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Tennessee Titans finally get the big stage against Buffalo Bills. Yes, it's a big deal. | Estes

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 10/17/2021 Gentry Estes, Nashville Tennessean

Harold Landry isn’t overly impressed by Monday Night Football.

That's what the Tennessee Titans linebacker says, at least. He likes to ignore “outside noise,” he explains. This next game at Nissan Stadium — in prime time against the NFL’s best team at the moment — will be just “another opportunity to show what we’re about,” said Landry. Nothing more.

a group of baseball players playing a football game: Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Harold Landry (58) sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. © George Walker IV / The Tennessean Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Harold Landry (58) sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.

Suuuuuuuuure.

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“He’s lying,” replied Titans receiver A.J. Brown. "... Harold saying that would not be human. Of course, everybody is excited. It's a big game. I understand he’s trying not to make it bigger than what it is. It’s still football.

“But it's a big deal. It's Monday Night.”

Point to Brown on this one.

Of course, he's right. Of course, it's a gigantic deal.

If only because it has happened so rarely in Nashville. Monday Night Football isn’t something this city is accustomed to enjoying.

When the Titans (3-2) host the Buffalo Bills (4-1), it’ll be the first Monday night broadcast from Nissan Stadium in more than four years, going back to an October 2017 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Mike Vrabel wasn’t even the Titans’ coach then.

In the past 10 seasons, the Titans have only played six times on Monday night, home or away. Meanwhile, the Raiders and Ravens have each played two games on Monday night this season. They could be considered regulars. The Titans, not so much.

The NFL doesn’t arbitrarily decide these things. Certain teams – whether it’s because of big success, big stars, big market sizes or all of the above – are going to be featured more often in prime-time games that seek to highlight the most attractive matchups to the largest audience.

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In other words, “These are the games you live for,” said Titans linebacker David Long.

The Titans haven’t played in many of these games because they haven’t been an “it” franchise in NFL circles.

Objectively, you understand why.

Success? The Titans have had success, sure, but not wildly so. It has been decades since Eddie George and Steve McNair and Super Bowl XXXIV. The Titans have had star players since but not many superstars. When it comes to market size, well, Nashville isn’t New York.

This has long been a sore spot among Titans players. They’ve grumbled for years about a lack of respect and having to play each Sunday at noon for regional TV audiences. Then they'd watch from home while other teams — often with worse records— played in prime time.

In the NFL, there's prestige and money at stake here. Other players’ votes and opinions matter in different forms and rankings. Playing regular-season games that everyone else in the NFL is watching, that's important in terms of reputation and value.

Former Titans tight end Delanie Walker, in a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview this summer, said that it “hurts my value in any type of awards and accolades (such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame) because I did play in Tennessee. … When you play in Tennessee, you don’t get prime-time games.”

Walker caught some heat for those comments, but I guarantee you he's not the only Titans player who has thought that and not said it. Some NFL free agents being courted by the Titans have probably considered it, too.

Slowly, however, that has been starting to change.

After an AFC championship game appearance in 2019 and AFC South crown in 2020, the Titans added a likely Hall of Fame player in Julio Jones to an offense that already had 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry – one of the NFL’s best overall players – and a talented young player like Brown.

Soon as it was announced, a Monday night game against the Bills was always going to be an opportunity to make an impression on the league.

What wasn’t known was how formidable the opponent would be.

The Bills actually played a Nissan Stadium night game last season. They were blown out in a strange game that’d been postponed to a Tuesday night because of the Titans’ in-season COVID-19 outbreak. After barely practicing ahead of time, the Titans stunned the Bills 42-16 in what proved to be the most impressive of their 11 victories in 2020.

Much like this game, the entire league was tuning in to that one, too.

Those Bills, however, are not these Bills. These Bills are scorching-hot right now. They’ve won their past four games by an average score of 39-10. They are scoring the most points of any NFL team this season. They are allowing the fewest points. So, yeah, that gives them the best offense and the best defense in the league after five weeks. Haven’t seen that very often.

It’s so intimidating that Vrabel has been instructing his Titans this week to not pay attention to the Bills’ numbers, since “You kind of get caught up in how statistically good they are.”

“They have earned those numbers,” Vrabel said. “… It is going to be a huge challenge.”

The term “measuring stick” has been thrown around in Titans interviews a lot this week. I don’t see this as a measuring stick, necessarily. The Titans are supposed to lose. If they happened to win, it would be considered an upset.

But there are reasons for the Titans' bolstered confidence.

Jones is set to return from injury. Brown just did last weekend. The Titans could have their full assortment of top offensive skill position players for the first time since Week 2 in Seattle.

Against the Bills, the Titans have much to gain and little to lose.

That makes this a gigantic opportunity – the type they haven’t often experienced in their own stadium.

“It's most definitely exciting,” Brown said. “We're playing a really good team on Monday Night Football. Everybody is watching you. You've got to show up and play.”

Reach Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes. 

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans finally get the big stage against Buffalo Bills. Yes, it's a big deal. | Estes

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