1. Solve the run defense riddle. It’s been Murphy’s law for the Bills’ run defense this season. Bad tackling. Poor positioning (as the players say, not being “gap sound”). Being overly aggressive. Those ingredients have cooked up a ranking that’s dead last in the NFL, both in yards per game (173.5) and yards per rush (5.8). “You cannot get out of the gap, do not make the play, leave a hole and then the great backs find that hole,” Bills defensive end Mario Williams said. “We have to be fundamentally sound with our gap responsibility.” Titans running back Chris Johnson, below, is not the back he once was, with just two runs of 15 yards or longer this season. But he’s shown flashes, and the Bills can’t let him get right today.
2. Complete a deep one. Ryan Fitzpatrick has had a miserable time completing deep passes. In fact, he’s got just one completion all season on a pass that’s traveled 30 yards or more in the air, a 35-yard completion to Brad Smith in garbage time against New England that traveled 31 yards in the air. Fitzpatrick’s got a good chance to make some plays in the deep passing game today. Tennessee has given up 16 pass plays that have gone for 23 yards or more, including four for touchdowns. Last week against Pittsburgh, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace got behind the defense for an 82-yard touchdown reception. Overall, the Titans have given up 1,754 passing yards, third most in the NFL.
3. But don’t stop running. The Bills’ best chance of success comes when they run the ball. That’s not a bad strategy with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the roster. Buffalo has run the ball on 47.4 percent of its 363 offensive plays this season, throwing the ball (or attempting to) on the other 52.6 percent. In their three wins, however, those numbers are reversed: In 193 plays, the Bills have run 103 times (53.4 percent) and passed 90 times (46.6 percent). The Titans rank 24th in the league against the rush, giving up 129.5 yards per game, and like the Bills have missed too many tackles. The Bills should be able to take advantage of that with the elusiveness of their backs, especially Spiller. He’s averaging a ridiculous 7.6 yards per carry and should see at least 20 touches today.
4. Get the ball to Scott Chandler. The Titans have given up seven touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. Scott Chandler has four touchdown catches, which is tied for second among tight ends in the NFL. Sounds like a good match for the Bills. Titans safety Michael Griffin has been suspect in coverage all season — the website Profootballfocus.com, which grades every player on every snap — has given him a rating of -15.1, the lowest of 75 graded safeties. Chandler has been targeted 32 times this season, and has made 17 receptions. He’s coming off a game with just three targets, however, a number that should go up today.
5. Keep up with the thievery. Thanks to Jairus Byrd, the Bills recorded two important takeaways last week. The Titans have been extra accommodating in regards to that, especially on the road this season. In three road games, all losses, Tennessee has lost six turnovers. The Titans have been outscored by a whopping 106-31 in those three road games. An early turnover created by the Bills’ defense should get the Ralph Wilson Stadium crowd fired up, and the Titans sufficiently rattled.
Outlook: The Titans are in full-on rebuilding mode. The Bills fancy themselves playoff contenders. There are no excuses for them today. This is a game against a woeful road team that Buffalo should win easily. Prediction: Bills 30, Titans 17.