Three things I’m watching Sunday in Nashville:
Daniel LaRusso Is Gonna Fight?!?
The Bills gave Josh Allen the all clear signal early Saturday morning. He is out of concussion protocol and expected to start against the Titans.
Allen was at practice all week and did not seem to be suffering any ill effects from the big hit he took last week against the Patriots. This is not a game where the Bills need to push Allen to play and potentially risk longer term issues. However, if he’s cleared to play by the doctors, there’s also no need to protect him further.
I do wonder how prepared Allen will be with only one full practice this week. He was officially limited Wednesday and Thursday. We don’t know what “limited” actually means, but the assumption is that Matt Barkley took most or all of first team reps both days. Sean McDermott even said on Wednesday Allen would only participate in individual drills.
This isn’t Philip Rivers or Drew Brees or Matt Ryan with nearly a decade of experience to substitute for days missed in practice. Allen will (assumably) only make his 16th career start in Nashville. There’s an argument to be made a fully prepared Barkley is a better play than Allen with only one practice. We’ll find out.
The Titans have a few under the radar pluses for this game.
First, starting tackle Taylor Lewan is back after a four game suspension. He’s been to the Pro Bowl three of his five NFL seasons (including last year) and is an emotional leader in Tennessee. His return will make a big difference.
Second, the Titans special teams seem fairly strong so far. They have the best average drive start in the league and the fifth best opponent drive start. The Bills aren’t in the top 20 in either category.
Finally, Marcus Mariota is one of three QBs (with more than 100 attempts) yet to throw an interception. The Titans have a league low one turnover all year. All are the kind of non-gaudy traits that win games.
Make Them March
The Titans have only three touchdown drives of more than 70 yards. One was one play. Another included 40 yards of defensive penalties. On the other hand, every single one of the Bills touchdown drives started at their own 25 yard line or further back.
It’s still a fairly small sample size, but it doesn’t seem like Tennessee is capable of moving the sticks regularly. The key for the Bills defense seems to be preventing an underrated group of skill players from hitting the big play.
The Titans are not a team to be dismissed. Their two wins (at Cleveland, at Atlanta) are vastly superior to any of Buffalo’s three. As I said above, Derrick Henry, AJ Brown, Corey Davis and Delanie Walker are a sneaky good group of skill players. The D is very solid. Not Buffalo, but they can win games.
I think the Bills will get a boost from the Saturday news that Allen and Duke Williams will both be playing. The reason for Allen is obvious, but Williams’ story is the type that this locker room will latch onto and draw strength.
The one to two inches of rain in the forecast might render any exhaustive analysis of the teams moot. I think this game is close enough to easily be decided by which team catches a break on a weird bounce or a ball slipping through fingers. I’ll take the Bills defense forcing Mariota into some mistake late. It won’t be pretty, but Buffalo wins 16-15.