Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans Preview, Matchups and Keys to Game

This Sunday, the Buffalo Bills travel to Texas to face off with the Houston Texans in a battle between two teams with winning records. It will be the first time the Bills have seen Ryan Fitzpatrick, since the team released him last offseason. The Bills are coming off of an ugly loss to the San Diego Chargers, so they’ll need to show up to play in all three phases of the game if they hope to “right the ship” for the course of the season.

Here at BillsMafia.com, I broke down several player matchups, keys to the game and players to watch during the game.

Bills OL Vs. Texans DL J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the National Football League. The 6’6” 285-pound interior defensive lineman has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks for the better part of the last 3 ½ seasons. Watt lines up primarily at the five or seven-technique defensive end positions on the left side, and the one-technique defensive tackle position on the right side in nickel fronts.

Watt’s combination of strength, length, explosion, technique and power is unrivaled by any other defensive lineman right now, and he’ll be a player that EJ Manuel needs to account for on every offensive snap.
Bills WR Sammy Watkins Vs. Texans CB Jonathan Joseph Sammy Watkins had a poor outing against the Chargers last week that led to some speculation regarding the rib injury that he’s dealing with. Aainst San Diego, Watkins didn’t look as aggressive or physical as he did against the Dolphins just a week prior. This week, he’ll primarily line up across from Texans’ veteran cornerback, Jonathan Joseph. Joseph has allowed 14 receptions on 17 targets for 140 yards this season, but he’s ranked as ProFootballFocus’ No. 4 corner, due to his ability to limit big plays and yards-after-the-catch. Joseph plays a lot of off-man coverage, which should work in favor for Watkins, who makes his money on underneath routes.

When The Bills Have The Ball

Look for J.J. Watt. Slide protection to him. Run away. Really, though, the Texans have some solid pieces on defense, but outside of Watt, there’s a lot to be desired. Watt is an elite player that can single-handedly ruin offensive attacks, so it’s crucial that the scheme is designed to allow him as little opportunities as possible.

The Bills’ interior offensive line has been pretty ugly throughout the team’s first three games, but with rookie Cyril Richardson expected to make his first start, the unit needs to get better in both run blocking and pass protection. EJ Manuel should be in shotgun all afternoon, utilizing draws and quick slants/screens/hitches to move the chains and limit the time Watt has to disrupt the game.

When the Texans Have the Ball

As Bills fans, we all know the book on Ryan Fitzpatrick: pressure him and force him to make difficult throws on the run, as he doesn’t have the arm strength to drive the ball with velocity. Arian Foster is questionable for Sunday’s game, which would be a boost for the Bills’ defense, but the cornerbacks will have a tough afternoon against Andre Johnson and the up-and-comer, Deandre Hopkins, a 2013 first round draft pick that was teammates with Sammy Watkins at Clemson.

Texans Sleeper to Watch: S D.J. Swearinger

D.J. Swearinger was one of my favorite draft prospects when he was coming out of South Carolina a year ago. He’s a physical, rangy, versatile safety that played with Stephon Gilmore early in his collegiate career. The Texans use him in the box as an extra linebacker on most nickel snaps, but he’s versatile and athletic enough to play deeper on the strong-side.