Two teams aiming to contend for AFC playoff spots will meet in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday when the Buffalo Bills visit the Tennessee Titans.
The Bills (3-1) are coming off a 16-10 home loss to the New England Patriots. Quarterback Josh Allen left that game in the fourth quarter after taking a hit to the head by Patriots safety Jonathan Jones.
As of midweek, Allen remained in concussion protocol, though he was limited in Wednesday’s practice. If he can’t go against Tennessee, Matt Barkley will start.
“We’ll get them both ready, but with Josh being in the protocol — he’ll do some individual drill work out there — but other than that he’s in the protocol,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Josh, we’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt, and that’s where it is.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said his team would monitor Allen’s status through the week.
“Assume they’ll all play until they’re not,” Vrabel said. “There are things they’ll do with Matt that they don’t do with Josh. Josh has plays designed for him to run that Matt won’t have. We’ll have to have a plan either way.”
The Titans (2-2) won 24-10 last week at Atlanta — Tennessee’s third road game in the season’s first four weeks.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota will seek to continue the strong play he exhibited against the Falcons in going 18 of 27 for 227 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with rookie A.J. Brown on three plays for 94 yards and two TDs, including a 55-yard score.
“It’s God-given,” Mariota said of Brown’s ability to gain yards after the catch. “He’s tough to tackle. If we give him a chance in open space, he’ll find ways to turn some of these 10-, 15-yard routes into bigger gains.”
Mariota & Co. will face a Buffalo defense ranked second overall, yielding 280.8 total yards per game.
“This is a line-of-scrimmage league,” McDermott said. “We believe in winning at the line of scrimmage. When we have eight sacks, you always want nine. We did some good things, and we’re doing some good things with a lot of room for improvement.”
The Bills are ranked fourth (196.5 yards per game) defending the pass and seventh against the run (84.3).
“It’s a really good challenge,” Vrabel said of opposing Buffalo’s unit. “They’re a consistent top-tier defense for a reason. They bat a lot of passes. A big key for us is to try and not let them sit there and bat balls down.”
Both defenses have been stingy. Tennessee has allowed 15.5 points per game (fourth). Buffalo has yielded 15.8 per game (tied for fifth).
The Titans’ defense, however, is ranked middle of the pack in all other areas — 14th overall (337.0), 15th vs. the run (103.8) and 14th (233.3) vs. the pass.
One player who has Tennessee’s attention is Frank Gore, averaging 4.5 yards per carry (61 carries, 273 yards). The 15th-year vet also has run for two TDs.
“It’s amazing,” Vrabel said of the 36-year-old Gore, who became the fourth player ever to top 15,000 career rushing yards last week. “I think you just have to be appreciative you get to coach against guys that are going to be in the Hall of Fame.”
The two teams played in Week 5 last year in Buffalo, where the Bills earned a 13-12 victory on a last-play field goal.