The Tennessee Titans have their hands full this week as they host the Buffalo Bills who possess the league’s No. 1 offense and defense.
Similar to playing down to opponents like the winless Jets, these are the types of games that the Titans historically tend to play well in. Nonetheless, Tennessee is going to have to be on their Ps and Qs if they’re going to hang around with this behemoth of a team.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at six intriguing storylines that surround this week’s matchup with the Bills.
Can the offensive line protect Tannehill from the Buffalo defense?
The Titans were hit with some unexpected news this week as backup tackle, Ty Sambrailo, decided to suddenly walk away from the game. Losing depth right now is less than ideal for an offensive line that has allowed a league-leading 20 sacks in five games.
The Titans’ offensive line has failed to pitch a sack-less shutout and they now must try to do so against a Bills defense that has accounted for 14 sacks through five games.
Rookie Gregory Rousseau leads the team with three sacks while 10 different Bills players have tallied at least a half-sack on the year.
Tennessee’s o-line is going to have their hands full on pitching their first shutout this week, but they have to at least give Tannehill a chance to utilize his weapons if the Titans are going to pull off the primetime upset.
A.J. Brown’s Buffalo breakout game 2.0?
Last year, A.J. Brown got hurt relatively early in the Titans’ season-opening game against the Broncos. That injury ultimately held Brown out a few weeks which started the ridiculous chatters among some that maybe he was just a one-year wonder.
And then on a random Tuesday evening, Brown reminded everyone just how good he was when healthy. His 2020 breakout game occurred Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills where Brown caught seven passes for 82 yards and one early touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the game.
This time around, it’s a Week 6 showdown on Monday night against the same team that Brown broke out against last year. The Ole Miss product will need to have a monster impact if Tennessee is going to keep up with Buffalo’s high-powered offense.
Can Tennessee’s defense slow down Buffalo’s offense?
The Titans are going to have their hands full when Josh Allen and the No. 1 offense through five weeks come to town. Buffalo’s offense is averaging a league-leading 34.4 points per game and has scored a total of 20 touchdowns through five weeks.
Tennessee’s defense on the other hand isn’t nearly as impressive, they’ve allowed an average of 26.2 points per game, 16 total touchdowns, and a total of 130 points. Despite those high totals, there is some reason for optimism as there have been clear improvements in several areas.
Most notably is the improvements made in the Titans’ third-down defense. That area has drastically improved from a season ago. Last year, Tennessee had a historically bad third-down unit which has now dropped their opponents’ efficiency rate from over 51% to a respectable 37.7%.
Unfortunately for defensive coordinator Shane Bowen’s unit, the Bills are coming to town converting on third downs at a whopping rate of 49.2%.
If Tennessee is going to have any chance at slowing down this Buffalo offense, they’re going to have to get some crucial stops along with a couple of turnovers. Tennessee needs their best defensive players in Jeffery Simmons, Harold Landry, & Kevin Byard to make an impact throughout the game so the rest of the defense can feed off them.
Derrick Henry Buffalo redemption
Anytime you think of Derrick Henry playing against the Bills, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is the monster Josh Norman stiff arm. But what often gets overlooked is the fact that Buffalo held Henry to his lowest rushing total of the regular season. Henry only rushed for 57 yards on 19 carries (3 YPC) although two of those did go for a touchdown.
The Titans were in control of that game throughout, therefore, much of that may be attributed to the fact that they didn’t need their star running back to carry the load that day.
However, Henry has had three games against the Bills in as many years and he has failed to eclipse the 100-yard threshold a single time. His best output against Buffalo in his career was 78 rushing yards back in 2019.
The Titans are going to need this to change if they’re going to stick around with Buffalo’s high-powered offense. Be on the lookout to see if the Alabama product can finally break the 100-yard mark on Sunday.
Potential Rookie impact?
The Titans hadn’t gotten much impact from their rookies through the first four weeks of the season. That started to change last week against the Jaguars as rookies Caleb Farley, Elijah Molden, & Monty Rice all got on the field. Molden has arguably been the most impactful rookie thus far.
Molden forced a fumble on Jacksonville’s first drive of the game which Kevin Byard scooped and scored for a Titans touchdown. On top of the forced fumble, the Washington product was targeted four times as well, allowing all 4 catches for only 13 yards on 22 defensives snaps.
Similar to Molden, Farley also played 22 defensive snaps for the Titans last Sunday. He was targeted four times and only allowed two completions for 13 yards, one pass break up, and accounted for one defensive holding penalty.
Linebacker Monty Rice got on the field and played a total of 12 defensive snaps while also contributed seven on special teams.
This week, they will also need offensive lineman Dillon Radunz to be ready at a moment’s instance following the sudden departure of Ty Sambrailo.
Be on the lookout to see how all of the Titans’ rookies perform on Monday and if any of them stand out against a stout All-around Bills team.
Will Julio Jones play?
The Titans have been without their star wideout Julio Jones these last two weeks due to a nagging hamstring injury he suffered against the Colts back in Week 3. It was a real shame because Jones was seemingly finally getting into a rhythm with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Jones had a massive Week 2 performance against the Seahawks where he totaled over 100-receiving yards in the first half. That threat out wide helped Henry go bonkers for 182 yards, most of which came in the second half when Jones had established his presence.
Against the Colts, Jones converted on a couple of big third downs conversions in the first half and had 47 yards on three catches before apparently tweaking his hamstring sometime in the second half.
The Titans could use Jones’ playmaking abilities and his presence more than anything. Brown hasn’t looked himself thus far and could benefit from seeing opposing No. 2 cornerbacks rather than being the only real threat outside of Henry. That luxury will likely allow Brown to thrive once he’s fully healthy which hopefully brings that confident swagger that we have rarely seen thus far in 2021.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said on Monday in regards to Jones practicing this week that:
“We’ll see on Wednesday. We don’t practice until Wednesday.”
It should be noted that Vrabel said something similar last week in regards to Jones and Brown and then Tennessee’s second-year wideout ended up practicing the entire week. The real indicator of how Jones is doing will come on Wednesday when the practice report comes out.
Keep your eyes peeled all week long for updates on Jones’ status heading into Monday’s game.