The previous time the Buffalo Bills were in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs, they didn't belong. And they knew it. This time, they belong. And they know it. The team has shown it is talented enough to handle itself well on the big stage. Josh Allen making his playoff debut is a slight concern, especially given his admission of "pregame jitters" before facing the New England Patriots last month. However, he and the rest of the Bills' passing game should have their way with a weak Houston Texans defense. The Bills' defense should live up to its top-five status and be able to keep Deshaun Watson and his explosive supporting cast in check. Bills, 23-17.
The Bills ended the regular season playing six consecutive games against defenses that ranked in the top 12 in the league. Their last four games were against teams that finished in the top seven. The Texans aren't close to being on the same level. Josh Allen and Co. have an opportunity to get right against a defense that is the worst in the league in the red zone, allowing touchdowns 71.43% of the time. If the Bills turn those red-zone trips into touchdowns, they should quiet the home crowd and make the Texans' offense one-dimensional. That's when Buffalo's defense is at its best. Bills, 24-20.
You have to think the Texans will gang up on the run. If Josh Allen can move the chains early with some passing, then Devin Singletary will find running room against this defense. Can the Texans execute a ton of man coverage against the Bills, like the Baltimore Ravens and Patriots did? I don't think so. That bodes well for the Bills. The Bills’ defense has held 13 of 16 foes to 21 points or fewer. But Deshaun Watson will make some plays, and the Buffalo offense will need to carry its weight. It will go down to the wire. Don't put money on this game. Bills, 24-23.
The Texans’ defense is bad. Like, bottom-five bad in total yards allowed (28th), nearly as terrible against the rush (25th) as it is against the pass (29th). The Bills will have opportunities to put up at least three touchdowns. But there’s no simulating a playoff atmosphere, so we’ll see what Josh Allen can do in a pressure cooker. The Bills need to find the end zone, rather than settling for short field goals, and protect the football to win this game. Buffalo's defense should give them that chance. Houston’s offense can be explosive, but DeAndre Hopkins’ impact is going to be limited by Tre’Davious White. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer will prevent the speedy Will Fuller, if he returns from injury, from burning them deep. And the rangy Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano will help keep Deshaun Watson’s scrambling in check. Bills 23-20.
The matchup of a pair of run-of-the-mill offenses makes this a tough pick. But one thing that's shined all season for the Bills is their accomplished defense, which has shined in significant situations. The Bills’ pass defense, in particular, should stand out, even against Houston’s diverse passing game, highlighted by Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Despite J.J. Watt’s return to the Texans' defense, the Bills have to maximize their run game against a defense that’s given up an average of 388.3 yards per game – fifth-highest in the NFL. Bills, 21-17.