Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
Spread: Texans -3 | Over/Under 42.5
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Houston Texans and NRG Stadium will play host to a playoff game on Wild Card Weekend. In this year’s matchup, the Texans will be welcoming in a Buffalo Bills that won 10 games in the regular season, their most wins since 1999. As of this writing, the Texans, back-to-back AFC South champions, are home favorites with a two and a half point spread while the game itself is sitting with an over-under of 42.5 points. While the Bills come into this matchup as one of the top-ranked defenses in the league, these two teams match up similarly. Both the Texans and the Bills come into this matchup with a receiver who finished the season with over 1,000 yards and quarterbacks who led their teams in rushing touchdowns.
Keys To The Game: Buffalo Bills
While the general public is of the mindset that the Bills post-season fate is in the hands of Josh Allen, there is a matchup on the other side of the ball that will determine if the Bills will walk out of Houston as winners. On the defensive side of the ball for the Bills, the biggest matchup in this game will be between cornerback, Tre’Davious White and Texans star wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. In a Week 6 matchup last season, DeAndre Hopkins would lead the Texans to a 20-13 win as he hauled in five receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. What should be noted is that only two of those five receptions came against White and in the 2019 season, White has yet to allow a touchdown in coverage. With the Bills sitting at twenty-third in points scored this season, in order for the Bills to win their first playoff game since 1995, they will need to slow down the pace of the game. Slowing down the pace of the game will mean containing and disrupting Hopkins quarterback, DeShaun Watson. The Bills ability to keep Watson contained will rest on the shoulders of defensive lineman Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, who both have a career-high in sacks this season.
Keys To The Game: Houston Texans
One of the biggest keys to this game for the Houston Texans will also be a huge boost to their defensive line. After recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, for the first time since Week 8 of this season, the Texans defensive line will have J.J. Watt. That will be key this weekend as the Texans will need to contain Bills quarterback, Josh Allen. As previously mentioned, the Texans had played the Bills in Week 6 of last season, but that was just the sixth start of Allen’s career. While failing to throw a touchdown in four of the first six games of his career, since that time, Allen has had a touchdown pass in all but two starts. On top of maturing as a signal-caller, Allen is just as much of a threat to run the ball in the redzone. So far this season, the Texans have allowed nine rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs which is just as many rushing scores as Allen has had all season. While containing him is a must for the defense, Texans quarterback, DeShaun Watson will also need to come up big. So far this season, Watson and has three wins and two losses against playoff teams but in order to win this week, he will need to limit turnovers has five of his 12 interceptions this season have come in his last three starts. In regards to Texans wide receivers, with Tre’Davious White covering DeAndre Hopkins, the supporting wide receivers will need to step up. As of this writing, Will Fuller has been limited in practice appears to be trending in the right direction. If Fuller is unable to play at full strength, supporting cast receivers such as Deandre Carter and KeKe Coutee to come up big. If Watson is able to throw for 300-yards, the Texans will win this game.
Fantasy Take: Start’em Sit’em
In regards to fantasy, despite failing to finish as a QB1 in his last two starts, DeShaun Watson finished the regular season with the second-most top-5 performances at the quarterback position with seven. The beauty of both Watson and Josh Allen in fantasy is that thanks to their ability to run the football, they do not need Drew Brees type passing numbers in order to be fantasy relevant. So to me, both quarterbacks are worth using in this matchup and so too are their leading receivers, DeAndre Hopkins and John Brown. Even while being covered by Tre’Davious White, I still trust Hopkins as an elite fantasy option. Hopkins this season was inconsistent at times by two of his four top-5 performances this season came after the Texans Week 10 bye and both of those games were at home. In regards to John Brown, with Brown accounting for 34.3% of Josh Allen’s passing yards this season and the Texans allowing the twelfth most points to opposing wide receivers, I like Brown’s chances to deliver for fantasy. While the Bills are one of just twelve teams to allow less than 10 rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs, Carlos Hyde of the Texans relies on volume more so than touchdowns. With that in mind, among the running backs in this matchup, I feel as if Hyde is the back worth playing in fantasy. One last possible sleeper this week, with the Texans allowing the tenth-most points to the tight end position, Dawson Knox could be a bargain worth gambling on in daily fantasy.
Like I mentioned earlier in this article, if DeShaun Watson is able to throw for 300-yards, the Texans will win this game. That being said though, while Watson and DeAndre Hopkins will make their fair share of plays, I do not think that Watson will be able to reach that mark. This Buffalo Bills team is far from flashy but with the defense allowing an average of 213.8 passing yards and less than 17-points on a per-game basis, they possess one of the best defenses in this postseason. It should also be noted that with the Texans being in the top-10 in penalties at home and the Bills being in the top-10 in penalties on the road, this will also be a game with plenty of flags thrown. Regardless of penalties though, If the defense can stand tough and Josh Allen can play limit his mistakes and continue his reputation as a rushing threat, the Buffalo Bills will win this game. While it remains to be seen just how far this formula can carry the Bills, controlling the clock and strong defense will certainly be enough to get them passed the Houston Texans.
Final Score: Bills 23-17