This week in Nashville, the struggling Buffalo Bills will clash with the equally struggling Tennessee Titans. Although each team has won two of its last three games, neither team has sustained success. As always, injuries look to hinder the Bills' chances this week.
The bye week did not do too much to help the injury-riddled Bills defense, as Keith Ellison, Terrence McGee, and Kyle Williams are listed as out for this game. It is no secret that the way to exploit Perry Fewell's defense is to run the ball. Buffalo is allowing 173 yards per game on the ground, last in the league. This theory was fortified in the Bills' last game when Houston Texans journeyman Ryan Moats had the game of his life.
Without Ellison and Williams, two players who have been solid at times, look for Tennessee running back Chris Johnson to have a heyday. Already having a great season on a 2-6 team, Johnson is sure to be licking his chops at this week's prospects. Johnson is on pace for 1,918 rushing yards. He is no Ryant Moats. There is no proof to suggest that the Bills' defense can rise to the challenge against a premier rusher, and Bills fans nationwide would be happy if the team could hold Johnson under 100 yards.
As far as McGee is concerned, the Bills' cornerback corps has held its ground with the likes of Drayton Florence and Ashton Youboty. No opposing quarterback has had a breakout game against the Bills, including Drew Brees and Matt Schaub. The Titans have not been too successful in the passing game this year, with quarterback Kerry Collins being benched two weeks ago in favor of Vince Young. With Titans receiver Justin Gage out this week too, look for the Bills' pass defense to fare just fine without McGee.
Of course, much media attention this week has been devoted to the Terrell Owens, who missed multiple practices with a hip injury. T.O. says he will play. Although Owens did contribute with a rushing touchdown against Houston, he has severely underachieved this season. Even if he does miss this week's game, the Bills' passing game may not lose much in terms of potency. Then again, the Bills' passing game has not been exactly potent this season, so there is not too much to lose.Defensive end Aaron Schobel and safety Donte Whitner are listed as questionable this week for the Bills. If the two defensive stalwarts cannot go, the Bills' prospects of stopping the Tennessee running game will be even more diminished. In terms of the passing game, however, Jairus Byrd has performed beautifully at safety, and it would be hard to take him out. Missing Schobel, though, would kill Buffalo's on-and-off pass rush.
Tennessee cornerback Nicholas Harper (38 tackles) is listed as questionable, and with the loss of his services, maybe the Bills' passing attack could perform a little better. Also listed as questionable is outside linebacker David Thornton (38 tackles). Owens, Evans, and Reed can find ways to get open on lackluster opposition, and the combined loss of Harper and Thornton could be just what the Bills need to finally have a breakout game in terms of throwing the ball. There is no question that Trent Edwards needs a little more confidence, especially coming off an injury.On the offensive side of the ball for Tennessee, offensive tackle David Stewart, who has started seven games, is also listed as questionable. His loss could prove to bolster the Bills' pass rush. Other than that, the Titans are healthy.
This week's injuries clearly are most significant on the defensive side of the ball. Most of the Bills' problems lie in run support, as contrasted to most of the Titans', which come in the area of pass defense. Who knows, maybe the Titans' injuries will free up space for Trent Edwards and the Bills to learn how to throw the ball effectively. And of course, the Bills will have to change some things up from previous game plans if they hope to finally stop the run.
Ultimately, this week's injuries look to play into the Titans' favor. The banged-up Bills run defense will likely be exploited by the powerful Titans rushing attack, especially now that versatile quarterback Vince Young is starting.
Buffalo, welcome back to the site of Music City Miracle. The Bills have not made the playoffs since that wild wild-card matchup took place. If the Bills hope to sneak into the playoffs this year, they cannot afford a loss this time. And unfortunately, injuries are no excuse.