Bills @ Texans: Wild Card Deep Dive

Miles Peacock american football, Captains-Corner, Football, NFL, Sports Leave a Comment

Week 16 Recap

The NFL season finale in week 16 left Texans head coach Bill O’Brien with the situation of choosing whether or not to play several of his starters. After seeing the results from the early slate of games on Sunday, O’Brien made the “tough” decision to sit well more than a handful of players in game that would have absolutely no impact on Houston’s playoff seeding. With the Patriots losing, and mainly the Chiefs securing a win, the Texans were locked into the 4th seed in the AFC playoff picture, regardless of the outcome in their contest with the Titans. On the positive side for Houston, numerous reserve players got plenty of experience reps versus the Titans, including WR DeAndre Carter, RB Taiwain Jones, CB Lonnie Johnson, WR Keke Coutee and of course A.J. McCarron in at QB for Deshaun Watson.

The Texans were unable to stop Tennessee in their quest for a playoff birth, allowing Derrick Henry to take home the league’s rushing title in the process. In reality, Houston escaped with no additional injuries, other than a Jonathan Joseph hamstring issue, and no further skin off their backs. Houston quite possibly did the rest of us a favor in bumping the likes of the lowly Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs. Tennessee at New England is much more enticing for television.

Playoff Wild Card: Bills @ Texans

With the regular season in the rear-view mirror for Houston, their focus now turns to the 5th seeded Buffalo Bills, who will come into NRG Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to bounce the Texans in the first round of the playoffs for what would be the second time in as many years. The Texans were embarrassed at home during the Wild Card round versus the then Andrew Luck led Colts this time last season. Bill O’Brien was adamant on Monday’s press conference that this years team is different than last year, as obviously the Texans will face a different opponent, in a different year, with a different team make-up. One of the subtle yet main differences will be the experience level of Deshaun Watson, who has proved to be an intelligent student of the game and fierce competitor.

On the other side of the football, O’Brien touched on a well coached and disciplined Buffalo team, which he continuously showered with compliments during the presser. B.O.B. praised cornerback Tre’davious White as one of the best defensive backs they will face this year, and added that former Texan, Kevin Johnson, had been not only healthy, but playing well on defense and special teams for Buffalo.  That will be a situation to monitor as Buffalo’s starting corner, Levi Wallace, exited week 16 with a non-contact (right ankle) injury suffered on an interception. Johnson will likely play in Wallace’s place if the starter can’t go, something to keep in mind if Houston’s Will Fuller (groin) is somehow healthy enough to play. O’Brien mentioned that Fuller was heading in a “good direction” and progressing well, but was entirely unsure if he will be well enough to suit up this week. Staying in that same vein, B.O.B. stated that J.J. Watt will continue to “build on reps” from last week’s practices, and that his availability will continue to be a daily evaluation leading up to Saturday.

Texans History Versus the Bills

The Houston Texans have the edge in the series at 5-4-0. Houston has won 4 of the last 5 meetings going back to 2009. The Bills last win versus the Texans came on December 6, 2015 in Buffalo by the score of 21-30. The Texans won the last meeting 13-20 in Houston on October 14, 2018. The Texans also hold the edge in points scored in this series 180-166. The Texans are 3-2 in home games against the Bills in their 9 game history, holding a 109-94 edge in points scored during those games.

Since 2014 Bill O’Brien has won 4 AFC South titles and has appeared in 4 playoff games as Houston’s head coach. He is 1-3 in those games and has lost by a combined 62 points. His only win in the post season came in 2016 when the Texans beat a depleted Oakland Raider team in the Wild Card game. Houston won 6 AFC South titles this decade, second most in the league, only behind the New England Patriots (10).

Match-ups to Watch

Tre’davious White will shadow DeAndre Hopkins. White is a 2019 Pro Bowler who has accumulated 6 interceptions this season, he has also forced two fumbles and registered a sack in the process. In coverage White is one of the best, allowing only 45 receptions on 91 targets which translates to 49.5% completion percentage. Opposing quarterback passer rating when targeting White is a lowly 44.5 and he hasn’t allowed a receiving touchdown in coverage all season. White will have his hands full with arguably one of the league’s top receivers in Hopkins as he boats a 69.3% catch percentage this year and was once again named to the Pro Bowl. The 4x Pro Bowler and 2x All Pro will look to keep his streak of no less than 5 receptions a game going into the playoffs.

Josh Allen vs. Deshaun Watson: Guess who Russell Wilson is tied with in 2019 for the most game-winning drives (5). Answer: Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson. It would be an understatement to say each team’s respective signal caller has played well this season, exceptionally well, now that’s more like it. Allen has showed improvement in ball security and his passing metrics from the season prior; meanwhile, Watson has led his squad to a second straight division title and consecutive 10 or more win seasons. Let’s see how these two and their teams stack up by the numbers.

Tale of the Tape

Mobile Quarterbacks on the ground

  • Through 17 weeks Josh Allen accumulated 109 attempts for 510 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns.
  • Deshaun Watson finishes at 82 attempts for 413 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground.
  • Watson has one less fumble (6) than Allen (7) on the year.
  • Allen is averaging 6.8 rush attempts per game, while Watson is at 5.5.
  • Watson averages 5.0 yards per rush attempt while Allen is at 4.7.
  • Allen in averaging 31.9 yards per contest; Watson averages 27.5 yards per game on the ground.

Aerial Attack

  • Watson completed 333 passes on 495 attempts for a 67.3% completion percentage.
  • Allen connected on 271 passes on 461 attempts for a 58.8% completion percentage.
  • Watson threw 6 more touchdowns than Allen (20) this season.
  • Both QBs took care of the ball. Watson threw 12 interceptions while Allen tossed only 9 on the season.
  • Watson was sacked 44 times this season while Allen was dropped 38 times.
  • Watson finished the year 13 points higher than Allen in passer rating, 98 to 85 respectively.

Offensive Support

  • DeAndre Hopkins and Darren Fells are tied for the most receiving touchdowns for the Texans at 7.
  • DeAndre Hopkins is the only receiver in this line-up with more than 100 receptions (104).
  • John Brown and Cole Beasely both have 6 receiving touchdowns for the Bills.
  • John Brown (1060 yds) and DeAndre Hopkins (1165) are the only players in this game to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards on the season.
  • The TE combo of Darren Fells and Jordan Akins have compiled 70 receptions for 759 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Texans.
  • Carlos Hyde broke the 1,000 yard mark in rushing for the first time in his 5 year career and is the only 1k rusher in this game.
  • Hyde and Watson have combined for 13 rushing scores this season.
  • No running back on the Bills roster has more than 2 rushing scores all season.
  • Houston finished with better per game offensive ranks in points (14th v. 23th), total yards (13th v. 24th), and passing yards (15th v. 26th) than Buffalo.
  • Buffalo finished 1 spot ahead of Houston in rushing yards per game [128.4 (8th) vs. the Texans 125.6 (9th)]
  • 1,374 is the combined rushing total for Frank Gore and Devin Singletary on 317 attempts, but only have 4 total rushing scores.

Defensive Ranks

  • Buffalo holds the advantage on most of the defensive categories, including total rushing defense. The Bills are 10th at 103.1 rush yards per game while the Texans are 25th allowing 121.1 per contest.
  • One of the larger differentials on defense is how the teams fair against the pass. Buffalo ranks 4th best, only allowing 195.2 passing yards a game; meanwhile, Houston has struggled by giving up the 4th worst in this category with 267.2 pass yards per game.
  • It isn’t close in total yards per game either. The Bills are the 3rd best in the league at 298.2 total yards per tilt. The Texans rank 5th worst, giving up nearly 100 more yards (388.3).
  • The Bills have sacked opposing QBs 44 times this year (12th best), the exact same amount of sacks the Texans have allowed on Deshaun Watson. Houston has accounted for 31 defensive sacks, ranking 26th in the league.
  • In terms of total scoring defense the Bills are solid, finishing the season with the 2nd best mark in the league. Houston finds itself finishing 19th in this category.
  • The only remotely close defensive categorical rank, surprisingly enough, comes on interceptions. The Bills only have 2 more INTs on the season than the Texans, 14-12. *Houston got a boost in this category when they secured 4 versus Jameis Winston two weeks ago.

Prediction

The Vegas line has the Bills opening up as 3 point underdogs on the road. This game is currently sitting at a 38.5 over/under and could very likely hit the under considering how tough Buffalo’s defense is in conjunction with their offense that averages less than 20 points a game.

Houston’s blow up potential hinges on the delicate leg muscles of Will Fuller, who was said to have a groin injury that would take at least 3 weeks to heal. If Fuller is healthy and starting CB Levi Wallace is out, then the Bills could have trouble matching up with the likes of Fuller and team mate Kenny Stills. With J.J. Watt set to return, the Texans would get an overall defensive boost, especially in the pass rush.

The Bills also failed to knock off divisional foe New England in two contests this year, an opponent the Texans vanquished just a few weeks ago. For the Bills, their defense will travel and most likely cause several fits for Watson and company. On the other side of the ball, the Bills may choose to exploit Houston’s uncanny ability to allow running backs to have massive days receiving the ball out of the backfield. Devin Singletary is only averaging 12.6 carries, so it would be beneficial for Buffalo to get him involved in the passing game. Much like Watson, Josh Allen’s ability to extend plays with his legs will be a test for Houston’s linebackers and defensive front. Allen is big and physical QB who has shown he is not afraid to impose his will in short yardage situations.

Expect another close battle in what will be a surprisingly more entertaining contest than most casual fans anticipate.

Bills @ Texans Wild Card game will air on ESPN at 4:35 pm EST on Saturday January 4, 2020. Viewers can expect commentary by Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland.
Follow the Author of this article, Miles Peacock, on Twitter @FF_Peacock

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