Both teams’ C.J.s were key: On 3rd down in the red zone in the middle of the second quarter, Stevie Johnson broke free from coverage in the endzone for an easy touchdown, but Fitzpatrick checked down to Spiller. When he got the ball in space, it gave Bills a spark, but they contained him on that play and forced the Bills to settle for a field goal. Keeping all Spiller plays in front of the defense is key to beating the Bills, and the Titans did it well.
Chris Johnson’s playing a lot more focused. His vision is impressive and his change of direction is getting better. His acceleration and speed isn’t where it used to be when he was the most dangerous player in the league, but it’s back to being good enough where the Titans’ running game is no longer a joke.
Both of these teams are built very similarly : They have a very hit-or-miss running game. Their passing game is led by a good, but not great, quarterback who makes smart decisions and leans heavily on one underrated and quickly-developing receiver (Stevie Johnson for the Bills and Damian Williams for the Titans). They both also have an average defense that makes up for allowing so many yards by forcing turnovers at crucial times. The Titans won the game by executing better.
Go for the jugular: on 4th-and-2 from the 47 the Titans punted with 44 seconds left in the half and downed the ball at the Bills’ three-yard line. It was a safe play and let the Titans go into halftime with a lead. However, I would have liked to see a gutsier call from Munchak. Good teams can go for it in those situations and expand their lead. The Titans went with the safe move and just stuck with the current lead instead of trying to get further ahead. Barely winning can only get you by for so long. The margin for error gets smaller if the Titans make it to the playoffs, and they have to make the most of every opportunity to score. Punting from midfield towards the end of the half does not do so.
AFC South is probably Houston’s: Brent Grimes’ injury allowed Andre Johnson to run wild against Atlanta. T.J. Yates played adequately enough for the Texans to keep winning games against teams they should beat. The Steelers and Ravens (assuming the Ravens don’t collapse drastically in the second half) are 9-3. The Raiders, Broncos, Bengals, Jets and Titans are all 7-5, and nobody is 8-4.
The second-place finisher in the AFC North will probably get the fifth seed, meaning five teams are in contention for the last seed. The Raiders have a tougher schedule the next four games than the Broncos do, so it would behoove the Titans for the Raiders to lose multiple games and the Broncos to win the AFC West. I’ll have an analysis of each team’s remaining schedules within the next two or three days, but for now, just know to root against Cincinnati, Oakland, and the Jets.