- The Houston Texans host the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.
- Houston looks for big contributions from previously injured players.
- Buffalo has surprised many this year and developed into a true playoff threat.
HOUSTON – The Houston Texans play host to the Buffalo Bills, as they hope for the return of multiple elite players to buoy them against a tough Buffalo team.
Houston has a fairly typical year for the franchise, competent to above-average play resulting in a playoff spot, but they have long odds to reach the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Buffalo, meanwhile, has had their most energizing season in years, behind second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
The Houston Texans
Houston enters the Wild Card round seeing themselves as a bit of a wild card. Defensive star J.J. Watt is cleared to return for the game and should provide the Texans with a big boost on defense. Watt, however, is not perfectly healthy and has not played since week 8, so it remains to be seen what kind of influence he will actually have.
Blisteringly fast WR Will Fuller is also questionable, being listed as a game-time decision as of now.
In this context, something to keep an eye on is the odds of Fuller scoring a touchdown. Fuller is an absolute burner, and the Texans offense excels when he plays. Right now, Fuller has +215 odds to score a touchdown, so keep an eye on that as his injury situation develops.
Houston has, throughout the season, demonstrated an ability to lose to anybody despite being a nominally good, playoff-bound team. They racked up losses to the Broncos, the Colts, and the Panthers to go along with their losses to fellow playoff teams Tennessee, New Orleans, and Baltimore.
The Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills enter the game as a mild road underdog. Generally, home teams of equal quality to their opponents tend to get favored by 3 points and the oddsmakers clearly think of this as an even game. So, Buffalo opened +3 on the road.
That line at US sportsbooks has since moved to Buffalo +2.5, which is a mild but significant shift, illustrating that the public at large seems to believe that Buffalo is a better team than Houston.
Buffalo has spent the season surprising people. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen has surprised everyone with his growth as a passer, and his poise under pressure. Receiver John Brown has earned the nickname Smoke, absolutely burning the best defenders in the league.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 21, 2019
Brown is averaging an astounding 9.2 yards per target, demonstrating his big play ability. The receiver has over 1000 yards on 72 receptions, cementing himself as one of the premier deep threats in the league.
This playstyle, however, comes with some inconsistency – Brown has only scored a touchdown in six of the 16 games he has played. Brown’s over/under for yards is 61.5 in this game, a total he has eclipsed nine times so far this season. Fundamentally, Brown is a burner, and production from those guys tends to be sporadic.
One further thing to note is that Buffalo is 6-2 on the road straight up this season, demonstrating a remarkable ability to adapt to the conditions of other teams’ stadiums.
Buffalo has generally struggled against good teams, however, with four of their six losses coming at the hands of playoff teams, and only one win against a playoff team on their resume.