After three weeks of flying high, albeit on a relatively bumpy flight, the Bills made a hard landing with Sunday’s loss against the Patriots. Optimists see it as narrowing a major gap. Pessimists see it as the same old story. It probably falls somewhere in between.
But with Josh Allen uncertain to play — or playing without the benefit of a full week of starting reps — it’s hard to see the Bills winning a third road game in a row against a team with a tough, Patriots-style defense. If Matt Barkley starts, he’ll have a massive task to lead the Bills to a critical win that figures to elude them.
Quarterback uncertainty isn’t the only reason to pick against the Bills in this game. The Titans’ defense is legit, allowing just 15.5 points per game. It will be a handful for either Josh Allen or Matt Barkley.
Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota takes good care of the football, having yet to throw an interception this season. The Titans will be content to play a low-scoring game with the idea that Mariota and Co. can do just enough to grind out a win.
If I were a gambler, I would stay as far away from this game as possible. Conventional wisdom is it will play out a lot like last year (13-12) and somebody will win it in the final five minutes. There are a lot of similarities between the two teams. The Titans’ defensive scheming will make it tough for the Bills to sustain drives.
I see the Titans creating a lot of confusion for the Bills’ quarterback, and it’s going to be tough to hit anything deep. The same is true for Marcus Mariota against the Bills’ defense. Can the Bills score 24 on the road against a really good defense? I want to see it before I pick them in a game like this.
This game could go a long way toward defining the Bills' season. Either they rebound from last weekend's 16-10 loss to the Patriots and enter the bye with a 4-1 record, or suffer another loss to an AFC opponent and start to skid.
I think the Bills get it done. Marcus Mariota should have trouble against this Bills' passing defense. The key to victory is containing Mariota's scrambling and running back Derrick Henry. And, as always, protecting the ball.
The Bills don't need Matt Barkley to be a hero to win this game. They just need him not to lose it. The same goes for Josh Allen, should he clear concussion protocol.
The Bills face a Titans team that is finding its offensive footing, but the Bills are also a team that has question marks about its own offense, between the health of quarterback Josh Allen and the lack of productivity last week against New England. The Titans are similarly stingy on defense, allowing an average of 15.5 points in their first four games. Beating a 2-2 team will be a task the Bills.