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The Spy: “Houston! This is Apollo Allen… You’ve got a problem” 

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Well, it certainly will be lovely to welcome the beloved Tyrod Taylor… (record scratch) Davis Mills-led Houston Texans into Highmark stadium this coming Sunday. In all seriousness, best wishes to Tyrod. Is it strange that, in successive weeks, both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor miss their return to Buffalo due to injury?

Nevertheless, we face a team maligned with virtually every weakness one could drum up and apply to a football team. The antiquated phrase “trap game” has shown up rather frequently of late, since the Bills face the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs in primetime week five. I am going to assert that the “trap game” concept is erroneous and irrelevant in the face of modern football. Better teams beat inferior teams more often than not.

All that said, there is no way on Ralph’s green turf that the Bills will overlook the Houston Texans. Any team can beat another team, but the important concept therein is probability. The Buffalo Bills are favored in this game by 17 points, a historic number. The Bills are the better team and would gain the victory over Houston nine times out of ten.

There will still be challenges in facing Houston, as there are challenges with anything in life. What can we expect from the Texans this Sunday?

SPY 1: Mills vs. Bills

Rookie QB Davis Mills now leads the Houston Texans following the injury to Tyrod. So far, in two games, Mills has produced two touchdowns, one interception, 270 passing yards, and a QB rating of 80.9. These statistics, while pedestrian, are in sync with the 2021 trend of rookie QB struggles across the league. Texans sideline reporter John Harris on WGR 550 Sports Radio as ”… a typical rendition of the traditional pocket passer; sporting an average-to above average arm”.

Mills can hit most areas on the field with serviceable accuracy but not all. A quick turnaround last week confined Mills to a barebones playbook, resulting in rudimentary execution of an NFL-level offense. 

Texans coach David Culley had this to say regarding the immediate plan for Davis Mills:

“What we did find out coming out of this game is that he can handle a lot more than what we felt like, because of the way he handled himself in this ballgame… Moving forward, we’ll just get back to doing the things that we had started doing in that first game and a half when Tyrod was our starting quarterback.”

There are issues with this quote and line of thinking.

First, putting more on Mills’ plate for a matchup against an AFC powerhouse is a huge gamble. This carries more risk than it does improvement in production, efficiency, output, etc. A limited and inexperienced QB behind a weak offensive line, with no run game and limited weapons, will only exacerbate his weaknesses. Especially since the playbook was (clearly) optimized for a different QB, which brings me to my next point.

When Tyrod Taylor was Houston’s QB, he was executing a much different gameplan than Davis Mills has. Moreover, he did so with a skillset that is night-and-day different than that which Davis Mills has. One example of this is RPO execution (run-pass-option). Tyrod Taylor (as we well know) is an accomplished athlete and is prodigious in the execution of a dynamic RPO style offense. That is NOT Davis Mills’ area of expertise, frankly. 

Mills will be hard pressed to challenge an experienced Bills secondary. He will face a violent and unrelenting Bills pass rush that will be hard to read pre-snap. Mills will face a Bills linebacking corps that will be evaluating his every movement and expression of body language to find tells, cues, and clues. Most of all, Davis Mills will be facing Josh Allen. 

Expect Davis Mills to rely on the short and intermediate passing game. 

SPY 2: Lame Ground Game

To be blunt and concise, the Houston Texans cannot run the ball effectively whatsoever. Currently, the Texans rank third to last in total rushing according to NFL.com. With a backfield led by veteran Mark Ingram and a patchwork, unreliable offensive line, a lethal rushing attack is unlikely. Posting only 284 rush yards, 3.3 yards per carry is abysmal and will not consistently enable play action to develop.

After last week’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, David Culley made the following comments (collected by the Associated Press):

“Mark Ingram ran six times for 21 yards and David Johnson had two carries for 11 yards… We have to be able to (run the ball)… That’s who we are, and offensively our biggest ill of the night was the fact that we could not establish any consistency in our run game, and we’ve got to be able to do that to be successful and to be able to become better in the pass game and be consistent and stay on the field.”

Good luck being a running-focused team in 2021’s NFL (unless you are the Baltimore Ravens).

SPY 3: Football Flux

Houston is a team going through a maelstrom of changes and difficulties. There is, obviously, the curious and disturbing case of Deshaun Watson. That situation is impossible to make sense of and is a source of frustration and turmoil within the organization, despite comments to the contrary. With the organization aiming for a rebuild, this team may be one that designed for failure purposefully, which only enhances the maelstrom they face. Houston’s plagued at every level by recklessness, incompetence, and disillusionment. Flashback to the Buffalo Bills of the drought era and answer the following question: Is it hard to win with a team caught and caged firmly in chaos?

SPY 4: Defensive Damage

This is a short and concise note; surely one that the Bills will be aware of. Despite being statistically less-than-average, the Texan defense is tied for fourth place in the league in forced fumbles with five so far. Ball security will be crucial come Sunday; a day in which the weather forecast calls for cooler temperatures and rain.

DARKHORSE BONUS POINT: VENGEANCE

Most, if not all Bills fans know the pain of the playoff loss to the Houston Texans just a few years ago. This was a loss that set both teams on their current paths. For a player like Josh Allen, who injects so much emotion and passion into his play, exorcizing the trauma of that game will be a strong motivator on Sunday. Josh Allen is on a crusade to greatness at the spearhead of an equally great Buffalo team. Despite early struggles this year (which may have been necessary) no punches will be pulled, no stones left unturned. Houston is a rung on the ladder that the Bills are climbing.

THREAT RATING: Each opponent will be ranked on a 1-10 scale. The higher the number = The greater the threat.

Threat Rating = 2

In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process and go Bills.

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