Uncertainty has given way to anticipation, as the unbeaten Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans take on a rare Tuesday night endeavor.
What:Â Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans
Where:Â Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
When:Â Tuesday, 7 p.m ET
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.
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 Â &Â
â€œAt the end of the day, weâ€™re not going to make any excuses man,” Byard said. “Weâ€™re going to come in here and focus on what we need to focus on, and that’s winning the ballgame.â€–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.
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