Tennessee defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons practiced regularly against left guard Rodger Saffold since the Titans drafted him in 2019.
Now Simmons gets his first chance at Saffold able to go full speed Monday night when the Titans visit Buffalo with Saffold in his first season with the Bills.
“I’m excited to go against him,” Simmons said. "We had great battles here in practice, but everyone knows that switch for me is not practice. We can rush, we can do all that, but we can’t get the quarterback at practice ... For me, I'm going to say I play way harder than I practice.”
This isn't the first time Saffold has had to face off against former teammates. He started his career with the Los Angeles Rams and won in Los Angeles last season with the Titans. Saffold started this season with the Bills taking down the defending Super Bowl champs to kick off this season with his third NFL team.
Saffold said it definitely feels weird playing a team he just anchored the left guard spot for the past three seasons.
“At the end of the day, I have a job to do,” Saffold said. “So, you know, this is what we came to do, it’s our craft. And we’re always going to be looking out for each other once the final whistle blows.”
Buffalo (1-0) and Tennessee (0-1) are not in the same division. As they prepare to play for a fifth straight year, it’s fair to say they know each other almost as well as if they did play twice a year in a budding rivalry. And familiarity is breeding strong emotions and great football.
The Titans have won the past two played in Nashville with Simmons helping making a stop on Bills quarterback Josh Allen on fourth-and-goal to preserve a very big win as Tennessee wound up not only repeating as AFC South champs, but earning the AFC's No. 1 seed. The Bills finished with the No. 3 seed.
Allen has played Tennessee every season he's been in the NFL and sees the familiarity with the Titans helping a bit. Allen also noted the Titans have one of the best coaches in Mike Vrabel, the defending AP NFL Coach of the Year.
“He does a lot of good things,” Allen said. “And again, he’s going to have them extremely motivated here. So, we got to be ready for whatever punch they throw out our way and try to put our best foot forward.”
Knowing each other is only part of what adds to the intensity of these Titans-Bills showdowns.
The Titans routed Buffalo in 2020 in a rare Tuesday night game postponed after Tennessee became the first NFL team with a COVID-19 outbreak during the first season of the pandemic. The Titans got the big stop for the big win a year ago.
Monday night is the home opener for Buffalo. Bills safety Micah Hyde said they want to win this game to defend their home turf.
“Obviously, a big one for them, too,” Hyde said. “And we’re going to go out there and try to play our best and get our first one at home.”
Both the Bills and Titans have had roster turnover since last season. What the teams do on the field has changed little with Derrick Henry the focus of Tennessee's offense and coordinator Leslie Frazier running the Bills' defense since 2017.
“We’re not going to try to out-scheme anybody,” Hyde said. “We’re going to go out there and just play football, do what we do and and try to execute. So they’re kind of similar in that way.”
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a natural switch going from seeing the Bills regularly in the AFC East while playing for Miami. This will be his fourth game in this series with Tennessee, and the quarterback said it's a simple recipe in the end.
“It comes down to execution and making plays,” Tannehill said.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed.
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