It’s been another rough week for the Buffalo Bills’ fanbase. After some folks were ready to start planning the Super Bowl parade following the team’s big win over the Minnesota Vikings, everyone came crashing back down to Earth as they watched Josh Allen and the gang put up a goose egg on the road in Green Bay.
The Bills, now 1-3 through four weeks are back home tomorrow to square off with a Tennessee Titans squad fresh off of a comeback overtime victory against the reigning league champion, Philadelphia Eagles.
An ever-underrated group, the Titans are on the upswing. Marcus Mariota is coming into his own as a franchise quarterback and the Titans’ defense should not be overlooked as one of the stronger units in the league. They’re on the right track to return to the playoffs for the second straight year.
If the Bills want to emerge victorious in front of their home crowd at New Era Field, they’ll need to right a growing list of wrongs on the offensive side of the ball. Or maybe all of those character guys can just kill the Titans with kindness (I kid, I kid).
The Bills struggles on the offensive line have been one of the more prominent themes of the season thus far. After losing perennial Pro Bowlers in Eric Wood and Richie Incognito this offseason, the team has failed miserably to adjust.
Last week, this ragtag unit of living, breathing turnstiles allowed their quarterback to come under pressure on 24 of his 29 drop-backs. Yes, you read that right. Allen was on the run 83-percent of the time last Sunday. Yikes.
David Carr was sacked 78 times during his rookie season with the Texans. His offensive line has been notoriously known as the worst a rookie signal caller has ever had to endure in his inaugural campaign. Allen is currently on pace to break that mark with 82. If that isn’t enough to show Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott that they failed miserably in addressing the offensive front this offseason, I don’t know what is.
To make matters even worse, the Titans are coming into town currently tied for seventh in the league with 12 sacks on the year. Brian Daboll will need to dial up some interesting blocking schemes if he plans to give Allen enough time to read the field and find open receivers. Just typing the words “open receivers” seems laughable, but speaking of…
Catch the Ball!
For weeks Bills fans have debated which unit is weakest, the offensive line, or the wide receiver corps. Regardless, we can all agree that both of them are pretty dreadful.
Last season, Tyrod Taylor was widely criticized for having time to throw and still failing to find receivers who were running wide open on film. Allen is a critically flawed prospect who came into the league with several areas that needed improvement, one of which was his ability to read the entire field. When he had time to do so against the Vikings, he flourished.
For this reason, the Packers made sure that he was constantly under duress. Even on the handful of drop-backs where he was afforded the opportunity to read the field, his receivers did a terrible job of gaining separation. Kelvin Benjamin looked uninspired, Zay Jones continued his general futility as a player, and tight end Charles Clay was the only one who was able to get any space.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be as much of a system issue as it is a lack of overall talent. It’s no secret that McDermott and the gang have done an awful job in setting Allen up for success as a rookie. That trend isn’t going to change any time soon. Luckily, Tennessee isn’t exactly a ball-hawking group with just three interceptions on the year so that’s… something.
The Bills enter Week 5 with seven players on the injury list, five of whom serve in a starting/heavy rotational role. Lorenzo Alexander, Rafael Bush, Micah Hyde and Kyle Williams did not participate in practice on Friday which leaves their availability in question. This is particularly worrisome since the defense, while inconsistent, has been the only relative bright spot thus far.
We all saw what happened last season when injuries piled up on defense. If all four aforementioned veterans are unable to dress on Sunday, we could be looking at a patchwork group that will give Mariota and company ample opportunity to execute effectively both on the ground and through the air.
The Titans are also banged up, but most of their players were able to participate in practice at least on a limited basis this week. It will be interesting to see how Mariota fares while recovering from a minor injury to his right elbow. The Bills will need to apply pressure and try to make contact with the fourth year quarterback early and often.
Last week’s performance against the Packers did absolutely nothing to inspire confidence. The Bills are a five-point underdog at the moment. That mark may actually be generous. Aside from a strong outing against Minnesota, Buffalo has been absolutely demolished every time they’ve taken the field this season.
Tennessee is a playoff team on the rise. They’ll be pumped up after last week’s big victory at home.
Bills 17, Titans 28
Editor’s babble: Anthony doesn’t sugar-coat his assessment here, or anywhere for that matter. Many thanks to Anthony for his contributions to our blog. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports. Be sure to check out his articles as contributing author to @diebytheblade if you’re also a hockey fan.