Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills as they begin full-scale preparations for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans at Ralph Wilson Stadium:
1. It's easy to assume that the Bills just might be something less than fully focused on this game. After all, they viewed last Sunday's clash with the Kansas City Chiefs as being "playoff-like," which it was. The winner clearly would enhance its chances of receiving a wild-card berth. The loser? Not so much. And after the crushing disappointment of their 30-22 loss, the Bills could very well be challenged to find all of the motivation needed to push themselves to overcome fairly steep odds to keep their season alive beyond the end of the schedule. As upset as many players were in the immediate aftermath of the game, it wouldn't be a shock if those feelings lingered and became a potential distraction -- especially with so many lingering injuries.
2. The many injuries on the Bills' defense, and its overall inability to get off the field, would figure to place greater pressure on their offense. But can it respond? The Kansas City game raised more questions than it answered about whether the Bills can move the ball well enough and generate enough points to make up for shortcomings on the other side of the ball. Yes, Tyrod Taylor had an impressive first half, connecting with Sammy Watkins six times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. But all of that stopped through the final two quarters, with Taylor and offensive coordinator Greg Roman responding to extra coverage on Watkins by targeting him only once and failing to get a him another catch. Now, the Bills face the NFL's sixth-ranked defense and third-best unit against the pass. Oh, and by the way, they'll have to figure out how to contain J.J. Watt, who is fast-tracking toward another defensive-player-of-the-year award. Remember, he was the one who almost single-handedly beat the Bills at Houston last season.
3. Brian Hoyer might not be Tom Brady. He might not even be Alex Smith. But the quarterback whom the Texans already benched once this season is capable of being dangerous as a thrower ... and throwing on the move. He's especially capable of making big plays with the constant targeting the Texans do with one of the NFL's most dynamic receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, who ranks fourth in the league with 81 receptions for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns. It would probably be a good idea for the Bills to have a similar kind of game against Hoyer that they had last year at The Ralph when he was quarterbacking the Cleveland Browns. In the Bills' 26-10 victory that day, they sacked him twice, hit him six times, and intercepted him twice. That led to Hoyer being benched in favor of Johnny Manziel. Of course, after following up a blitz-happy approach against Brady with a far more passive one against Smith, predicting what the Bills' defensive front will do from one game to the next is anyone's guess.