After much uncertainty due to their COVID-19 outbreak, the Titans will finally be able to resume their season. They held their first team practice on Sunday in over three weeks. There will be no smooth transition back to playing for the Titans, however, as they will face an undefeated Bills team whose quarterback is putting up MVP-type numbers. The Titans also have key players out on the COVID/IR list, such as Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jeffery Simmons. Rust will also be a factor. If Week 1 was any indication league-wide due to no preseason, then the Titans may very well struggle to play after a lengthy period off the field.
Josh Allen vs. Titans Secondary
Josh Allen has been nothing short of remarkable this year.
The third-year quarterback has put up an early case for MVP, and his transition from his first two years to now have been outstanding. His game is no longer is reliant upon his raw athleticism and rushing ability. Instead, the Bills offense has succeeded due to his accuracy and efficiency, two aspects of his game that were heavily criticized coming out of the University of Wyoming.
Allen is third in the league in passing yards and fourth in passing touchdowns. However, what may be more impressive is his completion percentage. He is completing 70% of his passes this year which ranks seventh in the league. This is a significant improvement from his first two years, in which he averaged around 55% completed passes.
The Titans are still without their top corner Adoree’ Jackson as he remains on IR. As we have seen in the past two games, the Titans secondary and cornerbacks have really struggled. In Week 3, Minnesota Vikings rookie WR Justin Jefferson torched the Titans secondary for 175 yards. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, meanwhile, threw for over 300 yards the previous week. The Titans, as a whole, are 23rd in the league in passing yards allowed per game.
Bills Offense vs. Titans Red Zone Defense
Passing yards may be a lesser concern in a pass-happy league than getting off the field on third down and red zone defense. However, the Titans defense is particularly poor in that department, as well. The Titans are second-worst in the league in opposing third-down conversion percentage, allowing a first down 51% of the time. The Bill offense is sixth in the league in third-down conversion, with a similar 51% conversion rate. In the red zone, the Titans allow a touchdown 80% of the time which is also second-worst in the league. The Titans secondary will have its hands full against Stefon Diggs and John Brown. Their pass rush will have to generate sacks to keep them in the game, especially considering the Bills’ starting guards are listed as questionable to play.
The Titans pass defense is not even their weakest point on that side of the ball. The Titans are allowing 166 rushing yards per game, which ranks 31st in the league. They also allow a league-high 5.8 rushing yards per carry. Fortunately, for Titans fans, the Bills have a pedestrian ground attack. They are 28th in the league in rushing yards per game and 29th in yards per carry. However, with Jeffery Simmons out on the COVID/IR list, I would expect the Bills to try and exploit the Titans rush defense in some capacity. It may not be a bad idea to run a few designed runs for Josh Allen, especially in the red zone
Ryan Tannehill vs. Bills Secondary
The Titans will be without several key contributors on offense. Corey Davis and Adam Humphries will miss Tuesday night’s game, while A.J. Brown, who has missed the last two games, is listed as questionable. Nevertheless, the Titans are not facing a typical vaunted Bills defense.
Sean McDermott’s defense has been uncharacteristically poor this year. The Bills are 29th in the league in pass defense and 26th in opposing third-down conversion percentage. Tannehill has had a strong start to the year, but if A.J. Brown is not able to play, the Titans quarterback will be throwing to unproven receivers. Starting tight end Jonnu Smith will be crucial for the Titans and Ryan Tannehill. Offensive coordinator Arthur Brown must continue to put Smith in favorable match-ups on the field to help Tannehill. I would expect Smith to receive significant targets, especially in the red zone. The Titans average a touchdown in the red zone 72% of the time, which ranks fifth in the NFL.
Derrick Henry vs. Bills Defensive Line
With the lack of available weapons for Tennessee, Derrick Henry must have a big game. We have yet to see a monster performance from Henry this year. The Titans rank ninth in rushing yards per game this year, but it is taking a lot of carries to gain those yards. Henry is averaging 3.9 yards per rush and the Titans, overall, are averaging 3.8 yards per carry, good for 26th in the NFL.
With that said, the Titans run effectively on first down, which the Bills do not particularly defend well. Tennessee averages 7.7 rushing first downs per game, which ranks ninth in the league. Buffalo, on the other hand, allows 7.5 first downs on the ground per game. Henry will have to lessen the burden on the passing attack and the inexperienced Titans receivers.
The Tennessee Titans will have come a long way come Tuesday night. After their COVID outbreak, NFL investigations into protocol violations, and lack of practice, they will finally be able to play again.
However, it is difficult to foresee a win against a potent team, considering all the challenges they have faced over the past few weeks. I expect the fresher team with more practice to eke out a victory, especially when you consider the Titans will be missing significant starters.
Pick: Bills 27, Titans 20
(Featured Image Credit: TennesseeTitans.com)