NASHVILLE -- The Titans face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here’s a look at six things to watch:
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has sandwiched two solid performances outside a pair of some so-so ones. But his numbers on the season are quite impressive – seven touchdowns vs. no interceptions, and the NFL’s 7th best passer rating (106.2). Mariota’s the only QB in the NFL to start all four games without a giveaway, and he holds the NFL’s longest active streak for consecutive passes without an interception (169). Not too shabby, huh? Can Mariota and the offense build on last weekend’s solid performance in Atlanta? Well, it won’t be easy. The Bills are ranked No.2 in the NFL in defense, and they made life tough on No.8 last year in Buffalo.
Pass protection improved significantly in Atlanta, as the team didn’t allow a sack after surrendering 17 in the first three games. Now three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan returns to the lineup at a time when rookie Nate Davis could be in line for even more playing time after making his NFL debut last week at right guard. Lewan has practiced all week after being suspended the first four games of the season. He’ll have to work the rust off, but the Titans expect him to be good from the get-go.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The Titans defense has played well enough to win all four games this season. A week ago, the Titans recorded five sacks for the second time in four games, and they held the Falcons to a single touchdown. The Bills are averaging just 19.0 points per game on the season. How good has the Tennessee's 4th-ranked scoring defense been? Since 1999, there have been only three other Titans squads that did not allow more than 20 points in any of their first four games: the 2000 team (seven games), the 2008 team (six) and the 2011 team (four). Can the Titans keep it going?
Heading into last year’s game in Buffalo, Titans coach Mike Vrabel talked about the importance of not turning the ball over. Then the Titans proceeded to fumble twice while also throwing an interception in a 13-12 loss. The Titans have been careful with the football through four games – the team heads into Week 5 with a plus-five turnover margin. If the Titans survive this week without a turnover, they will become only the sixth team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to have only one turnover through the first five games of a season. What’s scary? The Bills are tied for fourth in the NFL with eight takeaways (five interceptions and recovered three fumbles).
Titans receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown are big, fast and physical, and they’re coming off a splendid performance in Atlanta. Davis made it a point after the game to say the receiving corps needs to produce week in and week out, and if they can do that the Titans offense could be dangerous. But the playmaking ability of the Big Two should come with added benefits – more room for slot receiver Adam Humphries and tight end Delanie Walker. And don't sleep on gritty receiver Tajae Sharpe -- he's proven he can make plays, too.
Titans running back Derrick Henry leads the NFL in rushing yards (895) and rushing touchdowns (10) since Week 14 of last season. He’s coming off a 100-yard rushing performance, and on the season he’s averaging 4.0 yards per carry. When Henry is having success, that helps everybody, from Mariota to the defense, which stays fresher when he’s moving the chains. The Bills are ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, and 13th in average per carry.
Titans Online looks back at the all-time series against the Buffalo Bills. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)