3 KEY MATCHUPS
1. Cole Beasley vs. Vernon Hargreaves
Buffalo's slot receiver comes into the Wild Card game hot off a seven-catch, 108-yard performance against New England. Hargreaves has six games under his belt since he was acquired by Houston. This will be a battle of short area quickness.
2. Cody Ford vs. J.J. Watt
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is expected to play as the team activated him off injured reserve from a torn pectoral muscle. How effective Watt will be remains to be seen (see below). Ford will rotate with veteran Ty Nsekhe if he's healthy enough to play (ankle).
3. Tre'Davious White vs. DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins had five receptions for 63 yards and a perfectly executed back-shoulder touchdown the last time White and Hopkins squared off. And it will take air tight execution if Watson and Hopkins are going to beat White again as he's playing the best ball of his career.
2 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE OPPONENT
J.J. Watt trending toward being available, Will Fuller a question mark
A week ago it was uncertain whether DL J.J. Watt or WR Will Fuller would be healthy enough to play in Houston's Wild Card game against Buffalo. Both players were participating in practice this week albeit on a limited basis and while Watt is expected to return from a torn pectoral muscle, Fuller is struggling to come back from a groin injury.
Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said this week that Watt would be used situationally to begin the game on third downs and in two-minute. If he fares well and is feeling good his playing time is expected to be increased.
Fuller however, will be a game time decision. Knowing his injury was originally given a three-week prognosis, he could very well be held out of Saturday's game.
Texans are slow starters on offense
Buffalo's offense hasn't been any better but getting off to fast starts has proven elusive for Houston's offense this season. Their 47 total first quarter points ranks 28th in the league as they've managed just four touchdowns in the opening stanza. There were eight games this season in which the Texans went scoreless in the first quarter.
1 THING THAT COULD DECIDE THE GAME
Buffalo's ground attack
Buffalo's eighth-ranked rushing attack now runs through rookie Devin Singletary. The slippery and elusive back is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and a lot of those yards came against top 10 defenses. If Singletary can deliver competent balance to Buffalo's offense against Houston's 25th ranked run defense it could push the Bills over the 20-point threshold.
And when the Bills score 20 points or more, they're 7-0 this season.
--The Texans red zone defense is poor. So poor in fact that it ranks last in the NFL. Houston is surrendering touchdowns once teams crack their red zone at a rate of better than 71 percent. Even their overall red zone scoring percentage allowed is the highest in the league at just under 94 percent (93.9).
--Kenny Stills was acquired via trade from Miami in October in the deal that also landed the Texans LT Laremy Tunsil. The receiver has been a thorn in the side of the Bills whenever he's faced them. In the five games in which he's recorded statistics against Buffalo, Stills has 18 receptions for 375 yards (20.8 avg.) and five touchdowns. In that five-game collection Stills has two 100-yard receiving games and found the end zone in all but one of them.
--If there is one area where Houston excels its with its coverage units on special teams. Veteran special teams coach Brad Seely has his punt and kickoff coverage teams humming. The Texans rank first in the league in punt coverage, allowing opposing returners a miniscule 3.4 yards per return. Punter Bryan Anger has also helped forcing 19 fair catches on 24 possible returns.
And Houston's kick coverage unit ranks second in the league allowing just under 18 yards a return.
--A hidden red zone threat for the Texans offense is TE Darren Fells. The veteran is tied with DeAndre Hopkins for the team lead with seven receiving touchdowns. Even more remarkable is the fact that Fells has seven TDs on just 34 total receptions this season. All seven of those scores have come in the red zone.
--Houston's defensive MVP is clearly Zach Cunningham. The linebacker makes plays all over the field as evidence by his team-leading 137 tackles. He can run and hit. He can cover in the pass game and he can make plays in the offensive backfield as he ranks second on the Texans in tackles for loss. Buffalo's offensive linemen must reach him at the second level if they want to have success in the run game.