The Buffalo Bills meet the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 for the second consecutive year. Last year, the two teams battled in Orchard Park, with Buffalo pulling a 13-12 victory out on a last-second Stephen Hauschka field goal. The Bills had 223 yards of total offense in that game; Tennessee had 221 yards. A defensive struggle is what we’ll probably see on Sunday.
While the defenses will be the highlight throughout the week, there are plenty of talented offensive players on each side of the field. The Titans have some excellent athletes, which may not be terribly obvious given their reputation as a low-octane offensive team. They did hang 43 points on the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 this season, so they are certainly capable of exploding on any given Sunday.
Which Titans will Buffalo need to contain on Sunday in order to emerge victorious? Here’s who we’ll be watching this week.
QB Marcus Mariota
The former No. 2 pick is off to a fantastic start this season, completing 62% of his passes for 933 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions through four games. In Tennessee’s two wins, he’s thrown multiple touchdown passes, so if the Bills can prevent him from doing that this week, they’ll have a good chance at coming out with a win. In two career games against Buffalo, Mariota has failed to break 200-yards passing either time. The Titans lost both games by one point—a 14-13 loss in Nashville during Mariota’s rookie year in 2015, and last season’s 13-12 loss. Mariota is starting to look every bit like the player Tennessee thought they were drafting second overall, as his plus athleticism and solid arm talent have been on full display in the early going. The Bills will need to take advantage of his penchant for taking sacks, as Mariota has been taken down 17 times this year.
RB Derrick Henry
Tennessee’s leading rusher is a man, standing at a bruising 6’3” and 247 pounds. He’s been over 80 yards three times this year, and he has 310 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries this season. Henry is on pace for a 312/1240/12 season on the ground, which would easily be the best year of his young career. It’s awfully hard to slow a tank once it’s in motion, but the Bills will have to hit Henry behind the line of scrimmage in order to prevent him from hitting that second gear. If he can break contain, he has the speed to run away from linebackers and the brute strength to run through them.
WR Corey Davis
If there’s one kind of receiver Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White has struggled with in his young career, it’s the big, physical ones. A.J. Green (seven catches, 189 yards, one touchdown), DeAndre Hopkins (five catches, 63 yards, one touchdown), and Kenny Golladay (seven catches, 146 yards) are all bigger receivers who have had strong outings with White shadowing them. Davis, at 6’3” and 209 lbs, profiles similarly from a physical standpoint. Taking his three games of this year and extrapolating them out for a 16-game season, Davis projects to catch 59 passes for 923 yards and five touchdowns. He can disappear from the game plan at times, as evidenced by his zero-target outing in Week 1 this year, but he has the physical tools to dominate, especially in the red zone. White and company will need to stick right in Davis’s shirt this week.
TE Delanie Walker
The veteran tight end is the most talented player the Bills have faced at the position so far this year (yes, I like Walker over Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert), and while the Bills have been incredible against tight ends, allowing only 11 catches for 84 yards in four games, Walker presents a different kind of challenge. His ability to stretch the field is still there, even after multiple leg injuries and even at 35 years old. Walker is Mariota’s favorite target, so Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde will need to work overtime to take him away.
EDGE Harold Landry
The young pass rusher is off to a great start this year, showing exactly why Tennessee picked him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. After managing 44 tackles and 4.5 sacks throughout 15 games in his rookie year, Landry already has 15 tackles and three sacks through four games. He’s on pace for a 12-sack season with 16 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits. The Bills will need to neutralize Tennessee’s pass rush regardless of whether Josh Allen or Matt Barkley plays quarterback. Stopping Landry will be priority number one for Buffalo’s offensive line.