J.J. Watt via Denverjeffrey [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)] for AFC Wild Card

AFC Wild Card: Playoffs Preview, BUF at HOU

The first playoff game of the NFL Playoffs is a Wild Card matchup between the Bills and Texans. The AFC Wild Card round kicks off at 4:35 PM EST on Saturday!

AFC Wild Card

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans

NRG Stadium

Houston, TX

Betting

As 3.0 point underdogs (-120), the Bills are being underestimated. In fact, I like the Bills to win outright (+120)! With a much stronger defense than the Texans, and a comparable offense, the Bills line should be closer to a PK. Both of the Bills road losses were close, low-scoring games. I can see that same fate occurring in this AFC Wild Card matchup.

Injuries

At the time of writing, the Texans are riddled with injuries on their report. The biggest of which is the potential return of All-Pro DL, J.J. Watt. A miraculous recovery from a shoulder injury allows Watt to take the field.

Other notable injuries on the Texans defense include starting CB’s Johnathan Joseph and Bradley Roby, both of which are questionable. If that weren’t enough, SS Jahleel Addae is also questionable. The back end of the Texans will be vulnerable to some big passing plays from the Bills. As for the offense, the usual suspects appear on the injury report. Both WR’s Kenny Stills and Will Fuller are questionable alongside LT Laremy Tunsil.

As for the road team Bills, the only injuries worth monitoring are WR/KR/PR Andre Roberts, LB Shaq Lawson, and CB Levi Wallace. All of the aforementioned players have been limited at practice, but I suspect they all play.

Texans Offense vs. Bills Defense

Deshaun Watson is one of the premier talents in the NFL, let alone the AFC Wild Card. He may be without Will Fuller which causes all sorts of problems for this offense. When Fuller misses action, opposing teams key on DeAndre Hopkins by double-teaming him out of the gameplan.

Having rest their starters last week, both teams disappointed during Week 17. But, even with the starters in tow, I suspect the Texans to continue to struggle. The Bills have the 3rd best defense in all of football in terms of yards allowed. The Texans will have to throw and if they’re missing Fuller, the Bills will prevent them from moving down the field. Having allowed less than 17 points per game, the Bills defense is shutting down everyone. I feel that the Texans will need to get Carlos Hyde going and control the tempo in this Wild Card game. The Bills allow 103 yards per game on the ground and 1,000+ yard rusher Hyde needs to be a focal point. That is of course, he can hold onto the ball when facing this stingy Bill defense.

Bills Offense vs. Texans Defense

The Texans defense is one of the worst in the NFL and Bill are going to try to take advantage. Josh Allen has a cannon for an arm, but that often leads to inaccurate throws. This offense can be summarized by saying John Brown runs the deep routes, Cole Beasley attacks underneath, and Devin Singletary carries the ball with a sprinkle of Frank Gore. They’re not the most efficient offense, 24th overall in terms of yards, but the poor Texans defense makes them equals in this facet.

The return of J.J. Watt will work wonders for the Texans D, but he’s not going to be at 100% out there. I can see them utilizing Watt on 3rd downs in order to prevent Allen from using his legs to pick up first downs. Arguably the biggest factor in this game is going to be the recklessness of Allen. If his inaccuracy as a QB doesn’t harm the Bills, his aggressive running style may lead to some turnovers of their own.

Predictions

Bills: 21

Texans: 17

Guaranteed Touchdown Scorer: DeAndre Hopkins

Dart Throw Touchdown Scorer: Jordan Akins

Best Fantasy QB: Josh Allen, I’m going to go out on a limb and say his rushing ability puts him over the edge here.

Better Fantasy RB: Carlos Hyde, I think inefficiency will keep Singletary out of this spot.

Better Fantasy WR: DeAndre Hopkins, give me the best player on the field.

Best Fantasy TE: Jordan Akins, someone else will have to step up and Akins seems like a likely target.

Better Fantasy D/ST: Bills, IF Fuller sits this game out. If Fuller is full-go, give me the Texans D/ST for the turnovers.

Conclusion

Who do you think wins today in this AFC Wild Card game? Depending on the winner of the other AFC Wild Card game, who plays the Ravens and Chiefs next week? Let me know in the comments below! Also, check out the shop and other content by clicking here.

-Mitchell Seefeldt

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