Sunday Morning Six-Pack: The Bills Can Beat the Texans If ...

Bucky Gleason

Last week, trade rumors involving LeSean McCoy were rampant after the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly reached out to the Buffalo Bills about the possibility of the running back returning to the team that drafted him. For now, McCoy remains with the Bills.

The Eagles had enough to worry about with their game against the Giants on Thursday night, which they won, and weren't demanding overnight delivery. The Bills weren’t in a hurry to trade McCoy after he helped them to a 13-12 victory over the Titans.

Both teams let their discussion marinate for a few days, giving them time to contemplation and evaluation if not a hint of procrastination.

Lost in the trade speculation – did the Eagles actually want him, would the Bills ship him back to Philly? – was this: The Bills would improve to 3-3 with a win Sunday in Houston and remain in playoff contention six games into the season.

The Texans were a 10-point favorite, which tells you what Las Vegas oddsmakers think of the Bills. Evidently, even the experts have been slow to embrace Buffalo’s defense. But the Bills can prove them wrong again and beat Houston on Sunday if …

OFFENSE

Hit 300. The Bills have yet to produce 300 totals yards in any game this season. They were held to less than 200 yards twice, both in losses, and had fewer than 90 yards passing three times. Ten teams, including Houston, are averaging more than 400 total yards per game. Buffalo is ranked 31st in yards per game at 221.2. More shocking than the Bills averaging 67 yards per game less than the 30th-ranked Miami was that another team, Arizona, is worse. With the way the NFL is geared toward offenses, producing 300 yards is not a big ask.

UPDATE: The Bills had 229 total yards, including 129 yards from their quarterbacks. Sad but true, their output Sunday will actually boost their average.

Strike run-pass balance. Buffalo turned back the clocks 40 years in its win over Tennessee last week. The Bills’ ran the ball well, particularly in the fourth quarter, and prevented the Titans from doing the same. Buffalo still needs to adhere to the running game, which would help neutralize Houston pass-rushing savages Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. Still, rookie Josh Allen needs keep defenses honest in the passing game. If they get 200 yards passing from him and 100 yards rushing combined from McCoy and Chris Ivory, the Bills will have a chance.

UPDATE: The Bills passed the ball 29 times and ran 27. That's the good news. The bad news is they weren't effective at either. The Bills averaged only 4 yards per play.

Hitting a home run. Allen has been blessed with a rocket launcher for an arm. He has the longest completion in the air this season in the NFL at 63.9 yards, according to Next Gen Stats, on the 57-yard completion he threw to Zay Jones that the receiver nearly dropped. His only other completion longer than 40 yards was a 55-yard catch and run to Chris Ivory. Houston has allowed one rushing TD this season. Allen and his talent-thin receivers would do the Bills a great service, and work wonders in striking the run-pass balance, if they connected on a long touchdown pass against a vulnerable Houston secondary.

UPDATE: Allen was swinging for the fences on a deep pass to Kelvin Benjamin that landed about 15 yards foul. His longest pass was 39 yards to Benjamin. Take that one away, and the QBs averaged 3.2 yards on 28 attempts.

DEFENSE

Bend but don’t break. The Bills have allowed only three touchdowns in the past 14 quarters. You know how the offense has failed to reach 300 yards this season? The Bills have held their opponents to fewer than 300 yards twice, in both wins. In Buffalo’s three losses, their opponents have averaged 380 yards per game. Do the math. The Texans are fourth in yards per game at 423.4, but they’re 18th in points per game (23). Deshaun Watson was averaging 324 yards per game passing, seventh-most, but his eight touchdown passes are in the middle of the pack. The Bills need to keep the Texans out of the end zone.

UPDATE: The Bills' defense was fantastic all afternoon and limited the Texans to 216 total yards. Buffalo forced a field goal after Houston had first-and-goal from the 1 late in the game. It didn't break. Nathan Peterman did.

Contain DeAndre Hopkins. It’s yet another big matchup for Tre’Davious White, the Bills’ best defensive player and perhaps their best player, period. He controlled Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams and Corey Davis this season. Hopkins is better than all three. He leads the NFL with 594 yards receiving in five games. He’s had 150-plus in each of the past two weeks. Last year, he led the NFL with 13 touchdown catches. If he gets loose, it’s over. If White keeps him in check, he’ll all but punch his ticket to the Pro Bowl.

UPDATE: Hopkins had five catches for 63 yards, his lowest output of the season in both categories. He had one touchdown on a great catch was mostly help in check. White is a Pro Bowl player.

Exploit the Texans’ weak offensive line. Watson has been suffering from a bruise chest but is expected to play. He’s dangerous when rolling away from pressure and having the option to pass or run. He’s the Texans’ second-leading rusher with 201 yards in five games, which would be enough to lead the Bills, in part because he’s running for his life. He has been hit eight times in the past two weeks while on the run, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He has been hit 55 times this season, including 18 sacks. The Bills have a solid defensive line and can limit his effectiveness if they keep him on the pocket and get their hands on him.

UPDATE: The Bills sacked Watson seven times and forced three turnovers. He threw for 177 yards and ran for 2 yards. It's a winning formula, but it wasn't enough to win Sunday.

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