Top 3 Individual Matchups
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Third down defense - Despite their shortcomings, Buffalo’s defense has had some success getting off the field on third downs as they rank 13th in the league allowing opponents to convert just over 36 percent of the time. It’s possible that the Titans run game could make that rate of success difficult to achieve, but Tennessee is just 21st in the league in third down conversion percentage.
Best advantage - Kick return – Since
Bills Number One Must
Contain Johnson – It may be difficult to prevent Tennessee RB Chris Johnson from getting his share of yards, but the Bills absolutely have to keep him from busting off big 50 and 60-yard runs, especially for scores. If they can keep Johnson from getting three or four big plays in the game they’ve got a chance.
Titans RB Chris Johnson is arguably the fastest back in the game, and he has proven through the first eight games of the season that speed kills. He leads the league in rushing (959 yards), total yards from scrimmage (1,121), yards per carry (6.7), rushing yards per game (119.9) and longest run from scrimmage (91). He’s also third in the league in rushes of 10 yards or more with 23. Johnson appears to be peaking as he has two touchdowns in each of his last two games.
Young back under center
After losing his starting job early in 2008, Vince Young is back in the saddle at quarterback for the Titans. After the team’s 0-6 start, Young has started the last two games, both victories. In those two games Young has gone 27-37 passing (73%) for 297 yards with 1 TD and no turnovers and a 105.3 passer rating. Dating back to Dec. 16, 2007, Young has won his last six starts and has a career record of 20-11. In his only start against Buffalo on Dec. 24, 2006, Young had a pair of touchdown passes and ran 36 yards for another in a 30-29 comeback win.
Tennessee’s pass defense is ranked last in the league as its surrendering almost 280 yards per game, but it has shown signs of improvement. A major issue with the Titans’ pass defense problems has been injuries. Pro Bowl cornerback Cortland Finnegan missed three games due to injury as well as fellow starter Nick Harper. Against the Patriots in Week 6 they started two rookie corners and got torched for 380 yards. It’s far from perfect, but Tennessee’s pass defense is not as bad as it looks on paper.
The Bills aren’t the only team that has caught fire in the takeaway department of late. Turnovers have been instrumental in Tennessee’s last two victories. After having a minus-10 turnover ratio in their first six games of the season, the Titans are a plus-six in their last two wins. This past week they totaled four takeaways (3 INTs, 1 fumble) against the 49ers.
Down a wideout
Vince Young and Justin Gage have been a reliable combination since Young has returned to the Titans lineup, but that pass game duo will likely be put on hold Sunday. Gage suffered two fractures in the transverse bones of his back and is not expected to play in the game. Young’s two big pass plays in the win last week went to Gage for 49 and 33 yards. Gage leads the team in receiving yards this season.
Not winning the close ones
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher is known for playing smash mouth football with a productive ground game and play action passing on offense with stout and opportunistic defense. That philosophy has helped to make the Titans successful in close games each of the last three seasons where Tennessee has compiled a record of 17-8 in games decided by seven points or less. But this season that has changed. The Titans are just 1-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less in 2009. Their only win came this past week.
Quote of the week
“Every week is a tough test and every week gets more important as you go later into the season. If this team wants to go where it wants to go we’re going to need to come out strong and play the way we need to play. We’ve had two weeks to prepare for it and it’s going to be a big test for us.”
Stat of the week
The Bills are 3-0 under Dick Jauron after the bye week with wins over Green Bay, Baltimore and San Diego the past three seasons.
Milestones in reach
Lee Evans needs one touchdown reception to move into sole possession of third place on the Bills all-time TD reception list.
Each of Buffalo’s last three games against Tennessee have been decided by three points or less (2000, 2003, 2006).