ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills are on a bit of a revenge tour.
It’s not obvious from talking to the players and coaches, or something that’s outwardly acknowledged. But one by one leading up to the Week 7 bye, the Bills are facing opponents that have come in the team’s way over the last two years.
And so far, the revenge has been sweet.
The next test will come Monday when the Bills head to Nashville (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN). Nissan Stadium was the site of a brutal 42-16 loss for Buffalo last year that ended an undefeated 4-0 start to the season.
When you come at Derrick Henry, you better come correct 😱
— ESPN (@espn) October 14, 2020
“I think we get reminded [of that game] every time I see highlights,” coach Sean McDermott said. “I see that play and then, look, give them credit. They outperformed us, they outcoached us, they outplayed us.”
This time? Things may be different.
First up on the Bills’ revenge list this season was the Houston Texans. The Bills lost to the Texans in the wild-card round of the 2019 playoffs. In a tale of two teams who have moved in different directions since that game, the struggling Texans were blown out 40-0 by Buffalo in Week 4.
Next was the big rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game and a regular-season loss in 2020 when the Bills headed to Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday night. A 38-20 win, the Bills’ first over Patrick Mahomes, was the result and Buffalo came out of that game looking like the team to beat in the AFC, if not the entire NFL.
With quarterback Josh Allen outperforming Mahomes and the defense stumping a dynamic Chiefs team, the Bills (4-1) are on top of the league in more ways than one.
The Bills lead the NFL in scoring offense and scoring defense, the fourth team since the merger in 1970 to lead the league in both categories through Week 5, per the Elias Sports Bureau (2006 Chicago Bears, 1997 New England Patriots and 1995 Miami Dolphins). They also lead in turnover differential (+11) and point margin (+108).
Buffalo now has a 57.6% chance to win the AFC, per ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).
The Titans have had two games come down to overtime this season, winning one of those games against the Seahawks and losing to the New York Jets on the road. Tennessee averages the third-most rushing yards in the NFL (167.8), while the Bills defense has allowed the third-fewest (78.4).
In the meeting last year, the Titans rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns. A big factor in that offensive success was getting the ball on short fields. Buffalo turned the ball over three times to the Titans’ zero turnovers. As a result, the Titans had four of six touchdown drives start in Buffalo territory
Winning games against other AFC division leaders, like the Titans, is a key step to maintaining that hold on the conference. Luckily for Buffalo, things have been going well on the road as of late. Allen has won eight starts away from Highmark Stadium since the beginning of 2020, tied for second in the NFL. Only Mahomes (nine) has won more over that time frame.
Plus, the road ahead for the Bills features some winnable games.
According to FPI, the Bills have the second-easiest remaining schedule. Games against the Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and two against the Jets await Buffalo after the bye.
The Titans and Bills have met in each of the past three seasons with Buffalo taking two of three games. The Bills will be trending in the right direction in terms of health for the game with starting linebacker Matt Milano a limited participant in the first practice of the week with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the Kansas City game.
The opportunity to keep things moving in the right direction against another AFC opponent is a big one, even if this game doesn’t carry quite the weight or narrative of last week’s game against the Chiefs.
“If you look back at last year and see why we lost, you could find a million reasons why we lost,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. “You can come up with as many excuses as you want, but they played better than us on that Tuesday. Right now, moving on from last week … we just got to go in with the right mindset.”