Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Titans at Bills


The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans each had statement games last week against tough defensive opponents, and both will look to keep the momentum going Sunday while also keeping divisional hopes alive. Tennessee will need to string together a few wins to catch up to the Houston Texans, last year's divisional champs, while Buffalo is locked in a four-way tie (excluding tiebreakers) in the AFC East.

A win for the Bills would give them a winning record going into the bye week, a task that seemed impossible two weeks ago. To do that, they'll need to keep up their defensive efforts from last week. Buffalo is still giving up more than 400 yards a game and is third-worst in the league in turning the ball over.

Run for it. Buffalo's rushing duo seems to be back in full swing, and that couldn't be better news for an offense that's lacked consistency of late. Tennessee's defense is giving up nearly 130 yards per game on the ground, including seven touchdowns. It's also allowed 26 rushes of 20 yards or more, sixth-most in league. Enter C.J. Spiller, who's second among all running backs with seven rushes of 20 yards or more. Look for Spiller to grab the big yardage and Fred Jackson to grab the scores as the two continue to keep their two-series system in play.

Defensive shake-up. The Bills' beat up defense has seen an old face re-emerge this week in Shawne Merriman, a likely starter this weekend with Mark Anderson still nursing a knee injury. Merriman's presence could keep the morale high for a squad coming off its best game this season, tallying five sacks and two interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals. They'll certainly have their shots against the Titans, who are currently carrying a -6 turnover ratio and have allowed 11 sacks thus far.

Hassel-back? With Jack Locker still out with a shoulder injury, Matt Hasselbeck is slated to make his third straight start, as he looked much more promising last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers than in week's past. Hasselbeck seemed to connect better with his receivers at home en route to their win, leading two late drives that led to scores. Despite the improvement, Hasselbeck's completion rate was only around 57 percent, and he did throw a pick in the fourth quarter after his team lost the lead. Expect the Buffalo defense to blitz early and often against the 14-year pro, who prefers to stay in the pocket.

Rocky road. The Titans are 0-3 on the road this year, and they have been outscored more than three to one in those losses. Turnovers have been the main culprit for Tennessee's woes, with six of 11 coming on the road and many resulting in scores. The Titans have won their last two games in Buffalo and their last four overall against the Bills. In those four wins, the offense has averaged 30 points a game, with Chris Johnson tallying four touchdowns in their last two meetings. (Photo: PDA Photo, Flickr)