Weekend Look Ahead

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7 things to watch for in Bills at Texans | Wild Card weekend

Josh Allen (top right), JJ Watt (bottom right), Jordan Poyer (bottom left) and DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson (top left) will all play pivotal roles in Saturday playoff game.
Josh Allen (top right), JJ Watt (bottom right), Jordan Poyer (bottom left) and DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson (top left) will all play pivotal roles in Saturday playoff game.

It's Wild Card weekend and the Bills kick it off Saturday. Buffalo at Houston is the first of four games this weekend, with the four winners advancing to next week's divisional round playoff games.

Only 25 percent of the NFL is in action this weekend so that gives the eight teams involved in the wild card games plenty of exposure.

Here's what fans should watch for in the Bills-Texans matchup and the three other wild card playoff games:

1. BILLS NOT JUST HAPPY TO BE IN

Two years ago, their playoff ticket was a miracle, punched at the last minute by an amazing play made by Cincinnati.

This year, things are different. And expectations are higher for Buffalo with 10 wins on their resume and a playoff spot clinched two weeks ago. But should they be higher? NFL Network talent Kyle Brandt, co-host of Good Morning Football, talked about it this week on One Bills Live.

"Even If the Bills lose this weekend, is this a successful season for them?" Brandt asked. "My colleague, Peter Schrader, says if you lose on the road there's no shame in that. I almost came across the table at him."

Brandt continued. "A playoff win is what this season needs. Anything short of that is a big disappointment. Two years ago, they were one and done. That's fine. There was no shame in it."

"But you gotta win the game this weekend. The fact is, they didn't draw the Ravens, they didn't even draw the Patriots. This Texans team, under Bill O'Brien, is known for being pretty good. But it's a really beatable team. There's no home field advantage to speak of in Houston. I really think the Bills got a good draw. They should beat this team, and I think they will."

2. EVEN TEXANS OBSERVERS WONDER ABOUT THEIR CHANCES

Like Buffalo, the Houston Texans finished with 10 wins. Unlike Buffalo, they did it with some high-scoring games against high-profile opponents. Against mediocre teams, they were lacking.

It's a concern, according to longtime Texans and NFL writer John McClain.

"If they're going to win this game, they're going to have to score a lot of points with DeShaun Watson and the offense, which I'm not sure they can do. And Buffalo is number two in the NFL in points allowed," McClain told One Bills Live.

"They played better over the second half which is kind of amazing because their defense just wasn't very good. But when they went against the big-time quarterbacks they did well. They beat Brady, they beat Mahomes, and they won two games back-to-back on the road against Tennessee and Tampa Bay," he continued. "It's not like this has been a dominant playoff team, it's been just the opposite."

3. WHAT DOES "CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER" MEAN?

Bills players have been asked this week to change their focus slightly, from making the playoffs to winning a championship. Head coach Sean McDermott changed signs and slogans around the building to emphasize the new focus.

But what does "Championship Caliber" mean to the players?

"It's just a sense of urgency," according to veteran safety Jordan Poyer. "Championship caliber—this is the tournament right here. Everybody's got a shot. Everybody is 0-0 right now and it comes down to who plays the best football on that given day. It doesn't matter who it is. It's the tournament."

4. 24 IS THE KEY NUMBER

The Bills have averaged 16.2 points allowed per game this season. But if you're looking for a magic number on Saturday, it may be 24.

Bill Barnwell, ESPN NFL Analyst, points out that Buffalo has allowed 24 points or fewer in 15-of-their-16 games this year. No defense has done better since the Eagles went 16-for-16 back in 2001. And Barnwell points out over the last five years, teams that hold opponents below 25 points have won 74 percent of the time.

5. WATT IS IN, FULLER MAYBE NOT

The Texans have two lingering injuries to keep an eye on this weekend.  

It looks like the NFL's three-time Defensive Player of the Year will be ready. Head coach Bill O'Brien said Thursday that Watt has more than a cameo role to play.

"He'll be playing," O'Brien said. "He'll be in there quite a bit." Watt has been out since Halloween with a torn pectoral muscle.

They're not so sure about wide receiver Will Fuller, who's latest injury battle is with a groin strain. O'Brien said Thursday that Fuller will be a game-time decision. But NFL Network reporter James Palmer says he's been told my multiple sources that Fuller is a long shot to play.

Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice as they prepare for the Wild Card playoff game against the Houston Texans.

6. LEADERSHIP MOVING FORWARD

Sometime in the next month, the 2019 Bills season will end, and the team will face the reality of moving ahead without veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander

The 13-year NFL veteran has made clear his plans to retire, leaving the Bills without his leadership.

Appearing on One Bills Live this week, Alexander was asked if there's anyone on the horizon who could lead the team next season.

"Yeah, there is. There's a Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre'Davious White. If me and Kyle have left this organization and there's a hole, we haven't done our jobs properly," he responded.

"It won't be my voice, it won't be exactly me saying it, but I do have an impact on the leadership and the relationships I built with guys over the last four years," Alexander continued. "I've imparted my wisdom. Yeah, it won't be me but there will be somebody else stepping up and taking that leadership on. This team is filled with guys, offense, defense and special teams, that can really pick that mantle up from a leadership standpoint."

7. A SNAPSHOT OF THE OTHER WILD CARD MATCHUPS

If you care about Buffalo's place in pro football history, you'll root for Tennessee later Saturday. New England can tie the Bills record of four straight Super Bowl appearances this year. Tennessee plays at the Patriots Saturday at 8:15 pm.

On Sunday, in the NFC Wild Card games, Minnesota brings its 10 wins to New Orleans to play the Saints. Then it's 11-5 Seattle, having to go cross country, to play 9-7 Philadelphia Sunday late afternoon. The Eagles rallied with four straight wins to end their season and win the NFC East.

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