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Saturday Preview: Houston Texans vs. Buffalo Bills

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The sound you heard last week was a collective sigh of relief across western New York. Bills fans everywhere saw Josh Allen make his triumphant return to 2020 form against Washington. With the Bills offense finally catching its stride, they are poised for another dominant performance against the Houston Texans. Let’s take a look at the match-up.

The Last Five

Texans 22 Bills 19 (OT) (2019)
Texans 20 Bills 13 (2018)
Bills 30 Texans 21 (2015)
Texans 23 Bills 17 (2014)
Texans 21 Bills 9 (2012)

The Houston Texans have been a tough nut to crack for the Bills since their inception in 2002. The Texans lead the series 6-4, including 5-1 in their last six games against the Bills. As the Bills (hopefully) dominate the Texans this Sunday, it might be fun to reminisce about the past two games against them. To think about how far the team has come in such a short time.

The 2018 game was the first turning point in Allen’s career, as it signaled his first NFL injury. That forced him to sit and learn from Derek Anderson for a while; something that Allen has credited as a blessing in disguise. The 2019 game, played in January 2020, was the playoff game that many contribute to the epic rise of Allen. In fact, our very own Blake Parnham wrote about the very different directions both franchises have gone in after that playoff game. Let this week be a reminder of the importance of leadership of a football team.

What To Watch For: Bills

Who is RB1? – In their Week 1 loss to the Steelers, it appeared Devin Singletary was the Bills’ #1 running back, as Zach Moss was inactive for unknown reasons. It turns out Moss might not have been 100% healthy in that game, but it was surprising nonetheless. In the two games since, Zach Moss has seen his role and snap time increase. While Sean McDermott has been clear that the RB position is matchup dependent, it would be interesting to know who the Bills value more. Singletary had a noteworthy off-season and has looked much more dynamic through these first three games. But the Bills offense rolls just as well with Zach Moss in the game. The playing time between these two will be something to watch this week.

Health Concerns – The bad news for the Bills is that, as of now they will have at least 2 starters out for the game tomorrow. Safety Jordan Poyer and offensive guard Jon Feliciano have been ruled out by McDermott. The good news for the Bills is they are playing the Texans and still have a great chance to cover the -17.5 point spread. The Bills have one of the deepest rosters in the league. They can withstand losing a couple starters for a game or two.

After the game last week, Poyer said that he felt good and that he would be fine. I believe him. I also believe that if this were a playoff game, Poyer push through and start. I’m sure of it. With all due respect to the Texans, this is a good week to give these two some extra rest; even if they could have played through their injuries. Might as well fully heal now and not have something linger for the rest of the season.

Offense Here to Stay? – It took a few weeks, but the record breaking 2020 offense we all know and love made it’s triumphant return last Sunday. Now that we know the 2021 version is equally as capable, the only question remaining is if it’s here to stay. Last year the team went through an offensive lull in the second month of the season. Here’s hoping that this year’s difficulties happened early and are behind the offense.

Frazier Revenge Game – Obviously, the biggest revenge storyline of the weekend involves a certain quarterback returning to the place he won six Super Bowls. However, for the Bills and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Sunday will mark a revenge game of sorts. If you recall, Leslie Frazer was a finalist for the Houston Texans head coaching job. The team ultimately went with David Culley and Frazier returned to the Bills’ sideline. Continuity among the coaching staff was the best thing that could have happened to the Bills.

I’m sure everyone outside of Frazier himself was not disappointed to have him around for another year. He is an excellent coach and a valued member of this team. He has been instrumental in helping turn this franchise around. The Bills defense is strong every game, but you know the unit would love to have an extra special performance against the Texans; to show them exactly what they were missing when they passed on Frazier. Perhaps he’ll be carried off the field like Jim Schwartz.

What To Watch For: Texans

Ultimate Test for Mills – Last week, the Bills defense had to have been salivating over the fact that they were facing a quarterback in his 3rd career start (first on the road) in Taylor Heinicke. This week, the defense must be drooling over themselves as they face Davis Mills in what will be his second career start (also first on the road). If the Texans have any chance at an upset this week, it starts with Mills playing out of his mind and protecting the football.

Mills was able to play mistake-free football in his first start last week, posting a very conservative performance against the Panthers (19/28, 168 yards, one TD). With the Bills’ ability to get out to fast starts and sustain big leads, I’d be willing to bet that Mills will attempt more than 28 passes this week. As we saw last week, playing from behind might cause the rookie to force some dangerous throws. Mills will have to maintain composure beyond measure to have a shot of being the hero coming out of the this game.

Nothing but Cooks – As I mentioned, in last week’s loss to the Panthers David Mills passed for 168 yards. 112 of those yards went to Brandin Cooks. Cooks is having himself a great start to the year considering he doesn’t have his Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback tossing him the ball. The Texans offense is Brandin Cooks;it revolves around him and Mills is lucky to have a receiver of his caliber as his first look. The problem for Cooks, and the Texans, on Sunday is that he is going against one of the best corners in the game. Mills and Cooks taking on White is much scarier for the Texans than Watson and Cooks would be. The Bills have the advantage in this match-up.

Cover? – Houston is not getting much respect coming into this game as they are 17.5-point underdogs to the reigning AFC East champs. However, the 17.5 point spread is not the largest spread the Texans have ever faced. In their inaugural 2002 season, they were 19-point underdogs to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texans ended up losing the game by 18 and prevented the Eagles from covering.

From the Bills perspective, this is also not the largest they have ever been favored. Back in 1991, they were favored by 20 points against the Colts and did cover, winning by 36 points. Regardless, 17.5 points is a mighty spread in today’s NFL with the amount of garbage time expected in this game. By any account, the point spread is very embarrassing for a Texans franchise that is searching for an identity as they decide whether or not to trade their star quarterback. Will the Texans claim a moral victory and prevent the Bills from covering? Or will the Bills get their 17.5 points?

Prediction

Bills 44 Texans 20 From a score perspective, this game was tough to predict. Like I said before, garbage time is the big question mark in this one. What was not tough was picking the Bills to win. Here’s a hot take for ya: I think the Bills could rest every starter and still win this football game. Maybe I should save that take for when the Bills play the Jaguars in November… or maybe I’ll just say it again then. Either way, the most important aspect in this game is to get out of it healthy.

Winning is always important and the Bills are too seasoned to overlook an opponent. But I would be surprised to see the Bills pull out some new stops in this one. They can win this game with a very vanilla gameplan and should be looking to save some stuff for Kansas City. I predict Diggs will have his best game of the young season this week. I also think Josh will be named AFC Offensive Player of the week yet again. Oh yeah… and the Bills will cover that 17.5 point spread.





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