The Titans split their two cupcake road matches taking an L in New York against the Jets before blasting the Jaguars in Jacksonville last Sunday. Inconsistency and a lack of chemistry are the biggest concerns thus far, and it’s time for this team to be baptized by fire as they face three Super Bowl caliber teams in their next four weeks. Up first is a Monday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Previous matchups with Buffalo in the Vrabel Era:
2020: Win in Tennessee (42-16)
2019: Loss in Tennessee (7-14)
2018: Loss in Buffalo (12-13)
Vrabel is 1-2 in his head coaching career against the Bills, and one of the losses rests heavily on his shoulders. However, each of the two losses above can also be attributed to one player. In 2018, an egregious drop by Nick Williams cost the Titans the game. Williams was promptly dropped from the roster. In 2019, the game Vrabel takes responsibility for, we saw Cairo Santos miss all four of his field goal attempts in a game where the Titans lost by seven. The most recent affair in 2020 saw a dominant performance from Tennessee in a rare Tuesday Night Football game due to COVID-19 postponements. It also gave us one of the best football memes of all-time.
A sign of hope for Tennessee in this game against a red hot Buffalo Bills squad is that Vrabel has been able to squander all of Sean McDermott’s offenses to this point in their tenures. Tennessee has allowed an average of 14.3 PPG against Buffalo and has held them to 186 passing YPG over the three contests, as well. Obviously, Josh Allen has continued to grow into a true MVP candidate and is not the same player he was in 2018 where the Titans held him to under 100 yards in the air. But, even though has ascension has been remarkable over the last few years, it hasn’t come against the Titans.
To the Bills credit, they’ve done a good job of containing Derrick Henry over the same stretch of games. Buffalo has held Henry to under 200 yards on 50 carries over the last three years The 3.82 YPC is significantly lower than Henry’s career average.
Vrabel and McDermott were hired for their defensive and leadership capabilities, both of which have been exemplified in their three career showdowns. Nissan Stadium will be rocking on Monday night as the ESPN crew heads to Nashville for MNF. Tennessee will be searching for their 30th all-time win against the Bills while Buffalo seeks to notch victory number 20 against the Titans. From the 32-point comeback by Buffalo in the 1993 playoffs to the Music City Miracle of 2000, Tennessee vs. Buffalo has a storied history dating all the way back to the AFL days. I suspect Monday Night Football will give us another entertaining bout.
Obviously, I’ll select the Titans to cover the 5.5-point spread and win the game outright. Blinded by bias, but sound in reasoning. As a whole, the Titans have played the Bills very well in the Vrabel era on the defensive side of the ball. For Buffalo, as impressive as it was to go on the road and win at Arrowhead, it seems tough to them envision winning on the road in another primetime matchup. This game will tell us a lot about both teams. A loss for Tennessee would firmly plant them outside of Super Bowl contention while a win would do just the opposite. A win by Buffalo makes them the unrivaled favorite in the AFC. I’ll take the Titans in a close battle, 25-24. I’d be willing to take the under in this one, as well. Vrabel will learn from his conservative mistakes of the past and get his team back on their pre-season trajectory.