It’s playoffs Saturday Bills fans! After looking at the matchup between the Bills’ defense and the Texans’ offense, let’s flip the sides. Here’s my look at how the Josh Allen-led offense matches up against J.J. Watt and Houston’s defense:
Bills Offensive rankings:
- 24th in total yards per game (330.2)
- 26th in passing yards per game (201.8)
- 8th in rushing yards per game (128.4)
- 23rd in points per game (19.6)
- 11th in takeaways (19)
- 22nd in DVOA (Football Outsiders)
Texans defensive rankings
- 28th in total yards per game (388.3)
- 29th in passing yards per game (267.3)
- 25th in rushing yards per game (121.1)
- 19th in points per game (24.1)
- 16th in takeaways (22)
- 26th in DVOA (Football Outsiders)
The Bills are really fortunate here, with just right tackle Ty Nsekhe (ankle) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (foot) listed as questionable. Cody Ford has done reasonably well since Nsekhe’s injury, minimizing the impact of his absence, and Roberts isn’t an integral part of the offense, though his reliability and efficiency at the returning duties being really important to the team.
On the other hand, the Texans could be in big trouble. Cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph are both dealing with hamstring issues and listed as questionable. They should play, but this secondary has struggled all year and hamstring injuries can be tricky, especially if you need to run alongside the likes of John Brown, Isiah McKenzie, and Robert Foster. This could become a big factor in this game.
Safety Jahleel Adae is also questionable, and with Tashon Gipson already on IR, his absence could be impactful.
After closing the year with a tough stretch, facing four top-10 defenses in the last six weeks, Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense should be able to put together a pretty solid day against this Texans unit. Just like their offense, they have some really good pieces, but, on the field, the talent didn’t translate as expected.
Houston has a good front seven, with Brandon Dunn lining up as a 3-4 nose tackle and D.J. Reader as a defensive end. J.J. Watt is back and should be moved around, always trying to exploit the best matchup. We should see a lot of Watt against rookie Cody Ford, and Buffalo will need to send some help there. Tight end Lee Smith could have an important role in this department.
The Texans’ group of linebackers is really strong, led by pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, the team’s leader in sacks (7.5). Inside, linebackers Zach Cunningham (142 total tackles) and Benardrick McKinney (101 total tackles) are physical specimens patrolling the middle of the field behind the stout defensive line. They’re also used in zone coverage a lot and will surely have an eye on Josh Allen for most of the day, trying to limit the signal-caller’s impact rushing the ball.
It’ll be extremely important for Buffalo to keep drives alive and avoid quick three-and-outs. Running backs Devin Singletary and Frank Gore won’t have an easy day against this front seven, though. The best path to success should be exploiting Houston’s defense’s glaring weakness, which is the short passing game. They’ve allowed a a short pass completion percentage of 72.6%, 3,330 yards, 28 TDs, and forced just seven interceptions. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Texans’ pass defense is ranked 26th in the league, but their short pass defense DVOA is even worse, ranked 30th.
Cole Beasley can become the biggest difference-maker in this game. Houston’s bend-but-don’t-break approach allows a lot of short completions, and the former Cowboy is the Bills’ go-to target in those situations. Josh Allen made huge strides in this department in 2019, and it can make all the difference in the world for Buffalo on their most important game of the season.
Overall, the Bills’ offense couldn’t ask for a better matchup to start a playoff run. Yeah, they have talented players, and J.J. Watt’s comeback should improve this defense drastically. However, their struggling secondary is depleted, and the passing game needs to be able to take advantage of it if Buffalo wants to be recognized as a threat in the AFC.