The Buffalo Bills (1-3) will be back on the New Era Field turf to take on the visiting Tennesse Titans (3-1) on Sunday. After a depressing loss in Green Bay, it’ll be a good opportunity to give the home crowd reason to believe in the growth of this team. One area that wasn’t a problem versus the Packers was the defense, and this time they have a more favorable matchup on the horizon. Tennessee’s offense is ranked 28th in the league in points per game (18.8) and 26th in total yards (312.2). Despite the low rankings, this is a group that has some dangerous weapons. Let’s give them a look:
It all starts on the ground with Tennessee’s offense. Their average of 109 rushing yards per game ranks 15th in the league. Derrick Henry is the RB1, a bruiser who seeks contact but also has the speed to burn in the open field. He’s hasn’t been very effective this season, rushing for 163 yards on 54 carries and averaging just three yards per carry. Splitting reps with him, the former Patriot Dion Lewis is the biggest reason for concern at this point. Lewis is shifty and can make people miss not only on rushing attempts, but also after the catch. He’s going to be a difficult matchup for the Bills’ linebackers.
Texas route excellence by @DionLewisRB that would make @CutonDime25 proud.— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 4, 2018
Shows off his play speed as the throw is to his back shoulder, peeks at McMillan then bursts across the field. The move completely throws off the tackle attempt by Jones. #Bills better be on high alert pic.twitter.com/I4UtZGDfLx
Another major threat on the ground is the Titans’ QB, Marcus Mariota. One of the most dangerous dual-threat QBs in the league, Mariota is coming from a game in which he led the team in rushing yards with 46 on 10 carries and one TD. He helps his running backs a lot being a threat on read-option plays, so the defense always needs to pay attention to him as a part of the Titans’ ground game.
Tennessee also has a great duo of tackles in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, but they may still be stymied by the Bills’ front. The Bills’ D is doing a good job there, with Star Lotulelei showing lately why the team spent $50M on his services. The linebackers are flying to the ball and Kyle is his usual reliable self. Rookie Harrison Phillips is flashing his potential, and the addition of ex-Dolphin Jordan Phillips should help the rotation inside.
Outside zone run by Henry. DT Phillips run fit forces Henry to bounce it, but the Chef hesitates and they get 5 yds. Good battle between Minkah and Davis pic.twitter.com/yY5n0eYc7M— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 4, 2018
I like the Bills’ chances in this matchup and it’ll be an interesting one to keep an eye on. After struggling versus Aaron Jones’s physicality, the way they contain Henry will be crucial to their success.
The Titan’s passing unit is 26th in the league with 203.2 passing yards per game. This aerial attack shouldn’t be a major concern versus the Bills’ secondary, especially if Micah Hyde is healthy enough to play and the D does their job stopping the run. Veteran TE Delanie Walker is out injured and is a big loss for Tennessee. Second-year wideout Corey Davis is the top target and is coming from his best game in his young career. He torched the Eagles’ CBs for 161 yards on nine receptions and scored the game-winning TD.
Davis finished the game as Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded Titan on offense, with an 85.4 overall grade. He’s starting to look like a true number one receiver and will be a tough matchup for Tre’Davious White. Despite that, I like White’s chances there, as he’s having a very good season shadowing the opposition’s best receivers and should be able to do a good job containing Tennessee’s former first-round pick.
Tajae Sharpe is the number two receiver, but he’s not having a good season, with only four catches so far. Taywan Taylor out of the slot may be the biggest concern. He has 14 catches for 139 yards and one score this year. Rookie CB Taron Johnson will line up against him, and he’s doing a great job in his first year in the NFL.
Already mentioned above, RB Dion Lewis is a factor in the passing game, too, with 18 receptions on the year. The Titans have some quality players, but the key is finding ways to bother Marcus Mariota. He was having a really rough season before the second half of the last game versus the Eagles, in which he played extremely well and shredded a very good Philadelphia D. He finished this game throwing for 344 yards, two TDs and one INT. His season’s totals are less inspiring, with 547 yards, two TDs and three INTs. Before this latest half of football, Mariota was struggling mightily. If the Bills’ front four find ways to be disruptive again, like in the game versus the Vikings, Buffalo has a good shot at giving the Titans a rough afternoon, offensively speaking.
Despite giving the Bills the advantage in both offensive matchups, it’s not by a wide margin. Mariota looked really good in his lastest half of football and has the ability to give fits to Buffalo’s D. Davis, Henry and Lewis are the primary three players who could make a difference in the game. It should be a tough one, but I like the Bills’ D in this Sunday’s matchup.