ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's rare that non-divisional teams face each other five straight years in the NFL.
That's the case for the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.
Bills safety Micah Hyde put it best this week when said they're like a "divisional opponent."
Familiarity breeds contempt. There's sure to be plenty of that when the teams hit the field at Highmark Stadium on Monday night.
The teams have split the previous four meetings, with the Titans winning the last two.
- Sept. 7, 2018, Titans at Bills: Buffalo wins 13-12
- Oct. 6, 2019, Bills at Titans: Buffalo wins 14-7
- Oct. 13, 2020, Bills at Titans: Tennessee wins 42-16
- Oct. 18, 2021, Bills at Titans: Tennessee wins 34-31
Last season's matchup ended with Josh Allen losing his footing and getting stuffed on a sneak in an attempt to win the game. A costly loss to be sure, but much has changed since then.
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL:
As dynamic as the Buffalo passing attack has been over the course of Josh Allen's career, and certainly in the season-opening 31-10 win at Los Angeles, there's reason to believe the Bills can have success on the ground.
The Titans arrive in Buffalo 0-1 on the young season after a 21-20 loss to the New York Giants in their season opener. New York rushed for 238 yards in that game. Saquon Barkley led the way with 164 yards and a touchdown. Barkley averaged 9.1 yards per carry.
Buffalo rushed for 121 yards against the Rams, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Josh Allen led the way with 56 yards and a touchdown, but Devin Singletary ran hard and ran well.
There's reason to believe that can have success in this game with the true balance of a ground attack. That might gain added importance if number two receiver Gabe Davis can't play. He's questionable with an ankle injury he suffered in practice.
A matchup to watch will certainly be Bills guard Rodger Saffold going against his former Tennessee teammates that include Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons.
WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL:
The philosophical differences between the Rams and Titans make this matchup all the more interesting.
Tennessee relies much more heavily on a power running game behind one of the best backs in football in Derrick Henry.
The numbers back that up. Henry rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns in win over Buffalo last season. That game, along with losses in the first meeting with the Patriots, and to the Colts, went a long way toward exposing Buffalo's weakness in the run defense.
That, along with the need for a better pass rush, led to some big changes in the offseason on the defensive front.
The Bills, of course, brought in Von Miller, but also had the return of Jordan Phillips. The defensive tackle signed with Arizona as a free agent after the 2019 season and decided to return this season after two years with the Cardinals.
With former first round pick Ed Oliver out of this game with an ankle injury he suffered in the opener, and fellow defensive tackle Tim Settle doubtful with a calf injury, Phillips will be key in helping to limit Henry and the Titans on the ground. Even with the injuries, the heavy rotation of players the Bills use up front, should serve them well in keeping players fresh late into the game.
As for the secondary, the Bills got good news Saturday as 2020 seventh-round pick Dane Jackson returned to practice declaring himself ready to play after suffering a knee injury. The Bills are relying on rookie cornerbacks Kaiir Elam (first-round pick) and Christian Benford (sixth-round pick) with top cornerback Tre'Davious White out for at least the first four games as he recovers from surgery for a torn ACL.