Buffalo Bills vs. Tennessee Titans: Three keys to a Bills victory

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

BuffaLowDown’s DJ Eberle breaks down the Buffalo Bills’ Week 5 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, including the three keys to the game.

After yet another disappointing blowout loss for the Buffalo Bills, this season is close to getting away from them.

With the Tennessee Titans in town on Sunday, the Bills are yet again an underdog. But against a 3-1 Titans team that’s beaten both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles, that’s expected.

Despite what looks like an uphill climb, there will be some opportunities for the Bills. They just have to make the most of them unlike what they did against the Green Bay Packers.

Each week during the regular season this column will provide the three ways the Bills can secure a victory. So, without further ado, here are the Three Keys to the Game for the matchup against the Titans, which kicks off 1 p.m. Sunday at New Era Field on CBS.

Don’t abandon the run

The Bills have tried to run the ball. They really have.

According to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, the Bills have attempted to run the ball on early downs at a “league average,” however, LeSean McCoy ranks 44th in yards per carry on those attempts.

Chris Ivory? Even worse. He ranks 86th.

However, even though he hasn’t been effective this season, it doesn’t look like McCoy has lost a step.

The offensive line has plagued this team all season.

Aside from Dion Dawkins, who sports a 66.3 Pro Football Focus grade, every other offensive lineman sports a 62 or less, including a 55.0 from Russell Bodine and a 54.2 from Vlad Ducasse.

Not good.

But there’s a correlation to the Bills sticking with the run and coming out the other side victorious.

In 2017, McCoy had 20-plus carries seven times. In those seven games, the Bills were 7-0.

Obviously, last year’s team had Eric Wood and Richie Incognito. But there’s still some truth to this now.

By establishing an effective run game, it keeps the other offense off the field.

While the Titans have some flaws, they’re a solid offensive team with weapons. Keeping them on the sidelines would be huge.

Not to mention, the Titans’ run defense ranks 25th in the league. However, Green Bay’s run defense was at the bottom of the league and the Bills couldn’t do much against them.

That has to change.

Lean on the defense

Going into the season, the defense was supposed to be Buffalo’s calling card. But after the Week 1 blowout lose against the Baltimore Ravens, that seemed like it wasn’t the case.

However, for the most part, Week 1 was a mirage for the defense.

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It’s actually been right in the middle of the pack – 14th – despite all of the blowout losses.

The Buffalo defense gave the offense a multitude of opportunities against the Green Bay Packers that the offense couldn’t cash in on. In fact, this game was close until midway through the fourth quarter. And that was against Aaron Rodgers.

Marcus Mariota isn’t Rodgers, but he’s still talented.

The Buffalo defense has to be a catalyst again if this team is going to pull off the upset.

That means the Bills need to force at least one turnover, if not multiple. This team struggles to move the ball, so a short field would be a huge help.

While the Titans’ tackle play is strong, both Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin grade out in the 70s, center Ben Jones and right guard Josh Kline have struggled this season. That means Kyle Williams, Star Lotulelei, Harrison Phillips and Shaq Lawson could have some opportunities to create pressure.

Convert on third down

While the Buffalo defense is one of the best in the league at locking down third downs, Tennessee is not, ranking 26th.

The Titans only stop 37 percent of third-down tries.

This could be the week Buffalo turns around its putrid third-down offense. The Bills rank last in third-down offense, converting just 24 percent of their tries.

Now most of them come from third-and-long scenarios, so the ability to gain significant yards on first and second down will be key, but the Bills will have an opportunity to improve their third-down offense. They just have to do it.

Prediction: Bills 24, Titans 21

Is this the week the Buffalo run game gets going? The Titans rank 25th, giving up 118 yards on the ground each game, on average.

That combined with Tennessee’s below average third-down defense will give the Bills just enough opportunities to extend drives and score points.

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Mariota has thrown three interceptions in three games. There will be opportunities for the Buffalo defense to make plays.