GAME PREDICTIONS

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NFL analysts' game predictions | Bills at Texans on Wild Card Weekend

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What to watch for: Which quarterback will have success running the ball? The Bills' Josh Allen (third) and the Texans' Deshaun Watson (fourth) were among the top QBs in rushing yards this season. But according to research from ESPN Stats & Information, the Texans have allowed the second-most yards per rush to opposing quarterbacks this season (5.6), while the Bills allowed the fewest (2.8). -- Sarah Barshop

Bold prediction: Allen has yet to throw for 300 yards in his career; he will again fall short of that mark but will manage to complete two passes of 40 or more yards against a vulnerable Texans secondary. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Louis-Jacques' pick:Bills 17, Texans 7

Barshop's pick: Texans 20, Bills 17

In a nutshell: Both teams feature highly touted young quarterbacks with remarkable talent, while both franchises are looking to get monkeys off their backs. The Bills haven't won a playoff game this century, while the Texans have been embarrassed in two of their three home playoff games under the tutelage of head coach Bill O'Brien. ...

Houston's only playoff win under O'Brien came against a 2016 Oakland Raiders team that was without starting quarterback Derek Carr. In playoff games against opponents who actually had their starting quarterbacks the last five years, they're 0-3 with an average margin of defeat of 28-8.

That includes 21-7 dud against the Indianapolis Colts in Houston last January.

Even with Allen making his playoff debut, and even with Watt returning and Fuller potentially back, none of our experts are willing to lay a field goal with the untrustworthy Texans.

"The Bills lost three of their last four regular-season games," Sobleski said, "while the Texans won four of their last six. So, why would anyone think the Bills will go into Houston and claim a victory? Matchups. The Bills' aggressive defense gives them an advantage over the Texans' weak front. Plus, cornerback Tre'Davious White can shadow DeAndre Hopkins. On the flip side, Houston is terrible against the run, while Buffalo owns the league's eighth-ranked ground game."

... Put it all together, and we're picking Buffalo to cover in a really tricky game between two enigmatic squads.

Picks:

Davenport: Texans 23, Bills 20

Gagnon: Texans 21, Bills 20

Sobleski: Bills 23, Texans 17

Consensus: Buffalo (+3)

Charles: Bills

I'm nervous. I can't believe I'm about to back Josh Allen on the road in a playoff game, but here we are. But I can't shake the fact that the Texans defense just isn't good and that Buffalo's secondary with Tre'Davious White can clamp down on DeAndre Hopkins, the most dangerous weapon Houston has.

Steven: Texans

The quarterback factor is too big for me to ignore. I know Deshaun Watson has been inconsistent — and kind of bad recently — but if you're going to back one of these guys, it's him. The Texans defense is awful, but playing at home should give it a boost. I see this one ending with a 23-16 score.

The Bills have been one of the surprise teams this season, but they have the defense to back up being in this spot. Deshaun Watson will challenge them in a big way, but I think they will be up for it. Josh Allen will be playing his first playoff game, but the Texans defense has major issues lately – even if J.J. Watt is back. Look for Allen to play well and the Bills to move on behind the defense. Upset special. 

Pick: Bills 20, Texans 17

Houston's division title and appearance in the playoffs overstates how well it did this season. According to Football Outsiders, the Texans were the 19th most efficient team of 2019 after adjusting for strength of schedule. Their defense ranked 26th, a poor showing compared with the rest of the postseason field. The next-worst defensive ranking by one of this year's playoff teams: the Seattle Seahawks, at No. 18.

Pick: Bills +2½

Another Saturday afternoon wild-card home game for the Texans, another tough matchup. Despite the often brilliant play of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston is an average offensive team, which is bad news against the league's second best scoring defense and third best unit in terms of yards allowed. Without much of a threat from the Texans' running game, the Bills' stingy pass defense can focus on taking Hopkins out of the game.

On the other side of the ball, the relative struggles of the Bills' offense this year likely won't be a factor against a Texans defense that gave up 388.3 yards per game in the regular season. Houston will have no answers for the speed of John Brown or the quickness of Cole Beasley, and Buffalo will get plenty from Devin Singletary and Frank Gore on the ground to run through Houston and into Baltimore for the divisional round.

Pick: Bills 24, Texans 17

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