The Buffalo Bills play host to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in yet another matchup that looks daunting for Buffalo. Of the Bills’ first five opponents, only the Minnesota Vikings (2-2) are not above .500 currently.
If the Bills are going to pull off an upset victory this Sunday, they will need to control Tennessee’s key players throughout the matchup, something they were unable to do last week when the Green Bay Packers dismantled them at Lambeau Field. The Titans have a solid young core of skill players that will present unique challenges for the Bills’ defense.
Here are the five Titans players we’ll be watching this weekend.
QB Marcus Mariota
The franchise quarterback in Tennessee has had a better career so far than Jameis Winston, his fellow NFL Draft Class of 2015 alumnus, but Mariota has still had his ups and downs over his three-plus years in the league. He is dealing with a nerve issue in his throwing arm that has caused parts of his throwing hand to go numb, which obviously has made throwing the ball more difficult. In his first two outings this year, he combined to complete 21-of-34 passes for only 203 yards and 2 interceptions. Last week, in a 26-23 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mariota went off, completing 30-of-43 passes for 330 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He added 10 rushes for 46 yards and another score on the ground. If Mariota’s ulnar nerve issue is subsiding, or if he is just learning to manage it, he could continue to flourish. In order for the Titans to advance farther than they did last season, Mariota will need to continue to perform like he did last week. If Buffalo wants to upset Tennessee this week, they’ll need to make sure that doesn't happen.
RB Dion Lewis
While neither Lewis nor bruising tailback Derrick Henry have averaged more than 3.3 yards per carry on the season, it’s Lewis whose talents as a receiver make me the most worried this week. Lewis is a slippery pass-catcher out of the backfield, and he can cause problems for even the most seasoned linebackers. Rookie Tremaine Edmunds will have to combine with second-year man Matt Milano in corralling Lewis whenever the scat-back is on the field. He has caught 18 passes this season on 21 targets, totaling 116 yards receiving in addition to his 143 rushing yards.
WR Corey Davis
The big second-year man out of Western Michigan caught his first career touchdown pass last week, a game-winner in overtime against the Eagles. After missing five games during his rookie year due to injury and struggling with inconsistent play, the young Titan is showing why the team drafted him fifth overall in 2017. Davis made 34 catches in his rookie season, totaling 375 yards in the process. In 2018, he already has 22 receptions for 312 yards and 1 touchdown. Tre’Davious White will need to have a solid performance against the 6’3” Davis, one that looks more like his day against Stefon Diggs than his afternoon against Davante Adams.
DT Jurrell Casey
The big defensive tackle leads the Titans in sacks this season with 3, and he already has 19 combined tackles through 4 games. With favorable matchups against all three of Buffalo’s offensive linemen, Casey should be salivating about adding to that sack total. Throw in quarterback Josh Allen’s inability to diagnose blitz packages properly and the Bills could be in for a long day if they don’t contain number 99 on Sunday.
KR Darius Jennings
The backup wide receiver only has had two chances to return a kickoff this season, but he converted one of them into a 94-yard touchdown in Tennessee’s 27-20 loss on opening day against the Miami Dolphins. The Bills would be wise to have kicker Stephen Hauschka boot the ball out of the end zone each time he has the opportunity this weekend.