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Scouting report

Grand Island's Brett Kern helps give Titans big special-teams advantage over Bills

When the Buffalo Bills run: There’s a good chance rookie running back Devin Singletary will return following a two-game absence because of a hamstring injury. Singletary was “close” to playing last week against the New England Patriots, according to coach Sean McDermott. In his absence, Frank Gore continued to spit in the face of Father Time, rushing 17 times for 109 yards. None of those carries came in the final 10 minutes, though, which in a one-score game is a head-scratcher. If quarterback Josh Allen can’t play because of a concussion, the Bills’ rushing attack loses an important element, which would heighten the importance of Singletary’s return. The Titans’ rush defense is anchored by nose tackle DaQuan Jones. A 6-foot-4-inch, 322-pounder, Jones has made 11 tackles. Tennessee ranks 20th in yards per rush allowed at 4.56. EDGE: Bills.

When the Bills throw: Who will throw is the big question. Josh Allen was in the NFL’s concussion protocol during the early part of the practice week. Would the Bills want to run him out against a talented Tennessee secondary with anything less than a full practice week? If not, Barkley has earned the trust of his teammates and the Bills’ coaching staff. All of the “best backup quarterback in the league” talk on social media may be a bit much based on one strong start last season against the Jets, but Barkley at least gives the Bills a chance in an important AFC game, should he play. Bills receiver Cole Beasley leads the team lead with 24 catches. He should be in line for another heavy workload. Titans slot cornerback Logan Ryan has been targeted in coverage 27 times, according to analytics website Pro Football Focus, which is third most in the NFL. Ryan has given up 16 catches for 156 yards and one touchdown, but he has two interceptions. EDGE: Titans.

When the Titans run: Derrick Henry is far and away the Titans’ lead back. He has 78 rushing attempts this season for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Henry is at his best late in games. He rushed nine times for 29 yards in the first half in Week 4, but wore out the Falcons by carrying 18 times for 71 yards after halftime. Henry rambled for 238 yards in a Week 13 win over Jacksonville last season. Since that time, he’s been held to less than 80 yards just once in seven games. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is next in rushing attempts, with just 17. Former Patriots running back Dion Lewis, who tortured the Bills in the past, has rushed just 13 times for 45 yards in four games. Buffalo’s run defense is No. 7 in the league, allowing just 84.3 yards per game. Safety Jordan Poyer has been terrific in run support. He has the highest rush-defense grade of any Bills defender, according to PFF. EDGE: Bills.

When the Titans pass: Rookie receiver A.J. Brown brings big-play potential to the Tennessee offense. He’s averaging 22.3 yards on 10 catches, and has a pair of touchdowns, both of which came last week against the Falcons. Tight end Delanie Walker leads Tennessee with 17 catches for 162 yards and also has two touchdowns. Former top-five pick Corey Davis has 11 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown. He hasn't quite lived up to his draft status. Mariota has been sacked 17 times this season, so the Bills’ pass rush should have a chance to make some plays in the Tennessee backfield. Buffalo’s secondary ranks fourth in passing yards allowed per game, at 196.5. EDGE: Bills.  

Special teams: A week after giving up a blocked punt for a touchdown and missing a 49-yard field goal, the Bills fell to last in Football Outsiders’ rankings of special teams. The Bills are going up against a team that ranks eighth. Tennessee has one of the better punters in the NFL in Brett Kern, a Grand Island native. “He’s fantastic,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Kern. “Brett is a guy who is very professional, takes his job seriously and does a great job. He’s a big factor when we win football games.” Lockport native David Fluellen also has a role on the Titans’ special teams. EDGE: Titans.

Coaching: Sean McDermott needs to do a better job of knowing when to throw the challenge flag and managing his timeouts. It’s absolutely inexcusable the Bills would run out of second-half timeouts with more than 14 minutes left, but that’s what happened last week against New England in what amounted to a one-possession game. McDermott is lucky that the lack of timeouts didn’t play more of a role in the outcome. Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell was taken to school by the Patriots, too. Farwell has been on the job for all of four games, but the Bills don’t get to use that excuse. McDermott tabbed him for the job, and Farwell needs to do it better. EDGE: Titans.

Prediction: Titans 17, Bills 13

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