Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. George Wilson vs. Bo Scaife – With Donte Whitner questionable to play, Wilson is the likely starter at strong safety and draws a solid pass catching assignment in the Titans tight end. Scaife got off to a slow start this season due in part to injury, but has very good chemistry with Vince Young, who also was his teammate in college at Texas.
2. Jonathan Scott vs. Williams Hayes – Neither of these players are household names, but Hayes was a handful in the Hall of Fame Game for Buffalo's linemen way back in August, and has been tearing it up of late from his left defensive end position. Last week against the 49ers Hayes had eight tackles, one and a half sacks, three QB pressures, two QB hits and a forced fumble. Scott is coming back after a three-game layoff due to injury.
3. Lee Evans vs. Cortland Finnegan – Evans will be squaring off with the 2008 Pro Bowl corner, who has three interceptions on the season including an 39-yard return for a touchdown, and is known as a sure tackler. A former seventh-round pick Finnegan is a self-made pro that has proven he not only belongs in the league, but can excel at the NFL level.
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 Fred Jackson has been given primary return duties he's helped to raise the average on kick return as he's picking up better than 27 yards a return (27.4) giving Buffalo's offense the fourth best average drive start in the league (28.5 yard line). Tennessee's kick coverage meanwhile is ranked 25th in the NFL.
Bills Number One MustContain 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.
Speed killsTitans 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 centerAfter 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.
Takeaway playsThe 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."
--QB Trent Edwards
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 reachJairus Byrd (4 games) needs one interception to set the Bills franchise record for most consecutive games with an interception(5).
Lee Evans needs one touchdown reception to move into sole possession of third place on the Bills all-time TD reception list.
Terrell Owens needs two touchdowns to move into fourth place on the NFL all-time touchdowns list.
Josh Reed needs two catches to move into fifth place on the team's all-time receptions list.
Each of Buffalo's last three games against Tennessee have been decided by three points or less (2000, 2003, 2006).