The Tennessee Titans (4-0) delivered a statement on Tuesday night: “We are back.”

Most had Tennessee as underdogs going into the game, coming in at +3.5 against the spread, as the Buffalo Bills (4-1) presented the first real challenge for the Titans. Coming into the game undefeated, both squads were dealing with key players missing on either side, though for vastly different reasons.

The Bills were without starting CB’s Tre White and Levi Wallace as well as starting WR John Brown and G Quinton Spain all due to injury. The Titans, meanwhile, are embroiled in controversy with starting WR’s Corey Davis and Adam Humphries out on the COVID-19 list, along with rising star rookie CB Kristian Fulton on the list and star Adoree Jackson on short-term injured-reserve with an injury. 

Despite the losses on either side, this match-up determined the number one seed in the AFC, as both had divisional wins in prior weeks, breaking the tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0) who have yet to play a team from the AFC North. What’s more, this game marked the first time Tennessee faced an opponent with a winning record. 

The box score shows the Bills and Titans matching somewhat evenly in yardage gained and efficiency, but the advanced metrics are where we can see the real supremacy of the Titans.

The Titan’s opened as underdogs but the WP was quickly in the Titan’s favor

The Bills defense keyed on last year’s leading rusher Derrick Henry, resulting in a -.05 expected points added (EPA) per play but QB Ryan Tannehill has shown he is more than capable of carrying the offense, contributing .64 EPA/play. For reference, reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes’s best game this season was a .75 EPA/play but is averaging near .25 without that season high, while opposing Bills’ QB Josh Allen put up a .08 EPA/play in the loss to the Titans. 

The defense, gifted a few opportunities by Josh Allen who frequently forced low passes into tight coverage, was staunch on early downs. However, they were plagued by the same issues on 3rd down as they have been all season, allowing the Bills to successfully convert on 72% of 3rd downs. The Bills, though, frequently started deep in their own territory and simply had too many 3rd downs each drive to turn that success rate into points. 

Down the stretch, this inability to stop teams on 3rd down could prove detrimental to their championship hopes, but they have also been without star CB Adoree Jackson so far this season. The Titans are hoping that his return, the progression of rookie CB Fulton, and the continued integration of new pass rushers Vic Beasely and Jadeveon Clowney will give this defense the passing situation dominance they desperately need.

The Bill’s offensive EPA is currently good enough for 6th best, even after Tuesday’s loss to the Titans.

Even down some key pieces of the defense, this Titans team shut down Josh Allen and a Bill’s offense that was good enough to take down the Los Angeles Rams, who are in the running to stake their claim as the best defense in the league. Whether or not this game is a fluke for Buffalo remains to be seen as the Bills get a chance at redemption against the high powered offense of the Kansas City Chiefs. On the other side, Tennessee will face the down-trodden Texans before it’s next real challenge in two weeks against another undefeated team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

For now, the Tennessee Titans are enjoying the rush of victory that left us with lots to talk about and plenty of memes.

Embed tweet: https://twitter.com/Titans/status/1316168490752118785?s=20

*Advanced metrics (including success rate and EPA/play taken from rbsdm.com/stats

Written ByDaniel McNeeley

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