Six Points: Texans vs. Bills
After winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, the Buffalo Bills have dropped their last two and are sitting at 5-6. They remain one game out of a playoff spot, but a matchup with the streaking Houston Texans looms large.
J.J. Watt has been a dominant force over the past four games, sparking the Texans' win streak. They're now in the midst of the AFC playoff picture and have a real chance at unseating the Indianapolis Colts atop the division.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Texans and the Bills.
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1. Double cover Sammy Watkins
The Texans' defense has given up just two touchdowns over the last 18 quarters, but Watkins is capable of putting a major dent in that streak. The Bills' star receiver is coming off a monster game against the Chiefs in which he caught six passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Having a safety offer help over the top on Watkins would be a wise idea.
2. Continue to incorporate the tight ends
With the Saints focusing their attention on DeAndre Hopkins last week, the Texans wisely chose to feature their underutilized tight ends in the offense. Ryan Griffin caught four passes for a team-high 72 yards and touchdown, while C.J. Fiedorowicz caught two passes for 20 yards. Griffin offers Brian Hoyer a reliable option when defenses key on Hopkins. He and Fiedorowicz deserve more targets against the Bills.
3. Reward the revitalized running game
After failing to generate a running game for most of the season, the Texans have run for a total of 290 yards the last two weeks, including 167 against New Orleans last week. Houston has experimented using wide receiver Cecil Shorts and running back Jonathan Grimes in the Wildcat formation as a supplement to starter Alfred Blue and should continue to invest in the running game with more carries. Not only does it provide defenses another wrinkle to prepare for, its success the last two weeks has helped open up the offense.
1. Chip J.J. Watt at the line of scrimmage
J.J. Watt has played a huge role in the Texans' resurgence of late, recording 7 1/2 sacks during the team's four-game win streak. There's not much an offense can do to stop him, but slowing him down is possible. The Bills need to chip Watt at the line of scrimmage using tight ends and running backs, slowing down his pass rush and not allowing him to get a full head of steam. Limiting Watt's production will be a big factor in this one.
2. Attack the Texans defense on the ground
Throwing against the Texans isn't easy as they boast the league's third-best pass defense, allowing just 219.6 yards per game through the air. While the Bills do have Sammy Watkins, he's been wildly inconsistent and can't be trusted to win on a play-by-play basis. Establishing the run with LeSean McCoy will set up the play action and give Tyrod Taylor bigger windows to throw into. Their 16th ranked run defense is far more pedestrian, and is an area that the Bills can attack.
3. Make Brian Hoyer uncomfortable with pressure up front
Inexplicably, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus dropped into coverage on both of Alex Smith's touchdowns last week. Dropping pass rushers into coverage has been a common trend for the Bills this season, and it has to stop. Though Mario Williams may sit this one out, the Bills can still get pressure up the middle with Dareus, forcing Brian Hoyer to make throws on the run. Dareus is the Bills' best defensive lineman and can have a big impact on this game.