Texans Players To Watch: Bills Edition
The Buffalo Bills battle the Houston Texans this Sunday at Reliant Stadium in what will be the first homecoming for former Texans’ first round pick Mario Williams. The 6-1 Texans are coming off a big win versus AFC rival Baltimore Ravens while the 3-4 Bills are looking to rebound after a 35-34 loss to the Titans. Both teams are coming off bye weeks and should be well rested. However, Mario Williams had surgery on his wrist during his time off but vows to play this Sunday. So far, Williams has 3.5 sacks and 16 tackles on a defense that is a disappointing 31st in the league in yards allowed, giving up 424 per game.
Most notably, the Bills’ defense has allowed 5.8 yards per rush between the tackles with an average of 4.1 yards coming before first contact – both worst in the NFL. The Bills have also allowed league highs in touchdowns (10) and 20-yard gains (10) between the tackles this year. How does this affect Sunday’s game? Nearly 75% of the Texans’ rushes have been between the tackles mid way through the 2012 season. What was deemed the Bills strength heading into this year, is now their glaring weakness.
Offensively, the Bills have rushed for an impressive 150.3 yards per game and 5.3 yards per attempt, using both running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. This game will be a battle of the trenches. I would imagine Bills’ coach Chan Gailey will attempt to run the ball between the tackles with the physical Fred Jackson and sweeps and off tackle plays with the quicker C.J. Spiller. When the Bills attempt to pass, they have developed a pattern of throwing short to intermediate passes. Rarely do they throw it deep.
The Texans have rushed 5 or more defenders 46.7 percent of the time when opposing quarterbacks drop back to pass, highest in the NFL. However, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to be sacked by such pressure but has thrown 9 interceptions against four or fewer rushers, most in the NFL.
Texans to Watch: Defense
If the Bills’ game plan is to control the clock and run the ball, look for the front seven to stop Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The OLBs Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed will need to set the edge and not allow Spiller to run wild, while ILBs Bradie James and Tim Dobbins will need to shed the blockers and make the tackles on Jackson at or near the line of scrimmage. The key this week will be for each defensive lineman to win his one on one battle and get up field quickly.
It will be interesting to see how Wade Phillips game plans for the Bills. For most weeks, the first plan is to stop the run then aggressively blitz the quarterback on passing downs. But will Phillips blitz Fitzpatrick or simply let the front 4 rush and play conservative with more short and intermediate zone pass protection? I’m hoping the Texans stick with what has worked and don’t try to overcoach.
Texans to Watch: Offense
The Texans’ offense will look to get into a rhythm early by running the ball. After two weeks off, I don’t suspect Kubiak will come out throwing with various timing pass plays. This week will most likely feature Arian Foster and Justin Forsett while Ben Tate nurses a hamstring injury. Foster and Forsett will be called upon to get the Texans’ offense on track for the second half of the season. The Texans will want to control the clock offensively and keep their defense fresh. The Bills are giving up a whopping 177 yards on the ground and this plays into the Texans’ strengths.
The Texans are favored by 10 points but I predict a closer game. The Bills are in a virtual must win in a deadlock AFC East division while the Texans are trying to regain the momentum they had before the bye. Will the Texans come out focused and ready to play or will the bye week prove to have come at the wrong time?