The Texans can go one step closer to a first ever Super Bowl with a win over the Bills in the Wildcard round, says Dave Gray.
"Watson is so important to this team and he will need to be at his brilliant best if the Texans are going to fulfil their ambitions and win a first Super Bowl."
Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans
Saturday, 21:35 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event
Watson will need that MVP form
The Texans host the Bills in what looks set to be a close game between two strong, but flawed teams. Both rested players in week 17 after their respective playoff spots were confirmed the week before. Both also lost those games but you can pretty much throw those games out.
Deshaun Watson had been carrying an injury towards the end of the season and a week of rest before facing the tough Bills defence will only have helped him. Until around a month ago Watson was very much in the conversation for MVP. Lamar Jackson pulled away from the field but it shows the level that Watson was performing at. He is so important to this team and he will need to be at his brilliant best if the Texans are going to fulfil their ambitions and win a first Super Bowl.
With the exception of DeAndre Hopkins, his receivers have been in and out of the line up all season. Will Fuller can be brilliant when he is on the field, but that is too rare. Keke Coutee and Kenny Stills are also good options but have their own injury issues. Hopkins is one of the very best players in the league but one of the other receivers could well be the difference between a deep run or an early exit for Houston.
Watson has thrown 26 touchdowns this season and added another five on the ground. Buffalo will make it tough for him but he will believe that this is the time for him to record the first playoff victory of his career
Allen is a real NFL quarterback
Josh Allen has really found his feet as an NFL quarterback this season. He has thrown for another 1000 more yards than his rookie season while completing an extra 6% of his passes. It isn't always pretty, but more often that not it is effective. He has a huge arm and incredible athleticism. If we were not in the Jackson era then he would maybe be seen as the best rushing quarterback in the league.
The team have done a great job of building a team around him. John Brown and Cole Beasley were not splashy free agent signings, but they have come in and clicked with Allen instantly. With the strength on the other side of the ball, the second year passer often needs to just protect the ball. With just nine interceptions he is doing a good job of that and it shows in the Bills record. The Texans are a middle of the road pass defence so there is a chance for Allen to really do something special for Buffalo.
Run games could be the difference
Frank Gore continues to rumble on in the backfield for the Bills. His 599 yards this season is the lowest total of his career, but at this stage he is a good compliment to Devin Singletary who is seeing more and more work. The rookie finished with 5.1 yards per carry in the regular season and will be a key part of the offence for the Bills in the playoffs.
On the other side Carlos Hyde has had an excellent season after being traded to Houston shortly before the season. He went over 1000 yards for the first time in his seven year career and helped take some of the pressure off of Watson. Duke Johnson, who was also acquired in a late trade, has perhaps been a little disappointing but he has still been a solid contributor, particularly in the passing game.
Both teams have strong running back duos and they could well be the key to this game. If either team can get out to an early lead then they will be able to turn to their run games to get the job done.
McDermott or O'Brien?
Bill O'Brien is more experienced, even more so when it comes to playoff football, but Sean McDermott has perhaps been the more impressive in his shorter career as a head coach. The Bills have over performed in every season he has been in charge, while the Texans could maybe have been expected to have won more than the one playoff game, and that came against the Connor Cook led Raiders.
It's easier to trust McDermott if the game is close towards the end. He has shown a lot more often that he is capable of making the difference from the sidelines.
It's a tough game to call. If it was in Buffalo then I would strongly fancy the Bills. However, in Houston, and in a dome, the Texans should edge it. They just have more talent throughout the team and more difference makers. They are not the most consistent team and it wouldn't be a shock to see Buffalo pulling of an upset, but if both teams are at their best then Houston will win.
The run game could be key for both teams and both Singletary and Hyde are good bets to score in this one.
Dave Gray's Regular Season NFL 2019/20 P/L