NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans are coming off a bye, and on Sunday they'll square off against the Buffalo Bills.
It's a chance to end a two-game skid for the Titans (1-2). The Bills (2-2), meanwhile, are looking to bounce back after a loss last week to the Giants.
A look at five things to watch:
Mariota vs Ryan
"I don't think the kid is going to have his way with us." Those are the words of Bills coach Rex Ryan, and he was talking about Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. Ryan loves making things uncomfortable for quarterbacks, especially rookies. Ryan was more conservative against veterans Tom Brady (Patriots) and Eli Manning (Giants) earlier this season, but I wouldn't expect him to play nice against Mariota. Look for the Bills to come after Mariota, and how he handles the pressure will be key.
Titans O-line vs. Bills D-line**
Even without extra rushers, the Titans will have their hands full with Buffalo's defensive front on Sunday. Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes make up a formidable foursome. The Titans allowed Mariota to be sacked seven times against the Browns in Week 2, but they allowed just two sacks vs the Buccaneers and three sacks against the Colts. They'll need to be sturdy up front vs. the Bills.
Run the ball
The running back by committee approach used by the Titans so far this season has worked for the most part, and the offense will need to have continued success against the Bills. Success with Bishop Sankey, Antonio Andrews and Dexter McCluster would take a lot of pressure off of Mariota, and slow Buffalo's pass rush down. It won't be easy – the Bills are ranked third in the NFL in run defense.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton made one thing very clear this week – he's tired of seeing big plays against the Titans, and the biggest point of emphasis coming out of the bye week is to get them stopped. The Titans allowed two deep balls against the Browns in a Week 2 loss, and the Colts pulled off a pair of third-and-20s while rallying to beat the Titans in Week 3. Getting cornerback Jason McCourty in the lineup should help.
Be disciplined on D
Horton compared Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and every NFL team knows what a pain in the rear he is to defend. Taylor has been effective throwing the football this season. He's completing 71.7 percent of his passes, and has a 104.4 rating. His favorite target has been tight end Charles Clay. Taylor is elusive as well, capable of keeping plays alive and throwing downfield with extra time. He'll tuck it and run as well. The Titans will need to be disciplined on defense to keep him in check.