1. ESPN's reason for hope for a Bills Super Bowl appearance
ESPN broke down what all 12 teams must do in order to reach the Super Bowl in Miami. Here' what was written about the Bills:
Reason for hope: If you're in the "defense wins championships" crowd, you probably consider the Bills a legitimate contender. They entered Week 17 ranked No. 5 in defensive DVOA and No. 2 in points allowed. They have an active front, multiple playmakers in the back end and make opponents work for everything. This is a team built to stifle opponents and hope that the offense can find a way to score enough to win.
X factor: Safety Micah Hyde. Of all the Bills' defensive playmakers, Hyde might be the most versatile and perhaps the one most likely to make a surprising, game-changing play. He is a strong tackler, has some burst as a blitzer and always finds a way to get near the ball.
2. Bleacher Report gives the Bills this final grade for the regular season
Buffalo earned an A- as its final regular season grade from Bleacher Report.
Cornerback Tre'Davious White earned a well-deserved Pro Bowl invite, logging six interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has emerged as the team's sack leader (9.5). Rookie first-rounder Ed Oliver flashed potential with 39 tackles, four for loss and five sacks entering Sunday.
Buffalo battled the New England down the stretch in both matchups. Despite the two losses, the Bills proved they can hang with the defending Super Bowl champions.
Few people will pick the Bills to win a playoff game, but their defense will keep them in most contests.
Season Grade: A-
Bleacher Report also predicted the Bills to beat the Texans and secure their first playoff win since 1995.
Look for the Bills to beat the Texans with primitive, physical football for their first playoff win since Jim Kelly, Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas were still around in 1995.
3. Pro Football Focus offers this reason for why the Bills can win it all
Pro Football Focus writers Eric Eager and George Chahrouri offer their reasons why each of the 12 playoff teams can win the Super Bowl. Here's what they had to say about the Bills:
The reason they win: The organization
In the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have built a team in a very intelligent way. In addition to stockpiling the offense withJohn Brown,Cole Beasley,Mitch Morseand Ty Nsekhe, their defense is a top-five unit in terms of yards per play allowed overall and a top-three unit against the pass, despite having a pass-rush unit that ranks only 14th in our grades.Micah HydeandJordan Poyerhave generated more wins above replacement than all but five safety duos in the NFL, whileTre'Davious Whitehas been worth almost half a win himself. Against the Houston Texans, it will be important for every player in their secondary to perform, as the Texans are a top-six group in terms of generating value from the wide receiver position and have a generational talent at the quarterback position in Deshaun Watson. While defense doesn't really win championships anymore, it can win games, and that's why we are giving the Bills a decent shot to win (37.8%) and advance to the Divisional Round.
4. John Clayton calls Bills-Texans the best matchup of Wild Card weekend
John Clayton broke down eight big questions for the first round of the NFL playoffs for The Washington Post. Within it he predicts the Bills and Texans to have the best matchup.
That's easily the Saturday afternoon game between the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans. The Texans are an unpredictable team. They can play great at times, but then they'll get blown out by 34 points against the Baltimore Ravens or lose by 14 to the Denver Broncos.
The best individual matchup of the first round is also in this game: Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins going against Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White.
Clayton broke down what will end up deciding the Houston-Buffalo game.
If the Bills can keep Watson in the pocket, they have a chance at the upset. That's what the Ravens did, and they blew out the Texans. Watson is about as good as it gets outside the pocket. Buffalo's best chance is to win a close game.
5. Anonymous execs and coaches weigh in on the Buffalo-Houston matchup
From The Athletic Mike Sando previewed the wild-card matchups through the eyes of different NFL coaches and executives.
"McDermott is going to devour that late September tape of Carolina vs. Houston," a defensive coach said. "If McDermott can catch Coach Rivera in between his head coach interviews, he is going to have a nice conversation with him about how they defended Houston. That will be a hidden advantage to Buffalo."
"It is all about whether Josh Allen turns the ball over," an offensive play caller said. "The Bills' defense is one of the best. McDermott is doing about as good a job as you can ask. He is really tough to go against. He has a good variety of stuff, but it's not too much. Getting 49 (Tremaine Edmunds) has made a big difference, the two safeties are good, they've got a shutdown corner (Tre'Davious White), they've got team speed, most of their guys have been together three years. They have enough pieces to make it difficult."
"Buffalo can get pressure, they are a disciplined defense and they have some guys that can run," a head coach said. "They will put the corner (White) on Houston's receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) and that will be a good matchup. He will not catch a lot of balls. It will come down to if the other receiver, who is not bad, (Will) Fuller, can win his matchups."
6. NBC Sports' Peter King previews Saturday's matchup
NBC Sports' Peter King previewed every game for Wild Card weekend in his weekly Football Morning in America column.
Houston has made the playoffs six times in its 18-year history. This will be the sixth time the Texans have played the postseason-opening 3:35 p.m. CT Saturday game in Houston. The Texans have hope that J.J. Watt could return from a torn pectoral to buttress a defensive front that's had trouble stopping big-armed quarterbacks like Buffalo's Josh Allen—Houston's given up 33 touchdown passes—and stopping running games of all sorts. The Texans are surrendering 4.8 yards per rush, which bodes well for Devin Singletary of the Bills. He's basically sidelined Frank Gore in the past month or so with his versatility, running inside with power and outside with the ability to make defenders miss. Buffalo will need to pen in Deshaun Watson and pressure him to throw quick, so he can't win this game with his legs. If Houston gets back the oft-injured Will Fuller (groin), he likely won't be full-speed, and that will hurt their chances because it puts more pressure on DeAndre Hopkins. The key to the game might be Buffalo wideout John Brown, who's become a legitimate deep threat for Josh Allen and will certainly challenge the beatable Houston secondary.