Tennessee Titans: Previewing the 2018 Schedule – Week 5
By Max Dambach
Continuing to examine the 2018 Tennessee Titans schedule by taking a look at their Week 5 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Now that most rosters are largely set in stone following free agency and the draft, we can finally begin to look ahead to next season and gauge how the Tennessee Titans’ roster will match up with opponents’, as well as start to put together a rough estimate for wins and losses. With little to no news coming out of training camps this time of year except for notable absences, this marks a great time to preview how each team the Titans will face has changed over the offseason and whether that team is trending up or down in 2018.
2017 is a year that will go down in Buffalo Bills history as Sean McDermott led the team to their first playoff appearance in 17 years. Although the Bills suffered a narrow 10-3 loss against the Jaguars in an ugly playoff game that featured Blake Bortles gaining more yards on the ground than through the air, even making the playoffs marks a big step forward for a franchise mired in perpetual mediocrity. Even after experiencing a modicum of success McDermott and GM Brandon Beane are willing to take a step back and build this team for long term success in what they hope will soon be a “Post-Brady AFC East”.
Last season, the Bills managed to eke out 9 wins based primarily on a good (not great) defense and a strong rushing attack spearheaded by LeSean McCoy, who figures to rack up a ton of carries on an offense that lacks talent on the perimeter. Gone is Tyrod Taylor, who despite his status as the best Bills QB for over a decade, never meshed with the new coaching staff and was even benched to allow Nathan Peterman to toss five interceptions in a half against the LA Chargers. Taylor had little to work with in the passing game as LeSean McCoy led the team in receptions and no receiver managed to eclipse 600 yards receiving or 3 touchdowns. That said, Taylor worked with what he had and limited turnovers to 4 and used his mobility to his advantage in the run game.
McDermott and Beane recognized that the way their roster won games in 2017 would not be sustainable and they did not wish to settle for mediocrity as so many Bills teams had in the past. They began to reshape the roster in 2017 season. The Bills made moves to send Sammy Watkins to LA, trade Ronald Darby to Philadelphia, send Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars, and acquire Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers. Beane continued to wheel and deal as he dealt OT Cordy Glenn to the Bengals in order to move up in the draft.
All of these moves indicate that the new regime in Buffalo wanted to rid themselves of players favored by the previous regime that did not fit their image of the Buffalo Bills. This is the correct approach for any new HC-GM pairing to take when taking over a team, but it may mean that the team gets worse before it gets better, which I expect to see from the Bills in 2018.
The team’s offensive line took a massive step back following 2017 when Cordy Glenn was traded, Richie Incognito retired/was released, and Eric Wood retired. This makes life harder on the Bills quarterback room and hampers LeSean McCoy’s ability to find running room. The team did sign Russell Bodine to fill in for Wood at center, but he has never been anything better than average at the position.
The other big free agent moves for the Bills were similarly underwhelming outside of DE Trent Murphy. AJ McCarron provides the team with an unsteady bridge at quarterback until Josh Allen is forced into action, while the team also signed Vontae Davis to play opposite rookie standout Tre’Davious White, but he was released from a Colts team in desperate need of talent on defense, which casts doubt on his ability to contribute for another team.
Though the Bills had difficulties drawing in top-tier free agents, the draft brought several players that can contribute in a hurry for the Bills. Players like QB Josh Allen, LB and steal of the draft Tremaine Edmunds, DT Harrison Phillips, and OG Wyatt Teller all have a clear path to start in 2017 with only a few journeyman veterans in their way.
As even a cursory glance at their proposed depth chart would tell you, the Bills will struggle massively to compete in 2018, but this is the beginning of what could be a relatively quick rebuild. The defense has very little in terms of proven commodities outside of veterans like Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, Vontae Davis, and Lorenzo Alexander, who are past their prime. Only players like Jordan Poyer, Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, and Trent Murphy have proven that they can be built around in the future. The remainder of the defense is made up of unproven talent like Shaq Lawson, Tremaine Edmunds, or Adolphus Washington and run-of-the mill journeymen.
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In regards to their Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans, I expect Tennessee to earn one of their most decisive victories of the season. Week 5 is around the time that Bills fans should be calling for Josh Allen to be thrown to the wolves in place of AJ McCarron. In what is bound to be one of his first starts, the extremely raw Wyoming product will struggle to succeed. With several viable pass rushers to take advantage of a weak offensive line and one of the league’s top secondaries to shut down an underwhelming receiving corps, the Titans defense will rack up sacks and turnovers against an inaccurate and overwhelmed rookie quarterback.
Even if the Bills show restraint and trot out AJ McCarron, it’s tough to say that he will fare any better than Allen would. After the Titans put up a few scores against a middling Buffalo defense and stifle the Bills offense, Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis will both get ample carries to put this game away. If you have the Titans RBs or Defense in Fantasy in Week 5, they will be must-starts.
Predicted Outcome: Win
Current Predicted Record (Updated Each Installment): 3-2