Top 3 Individual Matchups
1- Stevie Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan – Johnson was a big part of the resurgent Bills offense last week tying a season-high with eight receptions against Darrelle Revis. Finnegan is an agitator with a physical style that tries to get under a receiver’s skin.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Run game – Buffalo’s run game suffered a blow with the loss of
Best advantage – Pass game – The Bills passing game was the best it has looked in a month last week against the Jets seventh-ranked pass defense on the road. Coming home against a respectable Titans pass defense (13th),
Bills Number 1 Must
Third downs – Buffalo’s offense has slipped in recent weeks on third down conversions. Against a defense that’s allowing conversions at better than 41 percent of the time, the Bills have to strive to convert close to half their third downs to post a much needed victory.
Titans veteran quarterback Matt Hasselback isn’t nearly as mobile as he used to be at age 36, but he knows how to avoid a rush in other ways. Though his two veteran offensive tackles to a good job of keeping the edge rushers at bay, Hasselback is also quick to go to his checkdown targets in the passing game to avoid sacks. Tennessee is second in the league only to Buffalo in sacks allowed per play with Hasselback taken down just 14 times this season.
Going for it
Head coach Mike Munchak has been uncommonly aggressive on fourth downs this season. Not all of Tennessee’s decisions to go for it on fourth down have come on fourth and short. Munchak has gone for it on 4th-and-9, 4th-and-5 and 4th-and-3 this season and his team has rewarded him with the highest fourth down conversion percentage in the league. The Titans have converted 80 percent of their fourth downs (8-10), which is double their success rate on third down this season (40%) and includes three touchdowns.
Green light in red zone
Tennessee’s offense has also been very successful when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Matt Hasselback and company lead the league in red zone touchdown percentage reaching the end zone on 17 of their 24 red zone possessions this season (70.8%). Thirteen of those 17 touchdowns have come via the pass, which represent all but two of Hasselback’s passing touchdown total this season (15). The Titans come into Sunday’s game as hot as ever in the red zone converting 12 of their last 15 red zone possessions for six points (80%). Meanwhile Buffalo’s defense has allowed 13 of the last 14 red zone possessions against them go for TDs.
Tops on returns
The Titans special teams boast a Pro Bowl talent in return man Marc Mariani, who already has a punt return for a touchdown this season (79 yards), and played a role in a kick return for a touchdown last week. After fielding a kick and returning it 16 yards he handed off to Tommie Campbell on a reverse and the rookie went 84 yards for a score.
Tennessee has the top ranked kick return unit in the league with an average return of almost 29 yards (28.9) and hands their offense the third best average drive start in the AFC (22.7-yard line). The Titans offense has been handed the fifth fewest drive starts inside their own 20-yard line (8).
Back on track
In eight of his first 10 games, Chris Johnson had 65 yards or less rushing. His slump was so bad the offense rarely made use of him even in the red zone. Over the last three weeks however, Johnson rolled up 130 rushing yards on Carolina and last week had a season-high 190 against the Bucs on 23 carries. Tennessee’s offensive line has been more consistent of late, which has helped and one might argue that Johnson is finally in shape after holding out for a new contract and not being in top form when he reported to the club.
3rd down maker
Every NFL club has a favorite target to turn to on third down, but the Titans take it to the extreme. WR Nate Washington is tied for the league lead with 22 receptions on third down this season. Since top wideout Kenny Britt went on injured reserve, Washington has stepped forward to fill the void more, and third down is where Washington has been most valuable. Almost 45 percent of his team-leading 49 receptions have been made on third down.
Quote of the Week
“We’re not thinking about anything but this game. We’ve got to get this thing back on the right track. I think we made strides last week, but we ended up losing the game. We’ve got to continue to play better and hopefully come out on the winning end of some of these games. We’ve got to stop the skid and get that one win.”
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Stat of the Week
The Bills have made 12 of their 16 interceptions this season at home.
Milestones in reach
Ryan Fitzpatrick needs one touchdown pass for his 20th this season and become the third quarterback in team history to post back-to-back season of 20 or more touchdowns passes (Joe Ferguson, Jim Kelly).
Fitpatrick has completed 27-40 passes (67.5%) for 362 yards and 3 TDs and no INTs with a 121 passer rating at home in the fourth quarter.