The year is 2020 and that means it is time for NFL postseason. Kicking off Wildcard Weekend are the (10-6) Buffalo Bills taking on the AFC South champion (10-6) Houston Texans (4:35 PM ET Saturday on ABC, ESPN).
Both teams will be looking for a big playoff victory after a history of missed postseasons and playoff shortcomings. For one of these teams, Saturday’s wildcard opener could be the start of a new positive chapter in franchise history. For the other, it will be back to the drawing board, another lost season in the books.
Let’s take a look at our first playoff preview and our picks for which team will advance to next week’s divisional round. Then we will conclude with our Buffalo Bills vs Houston Texans predictions.
Leaving the Past in the Past
It’s no secret. The Bills and the Texans have had their share of postseason heartbreak, both recent and in the past. I mean, who could forget when the Bills, led by Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, went to not one, not two, but four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s, only to lose every single one.
The four consecutive appearances set a record that has yet to be broken, for most Super Bowl appearances in a row. It was heartbreaking for the Bills and their fans as the losses truly put to test the saying: “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Following the 1993 Super Bowl loss, the last of the four, the Bills hung around the postseason picture up until 1999, where they lost in the wildcard round. Flash forward to 2017, where the Bills lost in the first round yet again. It was the team’s first appearance in the playoffs in 18 years, following a drought that saw the Bills in either third or fourth place in the AFC East for much of that span. Now Buffalo enters the playoffs riding their best season record-wise since 1999, when they won 11 games. This is very good Bills team, one that came oh-so-close to dethroning the New England Patriots AFC East winning dynasty of the past decade and beyond.
Buffalo is looking for their first playoff win since 1995. The 23-year drought is the third longest in the NFL. They will need to beat an equally tough Texans team looking to end their own postseason winning drought.
A relatively young franchise, the Texans first joined the NFL in 2002 as an expansion team. In the ensuing 18 seasons, Houston has reached the playoffs five times, all of which came in the last decade. For all of those appearances, the Texans have never made it out of the divisional round, with their last playoff victory coming three years ago. Under current head coach Bill O’Brien, Houston is just 1-3.
While the Texans have emerged as a powerhouse in their division, the lack of playoff wins and statement moments must certainly be wearing on the team and its fans. For the Texans, the next step is becoming a playoff threat not just a regular guest who drops by but is gone before week two.
Of the current postseason field there are actually four of the eight teams who have yet to win the Super Bowl. Two of those teams are playing in Saturday’s opener. While a win on Saturday does not guarantee a Lombardi Trophy for either the Bills or Texans, it puts them one step closer to fulfilling a destiny.
X-Factor: Can DeAndre Hopkins Score on Tre’Davious White?
Eighty four, that’s the amount of times that Bills’ cornerback Tre’Davious White has been targeted this season. Zero, that’s the amount of touchdowns White has surrendered from his position. The 24-year-old White finished the season as one of the best at his position. He forced two fumbles, deflected 17 passes and finished tied for first in interceptions. He didn’t allow a single receiver to score a touchdown.
White has faced some big names in the midst of this streak but he hasn’t faced anyone as prolific as Texans’ elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who finished the year with the third most receptions in the NFL at 104. The 27-year-old Hopkins also totaled over 1,100 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Now in his seventh season in the NFL, Hopkins has scored 54 touchdowns, over 8,600 yards and caught over 630 passes. He is one of the best in the NFL so what happens when the proverbial rubber meets the road? What happens when the irresistible force meets the unmovable object?
History tells us that come the playoffs, the advantage goes to the defender as not to beleaguer this point, as this probably won’t be the first time this postseason it’s said, but defense wins championships. That doesn’t discount high-scoring games or exceptional offenses. It is just to say, defensive plays are normally what makes the difference. Brandon Graham’s strip sack of Tom Brady led to the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl in 2017-18. Malcolm Butler’s goal line interception of Russell Wilson led the Patriots over the Seattle Seahawks in 2014-15. The list goes on.
On Saturday, Hopkins will get his. He is too good not to. Does that mean he’ll get in the end zone? I’d say there’s a good chance of that, especially if his across the field partner Will Fuller V can do enough to prevent the double team. Defense wins championships so don’t be surprised if this game is decided by a White interception of Houston QB DeShaun Watson while looking for Hopkins in the end zone.
Our Preview’s Buffalo Bills vs Houston Texans Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
Its Josh Allen vs DeShaun Watson as two young quarterbacks look to cement themselves as franchise leaders and to pick up a victory that could propel them to greater status in the AFC. At home, the Texans are 2.5-point favorites with the top-rated betting sites for US players but it’s hard not to like the Bills in this one.
- With Allen leading the way and the team’s defense which is among the best in the NFL, this preview likes the Bills and the points as the first of our picks. Bet Buffalo +2.5pts @ +100 (evens) with Intertops, 5Dimes or BetOnline sportsbooks.
- Expect a low scoring affair that falls under the projected 43.5 total points @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes or Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.