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7 things to watch for in Bills at Titans | Week 6

Tremaine Edmunds (49) Buffalo Bills vs Tennessee Titans, October 13, 2020 at Nissan Stadium.
Tremaine Edmunds (49) Buffalo Bills vs Tennessee Titans, October 13, 2020 at Nissan Stadium.

1. Will the point parade continue?

Buffalo's offense has been on a scoring tear of late. They've scored 35 points or more in each of their last four games, which has vaulted the Bills to the top of the league in scoring.

With 35 points against Tennessee on Monday night, the Bills would become the fourth team to register at least 35 points in five consecutive games within a single season in NFL history (Broncos - 6 games in 2013, Rams - 6 games in 2000, Eagles - 5 games in 1949).

The Titans rank 24th in the league in points allowed as they're surrendering an average of 26 points per game, which includes two games in which they gave up 30 points or more.

But offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is not assuming anything this week.

"We're always trying to go down and score, possess the ball, take care of it and put points on the board," said Daboll. "You're never going to coach or play a perfect game, you're always going to have things that come up — hardships, obstacles, bad plays, series, games. And you have to be consistent with it I'd say all the way from myself to the coaches and the players. I think you've got to be consistent in this league in terms of your approach and how you go about things."

Buffalo has been pretty consistent to this point on offense. They lead the NFL with a plus-108 point differential (172 points scored, 64 points against) through the first five weeks and can become the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 200 points and allow 100-or-fewer points through their first six games of a season (Patriots - 2007, Rams - 1999, Packers - 1996, Cowboys - 1968). Three of the four previous teams to accomplish the feat advanced to the Super Bowl (Patriots, Rams, Packers).

2. Will Josh be elite vs. Titans?

This may sound like an unreasonable question in light of the numbers that Josh Allen has put together over the past season-plus. But in his three meetings against the Titans, Allen has not been MVP-caliber Allen.

Understanding that two of his first three meetings against Tennessee came prior to his breakout season in 2020, Allen's production hasn't been in line with that of his juggernaut campaign last year. But even in 2020 the Bills quarterback's numbers weren't overly impressive.

Last season, Allen was 26-44 for 263 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. A good number of those passing yards came late in the game when the outcome had already been decided in Buffalo's most lopsided loss of the season (42-16).

His three-game totals against the Titans has Allen even on touchdowns to interceptions with four on either side of the ledger. His longest pass covered 46 yards and the Titans defense has even held him in check when he's run the ball with Allen averaging just 3.56 yards per carry.

To Allen's credit, he overcame his demons this past week against the Chiefs, which had been a defense that had frustrated him and kept him below his typical level of production. Can Allen do it for a second week in a row?

"Whatever defenses do, it's my job just to try to execute a game plan and get it to the open guy," said Allen. "Our guys got open and made some plays last week but this week is going to be a different challenge and we're going to have to find ways to move the ball on this defense. I get paid to get it to the other guys who get paid to make people miss in the end zone, so that's what I try to do."

3. King Henry on a roll

Most NFL observers are well aware that Tennessee running back Derrick Henry leads the league in rushing yards (640), rushing touchdowns (seven) and scrimmage yards (765). Last week, Henry continued his league dominance of the rushing statistics.

Henry rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns in the Titans' win over the Jaguars. He now has five career games with at least 100 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, tied with Joe Morris (five games) and Adrian Peterson (five) for the third-most by a player in his first six seasons in the Super Bowl era. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson (nine) and Shaun Alexander (six) have more such games in that span.

"We've got the stop the run," said Taron Johnson in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ Thursday. "Derrick Henry is a force back there, but we have to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do. We feel it's going to come down to more about us doing our jobs more than them."

Over his last 40 regular-season games, since Week 14 of 2018, Henry has 40 rushing touchdowns and 4,792 rushing yards, the most rushing yards by any player ever over a stretch of 40 games.

Against the Bills his success has been a bit less productive. Henry has averaged 3.82 yards per carry in his three career appearances against Buffalo and has never reached 80 rushing yards in any of those games against the Bills. His best day was a 78-yard effort on 20 carries in 2019, a 14-7 Buffalo victory.

4. Triaged Titans

The familiar NFL saying goes, 'The most important ability is availability.' For the Titans however, having the balance of their roster available on game day has proven to be a challenge. Last week, Tennessee had 20 players on their injury report, but the situation appears to be improving this week as they prepare for the Bills.

Wide receiver Julio Jones returned to practice this week after missing each of the team's last two games with a hamstring injury and was a full participant. Fellow WR A.J. Brown returned to action last week, but was still not considered 100 percent. He too is practicing fully.

But with 10 players on I-R including four linebackers, the Titans recently signed LB Avery Williamson to the roster.

"It's a team that's a work in progress," said ESPN Nation Titans beat reporter Turron Davenport in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ this week. "They're working to get Julio Jones back into the lineup. A.J. Brown was just re-inserted into the lineup. And on the offensive line from center Ben Jones to the left with guard Rodger Saffold and Taylor Lewan the left tackle, one or two of these guys goes down almost every game and then they work their way back in. So you haven't really seen these guys all come together and show what this offense is capable of."

Lewan was limited in practice with a toe injury Thursday while Saffold did not practice at all due to a shoulder injury.

The situation isn't much different on defense.

Free agent signing Bud Dupree has admitted to being too aggressive in his return from an ACL knee injury and is not where he had hoped to be in his return to full health and performance. He is practicing fully though.

And rookie CB Caleb Farley (illness) and starting CB Kristian Fulton (hamstring) were not practicing on Thursday so their availability for Monday night will need to be monitored.

"We understand that the injury rate in the National Football League is 100 percent," said Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. "Everybody's guaranteed to get hurt at some point in time. There's nothing that we can really do about that. We would love to have everybody back. We'd love to have a full complement of players in a roster that was as healthy as it could possibly be. But right now that's not going to happen."

5. Look out Tannehill?

The Bills have shown an ability to impact their opponent's passing game with pressure so far this season. They are seventh in the league in sack percentage (7.41%), seventh in the league in QB hurry percentage (13.6%) and sixth in pressure percentage (28.6%). That can't be good news for Tennessee's offensive line, which has given up more sacks than any other team in the league.

Ryan Tannehill has been sacked on 10 percent of his drop backs for a total of 20 in five games.

Part of Tennessee's problem has been the offense's inability to stay on schedule in terms of down and distance. More than half of the Titans third down opportunities this season have been in 3rd-and-6 or longer (54%).

That has given their opponents more opportunities to get to Tannehill, who has tried to avoid a lot of the pressure situations he's faced with his legs. As a result he has lost a total of 150 yards on the 20 instances where he has been sacked, the second-most in the league behind the Jets' Zach Wilson (152).

"It's a balance of things. There are times where guys are getting smoked up front," said Davenport. "There are times where you see delayed blitzes and the backs aren't picking up linebackers who are blitzing. There are other times where Tannehill had opportunities to throw the football, but for some reason chose to hold onto the ball. And then there are other times where receivers just aren't getting open. When all of those things are happening, that's why you're going to lead the league in sacks."

Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing has worked to address the protection problems by stacking receivers at the line or using bunch formations to get quicker separation and force the defensive backs to back off the line a bit. It's given Tannehill more opportunities to get the ball out quicker.

Tannehill said this week that he believes their offense is "trending in the right direction."

6. The key for Bills on third down

Buffalo's defense has been dominant in a lot of different areas thus far this season. Third down is an area where they've won a majority of the time defensively as they rank fifth in the league in getting stops and getting off the field.

Taking a closer look at their success it's been largely rooted in forcing third-and-medium to third-and-long situations. A little more than 56 percent of the time, Buffalo has managed to put the opposing offense in 3rd-and-6 or more through their first five games. And when that happens it's all but over for that opposing attack.

The Bills defense is allowing conversions on 3rd-and-6 or more of just 14.2 percent as opponents have converted just five of their 35 opportunities in those situations.

Ranked 20th in the league and converting at a rate of just 38.6 percent, Tennessee has found itself in 3rd-and-6 or more 38 times this season and has converted a little over 18 percent of the time (7 for 38). The task will get no easier on Monday night. If the Titans can somehow manage to stay in 3rd-and-5 or less they'll have a chance to stay on the field where they're converting 47.6 percent of the time.

7. A punter problem?

Titans punter and Grand Island native, Brett Kern landed on his team's COVID-reserve list this week and is not expected to play on Monday night. Tennessee has signed Johnny Townsend to serve in his absence. Townsend has appeared in 19 NFL games in his career.

Tennessee's special teams units are trying to tighten up a punt coverage unit that is giving up a league-high 14 yards per punt return. Having to fix things with a fill-in punter can't make the task any easier.

"Townsend has been solid," said Davenport. "That's who they'll have to go with. The thing with Kern that was so good was he had different ways to punt the football. He has a knuckler, an ability to pin it down in the corners. That is something that's missing now. It's been tough for them working with Townsend and they'll have to do what they can to limit (Isaiah) McKenzie."

It should be noted that the Titans are very good on punt returns as primary return man Chester Rogers leads the league with an average of 13.3 yards per return.

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