NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday night at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Run the Ball
Running back Derrick Henry is always a big part of the plan. Heck, in three games Henry already has 82 carries for 319 yards and two touchdowns, which puts him ahead of his NFL-best pace from a year ago. But this seems like a game when getting Henry going – and having success in the run game – is especially important. Not only are the Titans short-handed at receiver, but controlling the football Tuesday night would also keep the football out of the hands of a really good Buffalo offense.
Tannehill and His Targets
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is off to another fast start, with a 105.8 passer rating, 809 passing yards, six touchdowns and just one interception in three games. And he's done it without receiver A.J. Brown in two of them. Well, on Tuesday night the Titans will be without receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries (both on the Reserve/COVID-19 list). The team hopes Brown will be able to return – he's listed as questionable on the Injury Report because of a lingering knee injury. In addition to Brown, receivers Kalif Raymond and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will be looked to for bigger contributions, and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser should be factors as well.
Defense Needs to Step Up
The Titans have allowed 30 points in back-to-back wins over the Jaguars and Vikings, and heading into the game the defense is ranked 30th in the NFL. The Titans are allowing too many yards on the ground, and through the air. Now they're set to face a Buffalo offense that's averaging 410 yards per game on offense, including 316 yards through the air with quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs leading the way. The Titans are going to need to stiffen up. Forcing some turnovers would be nice as well.
OK, I don't need to remind anyone about what happened when these teams squared off last year. But I'll give a CliffsNotes version: The Titans couldn't make a kick (Cairo Santos was 0-of-4), and they lost 14-7 to the Bills. The Titans now have a hot kicker in Stephen Gostkowski, along with a special teams unit that's been solid this season. The Titans can't afford to leave points off the board against the Bills, and making some plays on special teams in this one could be a big help.
Every NFL season features unique challenges because of injuries, but 2020 is different. Case in point: The Titans have seven players from their 53-man roster on the Reserve/COVID-19 list -- defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, cornerback Kristian Fulton, outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, tight end MyCole Pruitt, fullback Khari Blasingame, and the previously mentioned Davis and Humphries. Others on the roster will need to step up in their absence.
Real Crowd Noise
The Titans – and Bills -- will play in front of fans for the first time this season, and we're not talking cardboard cutouts here. After playing in empty stadiums in Denver and Minnesota, and in the home opener at Nissan Stadium last month, roughly 12.5 percent of the 69,143-seat venue will be filled with fans, which is approximately 8,600. It's going to be nice to see fans in the seats -- and see if they can be loud enough to make a difference.