, or even whether it happens at all, depends on the rest of the season. But thanks to strength of schedule, the Giants appear to be in the lead right now over other teams who have the same record.

Rangers agree to terms with forward Philip Di Giuseppe

The New York Rangers announced on Tuesday afternoon that they have agreed to terms with forward Philip Di Giuseppe.

The 27-year-old was a restricted free agent at the end of this season and avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract for $700,000. He will become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the next season.

Di Giuseppe, 27, split this past season between the Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). He recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in 20 NHL games with the Rangers in 2019-20, and the Blueshirts posted a 12-7-1 record in the 20 games which he played during the season.

he 6-0, 193-pounder also skated in 43 AHL games with the Wolf Pack this past season, registering 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) and a plus-10 rating. Di Giuseppe established an AHL career-high in goals in 2019-20, and he ranked third in the AHL in shots on goal at the time he was recalled by the Rangers on February 2, 2020 (149).

Di Giuseppe has skated in 170 career NHL games over parts of five seasons (2015-16 – 2019-20) with Carolina, Nashville, and the Rangers, registering 15 goals and 30 assists for 45 points, along with 68 penalty minutes. He established career-highs in goals (seven), assists (10), and points (17) with Carolina during the 2015-16 season. Di Giuseppe has also skated in 227 career AHL games over parts of seven seasons (2013-14 – 2019-20), recording 54 goals and 73 assists for 127 points, along with a plus-14 rating and 132 penalty minutes.

He played well with the Rangers last season mainly as part of the fourth line under head coach David Quinn.

The Toronto, Ontario native was originally selected by Carolina in the second round, 38th overall, of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Di Giuseppe was signed by the Rangers as a free agent on July 18, 2019.

 

BREAKING NEWS: New York Jets release RB Le’Veon Bell

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

The New York Jets released the former star running back less than two years into a four-year, $52.5 million contract.

The New York Jets have released running back Le’Veon Bell, the team confirmed on Tuesday night. Bell’s Jets career ends less than two years into a four-year contract ink during the 2019 offseason.

“After having conversations with Le’Veon and his agent and exploring potential trade options over the past couple of day, we have made the decision to release Le’Veon,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in a statement. “The Jets organization appreciates Le’Veon’s efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to this team. We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”

Bell’s Jets career ends after just 17 games that saw him tally 863 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. He joined the Jets on a deal worth $52.5 million after an illustrious five-year career in Pittsburgh, one that saw him put up 5,336 yards over five seasons. Bell sat out the entire 2018 season after long-term contract talks between him and the Steelers broke down.

Bell’s relationship with head coach Adam Gase was a point of contention during his brief time in New York. Gase’s usage of the running back was constantly called into question, as Bell’s 245 carries were his lowest tally since his rookie season. His 789 yards and three scores were also full-season lows for the former Michigan State Spartan.

Upon Bell’s release, Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Perine are the active returnees on the Jets’ roster. The team has also promoted free agent signee Ty Johnson to their active 53-man unit. Johnson, a former Detroit Lions’ draft pick, was signed on October 2.

The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

What really happened with Michael “Venom” Page at Bellator 248

This past weekend, Bellator 248 made history as the first major MMA event in France after it’s legalization earlier this year. One of the headliners for the promotion was the dynamic Michael “Venom” Page (18-1).

Page was set to take on the previously unbeaten Ross Houston (8-1, 1 NC) in the main event of Bellator 248. MVP was coming off of three consecutive knockout finishes, and he was looking for another statement win this past Saturday.

Page has been trying to get a rematch with Bellator‘s welterweight champion Douglas Lima. Lima knocked out Page back at Bellator 221 which is still MVP’s only professional loss. Given the magnitude of the event and Page’s popularity, a lot of eyes were on Bellator 248.

While there was very high expectations, the main event completely failed to deliver. The MMA community was expecting a back and forth war with one man eventually going down. Instead, what they got was a grinding decision for Michael Page. A flop of a main event for the promotion.

After the fight was over, Page made the claim that the Bellator mat was extremely slippery. For that reason, he couldn’t execute his game plan. Meanwhile, Scott Coker came out and said that he believed MVP’s off night was due to the fact that he’s been inactive this year.

What really happened at Bellator 248

I don’t want to come across as a hater, but I find the slippery surface excuse to be a little far fetched. There were no complaints from other fighters when it came to the Bellator fighting surface on Saturday night. Everyone else seemed to perform just fine.

It also certainly didn’t look like Page was having trouble keeping his footing. However, just because he didn’t visibly slip a ton doesn’t mean he didn’t feel stable. He very well might have felt that the mat wasn’t sturdy enough for his flashy techniques.

However, I believe that Bellator President Scott Coker was more on point with his assessment. To me, Page just appeared to be a little off overall. It looked like his timing wasn’t completely there and he just didn’t seem comfortable inside the cage.

I think the fact that Houston was a very dangerous opponent didn’t help things. I think the fact that Page didn’t feel comfortable, he was facing a dangerous opponent, and the fact that it was his first fight of 2020 led to the lackluster Bellator 248 performance.

No matter how you slice it, the main event really failed the promotion in a big way. Bellator had the chance to make a big statement being the first to host an event in France, but the promotion failed to deliver an entertaining main event.

UFC: Nate Diaz and Dan Hooker challenge each other

One of the more popular fighters in the UFC over the last several years has been Nate Diaz (20-12). Diaz rose to stardom after he defeated Conor McGregor in a massive upset back at UFC 196. McGregor was the featherweight champion at the time.

Following that contest, the two would rematch in the second highest grossing PPV event in UFC history. Diaz has competed twice since that McGregor rematching winning a fight against Anthony Pettis before having the BMF title match against Jorge Masvidal.

Since the BMF loss, Diaz has been on the sidelines. Recently, it was reported that the UFC was close to finalizing the rematch between Diaz and Masvidal. However, the UFC appears to be heading in a different direction angling to book Masvidal against Colby Covington.

That leaves Diaz without a fight. However, thanks to the wonderful world of twitter, a new fight for Diaz could be materializing before our eyes. In the last few days an exchange between Diaz and Dan Hooker (20-9) has created headlines. Both men have challenged the other to a fight.

Would the UFC make it happen?

Hooker is currently the fourth ranked lightweight without a fight. He’s coming off of a close decision loss to Dustin Poirier back in June. He’s been wanting to get back into the octagon, but he has yet to find an opponent to throw down with. Diaz seems to be interested in taking the fight.

Judging by social media, it appears that Diaz is ready to return to the UFC. Considering the fact that the Masvidal fight was close to being done shows that he’s wanting back in. A fight with Hooker would be a fun change of pace for Diaz.

If Nate Diaz were to fight Dan Hooker, it wouldn’t be a giant money maker. However, it would be a fight that could reestablish Diaz near the top of the lightweight division. Granted, Diaz is currently calling for the fight to take place at 165 pound.

I think the UFC would be smart to capitalize on the social media talk between the two men. Nate Diaz needs to be more active in the octagon, and a fight with Dan Hooker would be extremely entertaining for the fans. Time will tell if the promotion moves to book the catchweight contest.

New York Giants: Sterling Shepard to return to practice this week

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants started the season with an 0-5 record but they’ll soon have a key player back to rejoin the hunt for a first win. That player is wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who went down with a turf toe injury during the team’s loss to the Chicago Bears. It was a stroke of bad luck in a game that had plenty of that for the Giants, as they also lost Saquon Barkley for the season in the very same game.

However, the forecast for Shepard fortunately shows a faster turnaround than Barkley will have. After the missed time, he’s set to get back to practice this week according to a report from Jordan Raanan.

It doesn’t, however, look like Shepard will make his return on Sunday against Washington. The team seems more likely to take a conservative approach with the injury and not rush Shepard back into action.

The impact of Sterling Shepard’s return

When Shepard does return, it will mean another weapon is available for Daniel Jones. Jones could use the help, as although his chemistry with Darius Slayton aided the Giants against the Cowboys, he only has two passing touchdowns overall. To make matters worse for the second year QB, he already has five interceptions and had a key fumble against Dallas.

The Giants are committed to Daniel Jones as their quarterback, but they were also committed to Eli Manning only weeks before Jones replaced him. Jones doesn’t have limitless job security, and so having a full arsenal of weapons in the receiving game will be important for him in his fight to deter the Giants from drafting Trevor Lawrence if they get the chance.

Shepard had 6 receptions for 47 yards in the season opener against the Steelers. Not the greatest numbers, but right now, the Giants need all the help they can get when it comes to offense. Especially when the performance of the passing game this season has a big role to play in the quarterback debates of the future.

New York Giants: With trade deadline three weeks away, who should be on the chopping block?

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants are sitting with a pitiful 0-5 record. According to Tankathon, if the season ended today, the Giants would own the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. With such a grim outlook ahead, New York is likely in need of a roster rebuild once again.

Three weeks from today, a highly-important day in the NFL will occur: the 2020 NFL Trade Deadline. The rumor mill is already starting to heat up with Jets running back Le’Veon Bell already being shopped around the league. New York was involved with the 2019 NFL Trade Deadline, making a trade to acquire Leonard Williams days before the deadline passed.

This begs the questions: will the New York Giants be active at this year’s trade deadline? Will they be buying, or more likely selling? If selling, who is on the chopping block?

Buying or Selling?

At 0-5, the New York Giants need to be selling, not buying. No 0-5 team has ever bounced back and made their way into the playoffs. The Giants’ season, unfortunately, is over. It is time to start looking towards the future.

The best way for an NFL team to plan for their future is to acquire draft capital; turn under-performing veteran players into young, high-potential players via the NFL Draft. The last thing the Giants need is to give up draft capital for veteran players. New York needs to rebuild this team and focus on their future, not remain in win-now mode.

Evan Engram

Giants tight end Evan Engram has not had the breakout 2020 campaign that many fans expected him to have. Engram is a talented player that has struggled with injuries throughout his career. In his most healthy season (2017), Evan played 15 games and totaled 64 receptions for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Through the first five weeks of the 2020 NFL season, Engram has been targeted 32 times and totaled 18 receptions for 147 yards and 0 touchdowns. It has been a disappointing start to Engram’s fourth career season. With his contract expiring next year, the Giants need to decide whether or not Engram has a future on this team. With as much raw talent and athletic ability that he has, he would certainly have a trade market if the Giants decide to ship him out of New Jersey.

Dave Gettleman

General manager Dave Gettleman’s seat is flaming hot. Gettleman was nearly fired in the 2020 offseason but was kept around to prove his worth for one more season. Considering the Giants’ season is off to a historically bad start, it is reasonable to assume that Gettleman’s seat is hot, once again.

Last year, Gettleman made the controversial decision to trade for Leonard Williams ahead of the trade deadline. This left New York without a third-round pick and cost them the opportunity to secure more young talent. Gettleman cannot make a decision like this again. The Giants should not afford Gettleman the opportunity to trade for players this season. If he is not willing to sell assets, he should not be making any trades.

Golden Tate

After two years with the Giants, it seems like the writing is on the wall for wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate has struggled to make an impact in the Giants’ offense this year. The former “YAC King” has only averaged 2.6 yards after the catch per reception.

Teams around the NFL could find Tate to be a solid veteran option to line up in the slot. Tate has reliable hands, he has just struggled to separate and make plays in space. The New England Patriots were a potential landing spot for Golden Tate in free agency before he signed with New York. Maybe New England would be willing to give up a draft pick to improve Cam Newton’s weapons for the final stretch of the season.

Fixing the New York Mets’ rotation: A detailed plan

New York Yankees, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets‘ rotation suffered from all kinds of maladies during the 2020 condensed season. Noah Syndergaard was lost to Tommy John surgery before the season began, free agent signings Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello didn’t deliver the expected results, and Steven Matz was rocked from the start to the finish while also suffering from shoulder ailments.

In short, only Jacob deGrom and rookie David Peterson showed the desired consistency that the New York Mets required to be players in the National League East division.

Now, Steve Cohen is about to acquire the New York Mets, and he should, at least a priori, be more willing to invest in payroll than the Wilpons. The starting rotation is a mess right now, with Stroman, Porcello and Wacha set to become free agents and Syndergaard presumably out until around the 2021 All-Star break.

How to make the Mets’ rotation significantly better?

What can Cohen, Sandy Alderson (he will be the team president upon Cohen’s arrival) and company do to fix the Mets’ rotation? Let’s see:

Jacob deGrom

A candidate to win his third straight Cy Young award, deGrom will return to lead the Mets’ rotation in 2021. He had a 2.38 ERA (2.26 FIP) in 68 innings and 12 excellent starts.

Free agent signing: Trevor Bauer

One of deGrom’s primary competitors for the Cy Young award is Trevor Bauer, who is set to hit the market and would make a lot of sense for the Mets. He is willing to accept a one-year deal (it would have to be a huge payment, though) and could be talked into a long-term commitment, too. His presence would immediately make the team a serious contender.

Free agent signing: Marcus Stroman

Stroman, 30, remains in his prime and is a good fit in the Mets, especially if they keep deploying slick-fielding shortstop Andres Gimenez. When healthy, Stroman is a steady mid-rotation starter that can lengthen the Mets’ rotation.

Trade acquisition: Joe Musgrove

The Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t close to contention, and trading Musgrove makes sense now that he has two additional seasons of team control. He had a 3.86 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, but has the stuff to be much, much better. A solid floor and an exciting upside will make him expensive, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

David Peterson

The rookie left-hander had a 3.44 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 49.2 frames, showing he belongs in the bigs. He is a nice backend starter that can eat innings and keep his team in the game.

Noah Syndergaard will return around the All-Star break, which will be effectively something like a trade deadline acquisition for the Mets.

Matz, Seth Lugo and a low-cost free agent signing (Homer Bailey? Brett Anderson? Trevor Cahill? Wacha? Mike Minor? Garret Richards? Matt Shoemaker? Alex Wood?) will provide additional depth.

Buffalo Bills Game Preview Week 5: Tennessee Titans

Uncertainty has given way to anticipation, as the unbeaten Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans take on a rare Tuesday night endeavor.

What: Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m ET
Watch: CBS

Countless tests and 54 hours later, one of the NFL’s most anticipated Week 5 matchups will finally be staged.

The league will have one less unbeaten team after Tuesday night, as the Buffalo Bills hit the road to take on the Tennessee Titans. This game, originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon’s early slot, will finally kickoff after numerous issues involving positive tests for COVID-19. Consecutive days of fully negative tests out of the Titans allow the Bills to descend upon Nashville for a battle of perfection.

Tennessee’s Week 4 game against Pittsburgh was previously postponed due to positive tests. The Titans last played on September 27, stealing a 31-30 decision from the Minnesota Vikings. Stephen Gostkowski booted a trio of field goals from at least 51 yards out, including the game-winner in the game’s penultimate minute. Some called for the Titans (3-0) to forfeit their contests against Pittsburgh and Buffalo in the wake of the delays, but the Bills have instead rolled with the punches.

“We knew adversity was going to hit. We’re just going to take it day by day and focus on this week only,” Bills offensive lineman Cody Ford said of the delay, per Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN. “I don’t know anybody who wants to lose money because of something that they couldn’t control. It’s one of those things where we can only control what we can control. It would hurt not to get paid, but I would rather be healthy than be rich.”

The Bills (4-0) topped the Las Vegas Raiders in their latest matchup, earning a 30-23 decision in their first-ever visit to Nevada. Josh Allen put in three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) while Quinton Jefferson and Darryl Johnson earned a sack each.

This marks the NFL’s first Tuesday night game since December 2010, when the Minnesota Vikings’ visit to Philadelphia was delayed by threats of a blizzard. Tuesday’s game is one of eight affected by the NFL’s rescheduling process at it continues to play on in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

The Series

Tennessee leads the all-time series 28-19 (including the matchups under their Oilers moniker), but the Bills have won each of the last three get-togethers, including a 14-7 final at Nissan Stadium last season. Current Cardinal Jordan Phillips had three sacks for the Bills, while Allen had two touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Duke Williams in the fourth quarter.

History Happened: 2000

Everyone knows how the teams’ January 2000 playoff meeting ended…the Music City Miracle that haunts Buffalo fans to this day…but few talk about the immediate follow-up.

After the Titans’ special teams madness against the Bills gave birth to a Super Bowl run, the teams met up for the first Sunday night football game of the 21st century exactly eight months later in Orchard Park. The game was mostly a defensive struggle, with the teams uniting for nine sacks. Eddie George had a touchdown that tied the game in the fourth quarter, but most otherwise neutralized with 37 yards on 17 carries.

Buffalo was already missing Doug Flutie and was forced to turn to third-stringer Alex Van Pelt when Rob Johnson suffered an ankle injury. Van Pelt threw for 67 yards in relief, a majority of it coming on a 36-yard hookup with Eric Moulds that set up Steve Christie’s game-winning field goal. Deja vu nearly struck in the most horrifying way, as Derrick Mason set the Titans up near midfield on the ensuing kickoff. But one last stand from the Bills defense forced Tennessee to try a 60-yard overtime enforcer. Craig Hentrich’s kick failed, and the Bills escaped with a 16-13 win…hardly a sign of things to come for the fruitless decade.

They Said It

“Everybody’s being understanding. This isn’t a one-team league, it’s 32 teams. Everybody’s doing the best they can, things are going to happen. This isn’t a league-wide disaster or anything, the world’s going through it as well. As far as handling it one day at a time, I’m being understanding more than anything because I feel for those guys too. As far as people being sick, you don’t want anybody sick.”Bills WR Stefon Diggs on the Titans’ situation, per Maddy Glab & Dante Lasting

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to make any excuses man,” Byard said. “We’re going to come in here and focus on what we need to focus on, and that’s winning the ballgame.”Titans CB Kevin Byard on Tennesee’s approach to Tuesday, per the Associated Press

Matchup To Watch

WR Stefon Diggs vs. CB Malcolm Butler

The Titans have greatly missed Adoree’ Jackson, who has been dealing with a knee injury and has yet to appear in a game this season. They’re 23rd in the AFC by allowing just over 256 passing yards a game and have let up an average of 472 total yards over the last two weeks, skating by thanks to strong offensive performances. The former Super Bowl hero Butler has been part of the struggles in the early going. Both he and fellow secondary defender Chris Jackson have also been working with injuries, but both are expected to play.

It sets up the potential for a perfect Buffalo storm, as Diggs has been one of their most explosive catalysts behind their undefeated start. If he’s allowed to get loose, especially in the early going, it well could be another long 60 minutes, ones that could cost the Titans their perfect record.

The Bills Will Win If…

They attack the Titans’ suspect secondary and get off to a fast start.

Buffalo is only second to Dallas in passing yards a game at over 316. The Titans come in struggling in the deeper parts of the field and haven’t suited up in over two weeks. Pouncing on your host is advisable under normal conditions, and it could become downright vital in such a crucial conference showdown. It’s perhaps very, very early to start thinking about the postseason, but Tuesday could well play a role in playoff seedings…perhaps even the all-too-valuable, single first-round bye.

The Titans Will Win If…

They used their time off well.

Eyes in all NFL, maybe in all sports, circles are on the Titans after they’ve been responsible for one of the bigger COVID outbreaks since the return to action. They’ve used the momentum they’ve earned from an AFC title game appearance well, but they’ll have a plethora of taunts and problems to deal with if Tuesday’s match doesn’t go well. Tennessee reserves may have to come up big as well. AJ Brown is nursing a knee injury, so don’t be surprised to see names like Kalif Raymond or Geoff Swaim rise to the occasion.

Prediction

It’s been a long, long time since the Titans suited up for a game. Beating a Buffalo squad that’s firing on all cylinders and eager for more seems like a lot to ask for at this point. If Buffalo is truly serious about contending, these are the types of games that need to come away with, especially with their divisional competition from New England sidelined by the health crisis as well. Expect the Bills to take advantage on Tuesday.

Bills 28, Titans 24

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags