You want to see what Marcus Mariota’s ceiling can look like? Watch the first half of Sunday’s Falcons game. Mariota went 14/20 for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He threw with confidence, he threw with anticipation, and he showed poise in the pocket. After two poor performances, the quarterback who beat the Patriots and Cowboys last season showed up and put on a show in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Now, can Mariota and this offense do it again against a defense that doesn’t rank in the bottom third of the NFL and who just lost its star safety the week before? We’ll get to find out Sunday when the Buffalo Bills come to Nashville touting a defense that’s coming off a week in which they held Tom Brady to his worst statistical outing in the last 10 years.
The matchup against the Bills last season was a low point for the Titans’ offense, putting up 12 points in a 13-12 loss in Buffalo. Coming off a 344-yard performance the week before against the Eagles, Mariota threw for 129 yards on 14/26 passing and one pick. Sunday’s game feels eerily similar to the matchup in 2018, but Titans’ fans will be hoping for a different outcome.
Stat Corner with Matt:
I’ll try to keep this week’s Stat Corner more brief than last week. I may have went on a little too long about how the Cowboys were the model for what the Titans should do on offense going forward. And then they went out and scored 10 points against the Saints. Whoops.
In my defense, they completely went away from what had worked so well the first few weeks of the season. Not my fault.
Anyway, I’ll try to keep the writer jinx alive and well this week and talk up the Bills’ defense. I mentioned it in the intro, but this Bills pass defense is one of the elite defensive units in the league. They don’t have much name recognition yet, but Tre’Davious White is one of the best corners in the league, and safety Micah Hyde is versatile enough to move all over the field. This defense has held teams to 15.8 PPG (points per game), good enough for fifth in the NFL, and has only allowed three passing TDs compared to five INTs.
Not enough stats for you? We’re just getting started. Let’s get nerdy.
According to Warren Sharp at SharpFootballStats.com, the Bills defense ranks No. 2 in passer rating allowed (64.6 percent), and No. 3 in completion percentage (57.1 percent). This pass defense has also excelled at not allowing explosive pass plays. They come in at No. 2 in the NFL at “average explosive pass rate.”
All of those stats should lead you to one conclusion: if you’re looking for a repeat performance of last week from Mariota, you may end up disappointed.
Buffalo Bills @ Tennessee Titans (-3)
Game Time: Noon EDT
Location: Nashville, TN (Nissan Stadium)
TV Broadcast Crew: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone (Pregame coverage begins at 10 AM CDT)
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Jonathan Hutton, Rhett Bryan
Over/ Under: 39.5
Titans Injury News:
-With Taylor Lewan making his season debut after being suspended the first four weeks of the season, a move had to be made to make room for him on the roster. That move was placing RB David Fluellen on Injury Reserve with a knee injury.
-OG Kevin Pamphile has been ruled out for the fifth game in a row this season as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury.
-OLB Cameron Wake was not a surprise addition to the injury report with a hamstring injury due to his departure late in the Falcons game last week. Wake didn’t practice all week, but is listed as “questionable” on the official injury report.
3 Things to Watch For:
–Establish the Run: I am fully aware this goes against the direction of what NFL teams are trying to do in today’s pass-happy league. And for the most part, I agree with that direction. But we’ve already talked about how good this Bills’ pass defense is. If this defense has a weakness, it’s against the run. To throw another nerdy stat at you, according to Football Outsiders, the Bills’ rushing defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ranks No. 25 in the league. Basically, DVOA accounts for the situational efficiency of an offense or defense. Combine that with the bad weather that’s supposed to come through Nashville on Sunday, Derrick Henry needs to get the ball on a pretty consistent basis.
–Fluster the young QB: Josh Allen was cleared from the concussion protocol on Friday, meaning the Titans will see Allen for the second time in his young career. Allen can create big plays with his legs and his cannon of an arm, but that can lead to trouble for the second-year man out of Wyoming. Allen has three TDs and six INTs this season. The Titans’ pass defense has been its strength this season as well, so look for Dean Peas to try and confuse Allen much like he did Baker Mayfield in Week 1.
–Taylor’s Back: He’s back. After missing the first four games of the season due to suspension, Taylor Lewan makes his season debut this Sunday. The Titans’ offensive line had a few rough games, most notably giving up nine sacks against Jacksonville, but having Lewan back will help fortify Mariota’s blindside and add some athleticism to this offensive line. Just be ready for some extracurricular activity from No. 77.
Prediction: Bills 13, Titans 10
This will not be a pretty football game. This will look like early-2000s physical, run-heavy game. In most matchups, I would like the Titans in that type of game, but this Bills defense is playing like world beaters right now. The offense that makes the least amount of mistakes will win this game, and I believe that will be the Bills.