TITANS // BILLS OVERVIEW
The upstart Titans surprisingly opened the week as only 3.0 point favorites on the road at Buffalo, and have been bet up to -3.5 as of this writing (Tuesday night). Expect them to stay above 3.0 throughout the remainder of the week, with obvious room for them to grow from here.
Outside of their shocking blowout of the Vikings in Week 3, the Bills have been pretty clearly one of the two worst teams in football, with over 200 fewer yards than the Panthers and Redskins…who were on bye last week. Buffalo is averaging 12.5 offensive points per game on the season, and the Cardinals are the only team with fewer yards and fewer points. The Cardinals at least have David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk — giving them more reason for forward-looking optimism than the Bills can boast.
Enough Bills-bashing, though. Let’s dive into this game.
TITANS PASS OFFENSE
The Bills’ main strength this year has continued to be their pass defense — fueled by two main elements: 1) a low average depth of target allowed (only four teams are allowing a lower aDOT, and the Bills are holding opponents over 14% below the league average), and 2) good tackling after the catch (Bills are top 10 in lowest YAC allowed per reception). Short-area targets plus good tackling after the catch adds up to a good recipe for solid pass defense. From a PPR (and even half-PPR) perspective, Buffalo isn’t too terrifying, as they allow a high catch rate with all the short throws forced; but volume is important for racking up points against this defense that limits big plays. Buffalo ranks in the top half of the league in fewest pass plays of 20+ yards allowed, and only two teams have allowed fewer pass plays of 40+ yards.
This lines up nicely with what the Titans have been doing on offense, of course, as they had been sharing space with the Colts at the bottom of the league in average intended air yards before getting more aggressive last week in a tight game against the Eagles. In that game, Marcus Mariota showed that he is still not fully healthy (his downfield passes were still a bit short on zip, and his ball placement was hit-or-miss — with some beautiful throws mixed in with some floaters he would probably like to have back). The big takeaway for me, however, is that Mariota is obviously improving — and he is obviously getting a grasp on this Matt LaFleur offense. As a reminder: LaFleur is a Sean McVay disciple and has a bright future ahead of him; there is plenty of upside for this offense as the season moves along.
The only place where Buffalo is really “attackable” is over the short middle — an area of the field that Aaron Rodgers disappointingly failed to exploit last week with speedy Marquez Valdes-Scantling primarily taking over slot duties. This week, the three main weapons in the Tennessee passing attack (Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe) should all have opportunities over the middle, as all three have played in the slot at a range of 22% to 26% of the time.
Davis continues to be the clear leader in this pass attack, with target totals of 13, seven, four, and 15, and with a massive 46.5% of the Titans’ air yards (second in the NFL, to only Julio Jones). The Titans are dragging Davis across the field on most of his routes — allowing Mariota’s mobility to give Davis time to work open, an approach that should work well this week against Buffalo’s zone-heavy scheme.
While Davis played on 60 of a possible 71 snaps last week, preseason darling Taylor finished second among wide receivers, with 45 plays. More importantly, he ran 36 pass routes — making him the clear leader among ancillary options (only Jonnu Smith ran more routes — and Smith is only a space-eater at this point, with target counts on the year of three, zero, two, and two). Taywan is a threat to score every time the ball is in his hands, and the Titans are using him both short and deep. His nine targets last week were not an accident, and he rewarded the Titans’ faith with seven catches for 77 yards.
The best news in this passing attack is that Tajae Sharpe and Jonnu Smith have each failed to top three targets in a game this year, while Nick Williams saw zero targets last week while running 23 pass routes. The passes on this team are going to go to Davis and Taylor.
TITANS RUN OFFENSE
The bad news for this passing attack is that the Titans appear very comfortable going completely opponent-specific in their attacks each week — both on offense and defense — and that could lead to them exploiting Buffalo on the ground this week, in a game Tennessee should control. It is worth noting, however, that Buffalo ranks 10th in fewest yards allowed per carry to begin the season, and heading into last week they ranked eighth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards.
If Buffalo is able to hold tight on the ground, Tennessee has the flexibility to go pass-heavy, with Dion Lewis seeing target counts this year of eight, one, three, and nine — hauling in 18 of these 21 targets. He is disappointingly averaging only 3.3 yards per carry.
Of course, behind Lewis, backfield mate Derrick Henry has averaged only 3.0 yards per carry to begin the year, and he continues to see almost no work in the pass game, with four targets through four games.
“Derrick Henry games” are about the worst thing for this offense from a DFS perspective, as he will turn into a touchdown-dependent back while turning Mariota, Davis, and Taylor into lower-end options. “Dion Lewis games” will lead to a lot more passing, and to strong upside for the guys mentioned above.
Expect the Titans to begin this game with a balanced approach, and to lean toward whatever is working against this decent-across-the-board defense. This makes the entire offense scary to bet on in DFS, but there is definitely some upside here.
Tennessee’s defense has been solid this year, ranking 12th in yards allowed per game and sixth in points allowed per game. They have racked up 12 sacks (seventh in the NFL), and they have had the best red zone touchdown defense in the NFL. Tennessee has yet to allow a rushing touchdown, and only four teams have been better at preventing YAC on a per-reception basis.
If there is a way to attack Tennessee right now, it’s on the ground — less because of personnel, and more because this new Titans defense is more pass-focused than it was in the past. The Titans have been one of the most opponent-specific teams in the league to begin the season, and they’ll have a plan in place to take away the low-end weapons Josh Allen is being forced to rely on, and to confuse him on the back end.
If you can find a week-winning score on the Buffalo offense, that’s awesome. I wish you the best of luck on the other spots on your roster.
As is the case each week right now, one of the better DST options on any given slate will be “whichever defense is facing the Bills.” No team has taken more sacks, and only two teams have thrown more interceptions.
If you feel compelled to use Bills players, Josh Allen has the ability to toss a long touchdown and run another one in — creating slim optimism for a solid game at a low salary. Obviously, I won’t be going there myself.
The targets for Corey Davis are awesome, though the matchup is middling, and there is a chance that passing volume will be held to the lower end for Tennessee this week. He is the best play on FanDuel, where he costs only 10.67% of the salary cap and has strong touchdown upside for the price. On DraftKings (12.8%) and FantasyDraft (12.0%), he appears to be slightly overpriced in this spot. I will note that Davis has the talent and role to be priced over 15% of the salary cap if this offense gets fully on track later in the season — so he’s underpriced in that sense. He makes for an interesting upside play in tourneys who likely won’t hurt you if he “misses,” as the targets will be there.
DraftKings and FantasyDraft gave us an interesting cash game question with Taywan Taylor at only 8.0% and 8.4% of the salary cap, respectively. Taylor saw nine targets on 43 Mariota pass attempts last week, and six or seven targets would be reasonable here in a likely 30 to 35 pass game. Buffalo tackles well, but Taylor with the ball in his hands is dangerous against any defense. This is actually the first game I’m writing up on the Sunday slate, so I am not yet sure what value looks like on this slate, and I have no idea if Taywan will make my Player Grid on Saturday; but he’s definitely a guy I’ll be marking down for now and digging into deeper during the second half of the week.
You could chase one of the Titans’ running backs, as one or the other should post a solid game here. Mariota is also in play for his upside, though the likeliest case is a modest line with under 36 pass attempts and around 250 to 280 yards. Mariota’s legs and his well-schemed offense obviously give him greater potential than most other quarterbacks to exceed that projection, if you want to chase in tourneys.