Buffalo Bills (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (3-0)
I think this game is finally safe to write up. A line was posted at Buffalo -3.5 and after two straight days of COVID negatives by the Titans, it seems likely that this game will take place, for the Titans their first game in 16 days. A team having that much time off between games mid-season isn’t unprecedented in the NFL, as three teams went three weeks without playing in 2001 due to 9/11 cancellations, but there is very limited history of how this affects teams and the Titans have also had very little chance to practice and will be playing without several key players, which puts the Titans in uncharted territory historically.
The Titans activated defensive end Da’Quan Jones from the COVID list and they’ll have top wide receiver AJ Brown back from injury for the first time since week 1 and any of their other COVID list players could theoretically be activated before gametime, but right now they are slated to be without starting cornerback Kristian Fulton, starting wide receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, and top defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons. This is nowhere near their full strength squad.
Making matters worse for the Titans, they weren’t nearly as good as their 3-0 record suggests, even before all this happened. Their three wins have come by a combined 6 points, despite a +5 turnover margin, something that they’re not necessarily going to be able to count on going forward, and they actually entered week 5 ranking just 25th in first down rate differential at -3.44%. Part of that was due to injury absences, as they’ve also been missing top cornerback Adoree Jackson all season, but they’re in much worse shape now.
The Titans also haven’t had a particularly tough schedule thus far, struggling to put away the Broncos, Jaguars, and Titans, and now face a much tougher test, as the Bills are off to an impressive 4-0 start and look significantly improved in 2020 thanks to Josh Allen’s improvement and the addition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs. This line favors the Bills by 3.5, which would be my calculated line in normal circumstances, but the Titans are also definitely at a disadvantage due to their lack of practice time and unpredictable schedule over the past two weeks.
I’m not sure if I’m going to bet on the Bills, however, because the Titans have players who could be activated before gametime, while the Bills’ top cornerback Tre’Davious White is questionable after not practicing all week and could join top linebacker Matt Milano on the sideline, though the extended week probably gives White a better than normal chance of playing despite the lack of practice time. Either way, I’ll likely have an update before gametime, but I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick on Buffalo for now.
Final Update: White is out for the Bills, but the Titans won’t be getting any additional players back from the COVID list and this line has dropped to a field goal. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick, but the Bills should still be the right side.
Buffalo Bills 30 Tennessee Titans 24
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -3