Buffalo went from winning by 21 in week three, to being shutout and losing by 22 in week four, so your guess as to what happens this week at home against a 3-1 Tennessee Titans teams is as good as the next person’s – even if that person doesn’t watch football. Tennessee is two-steppin’ in to town, coming off back-to-back wins against two of the league’s best in the Jacksonville Jaguars and the defending Super Bowl Champion, Philadelphia Eagles. The Bills are going to need to get their act together – and quickly – if they want to prevent themselves from getting blown out for a third time in just five weeks.
For starters, the coaching staff needs to use their weapons and the guys that show they want to be there. Last week Bills Offensive Coordinator, Brian Daboll, elected to give LeSean McCoy only five carries. Daboll said that McCoy’s rib injury did not play a factor in that decision but whatever the reasoning may have been, it’s a decision that needs to change if Buffalo plans on competing in any more games this season. McCoy suffered a rib injury in week two versus the Chargers and ended up missing week three, but he’s had single digit carry totals every game this season. Shady is your best player – use him.
Buffalo certainly lacks depth at receiver, but what people are starting to question is whether it’s a lack of talent, or a lack of effort. This week Head Coach, Sean McDermott, seemed to be critical of his team’s effort as a whole, including the effort of their number one receiver, Kelvin Benjamin. “At times, yeah. Not all the time,” McDermott said of Benjamin’s effort. “I’d say that same thing from our entire offense. At times, I see it and at times it’s not good enough.” If the 6’5” wide receiver was critical of an MVP winner such as Cam Newton, one can only begin to wonder about the thoughts that may be running through his head now. Through four weeks, Benjamin has caught only seven passes for 92 yards and one touchdown.
The same wasn’t said when McDermott spoke about second-year receiver, Zay Jones. “I like the way (Jones) played at the end of the game from a technique standpoint,” McDermott said. “The guy busts his butt on every play. I think he’s heading in the right direction.” Jones holds the NCAA record for receptions in a season (158) and a career (399). You don’t earn records like those from being lazy. Seeing Zay in person won’t have you thinking “prototype wide receiver”, but watch a few minutes of film and you’ll see his hustle is exactly why he’ll finish the season as Buffalo’s leading receiver. In a rebuilding year with a rookie quarterback at the helm, Bills coaches should be targeting Zay rather than a guy who has seemingly checked out and won’t be in Buffalo this same time next year. However, if rookie quarterback, Josh Allen, wants to be able to target any of his receivers, the offensive line needs to step up. Allen was sacked seven times last week against the Packers. Should that type of play continue, it won’t matter who Buffalo has at wide receiver or running back.
In terms of yards, the Titans are nothing better than a middle-of-the-road team (or worse), on both sides of the ball. Tennessee comes in ranked 24th overall in total yards on offense and 16th in total yards given up on defense. Where they truly excel and the reason they are 3-1 is because they have the number one red zone defense. So far the Titans have only given up touchdowns on 20% of their opponents trips to the red zone. A team can march up and down the field all they want, but if they can’t get in the end zone, they usually can’t win – just ask the Jaguars about that. Should Buffalo get in to the red zone against Tennessee, the Bills will need to let Allen use his feet to extend plays. In Buffalo’s lone win against Minnesota, Josh’s legs provided a key first down and two of his own rushing touchdowns.
With safeties Micah Hyde and Rafael Bush both mending wounds, Buffalo may promote safety, Dean Marlowe, from the practice squad. A banged up secondary against a quarterback fresh off of earning AFC Player of the Week is not an ideal matchup so Buffalo will need to do everything they can to pressure Marcus Mariota. Mariota burned the Eagles for 344 yards and two touchdowns last week. Look for Buffalo to blitz early and often in attempt to create turnovers.
Buffalo comes back home as five and a half point underdogs. Kickoff is set for 1:00pm Eastern Time.
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