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Carucci Take 2: Bills are built to get the better of run-driven Titans

Here are 5 keys for the Buffalo Bills in Monday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here are my five keys for the Buffalo Bills in Monday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans at Highmark Stadium:

1. Prevent another Derrick Henry takeover.

This time, the Bills should be able to keep the Titans’ running back from controlling the tempo of the game with his legs, something he has done with regularity when the teams have met. The return of tackle Jordan Phillips figures to go a long way toward making the middle of the Bills’ defense stouter. He brings a physical presence that gives the unit something it didn’t have before this season: a run-stuffer who, if he doesn’t bring down the ball carrier himself, will at least slow him enough for other defenders to swarm him.

Phillips also is every bit as much of a tone-setter for the Bills’ defense as anyone, including Von Miller. As Sean McDermott said of Phillips after the season-opening victory against the Los Angeles Rams, “He brings a lot of energy to our team. He brings an edge to our football team as well, which is good.”

It’s less than ideal the Bills will be without another of their defensive tackles, Ed Oliver, who won’t play due to an ankle injury, and that they’ll likely be missing another tackle, Tim Settle, who is doubtful with a calf injury. However, their enhanced depth up front and the frequent rotation of defensive linemen will have enough fresh bodies to not let Henry gain any steam late in the game.

It bodes well for the Bills that the New York Giants held Henry to 82 yards and an average of 3.9 yards per carrying in their win against Tennessee last week.

2. Another reason the Bills should be expected to win as comfortably as oddsmakers expect is how the two teams are built.

The Bills’ ultra-explosive, quick-striking offense creates the likelihood of their building and expanding an early lead. The Titans’ offense depends on the power supplied by Henry’s running.

Relying on the run becomes less and less viable as the hole in which Josh Allen and the Bills’ passing game puts the Titans grows deeper.

3. That takes us to the Titans’ passing game finding success against the Bills’ pass defense.

It’s unlikely to happen.

Start with the Bills’ pass rush. Miller led the charge of the seven-sack attack against the Rams. Expect him to be every bit as effective Monday night, along with the rest of the Bills’ pass-rushers.

The pressure should, again, do plenty to help a Bills secondary that is expected to remain intact, given the encouraging news Saturday that cornerback Dane Jackson practiced fully after missing the previous two days with a knee injury. He’s listed as questionable but is expected to start.

Against the Rams, rookies Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam nearly had an even split of playing time opposite Jackson. They were more than solid in that pressure-packed prime-time situation. There’s no reason to think anything will change against Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Rams.

4. You know which team could have the bigger running night? Yep. The Bills.

Consider that a week ago, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley ran for 161 yards and a TD. He averaged a staggering 9.1 yards per carry on 18 attempts, aided by a 68-yard gain.

I’m not suggesting the Bills have someone of Barkley’s caliber in their backfield. However, they do have a more than capable No. 1 back in Devin Singletary, who ran for 48 yards and averaged six yards per carry against the Rams. And, of course, there’s Allen, the quarterback who thinks he’s a running back. Against Los Angeles, he ran for a game-high 56 yards and a score, while averaging 5.6 yards on 10 carries.

Allen’s rushing attempts far exceeded a total that makes coaches, teammates and everyone else connected with the Bills comfortable for the one player who gives them their best (only?) shot at reaching/winning the Super Bowl. Still, as the Giants demonstrated, the Titans’ defense is vulnerable to a persistent ground attack and you can expect the Bills to look to capitalize on that.

5. I don’t love that Gabe Davis showed up on the Bills’ injury list as questionable with an ankle issue.

If he were to miss the game, that would remove a significant cog from the offense. If he were to be limited in any way, that, too, could take something away from the potency of the Bills’ ability to move the ball.

Nevertheless, the Bills still have Stefon Diggs and Isaiah McKenzie to make game-breaking plays. It also would seem unlikely that tight end Dawson Knox would again be as quiet as he was against the Rams.

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