Keys to Victory: Buffalo Bills vs Houston Texans

The Buffalo Bills host the Houston Texans at 1PM Sunday, as both teams are coming in hot.  The Bills have won consecutive road games, while the Texans have won three of four and have an offense that is really clicking.  The teams have some similarities, but will be playing much different styles of football in this game.  The Texans are looking to build their playoff resume and move towards a playoff berth, while the Bills are looking to continue making a move towards a surprising late season run.  What do the Bills need to do to win this week?  Let's find out.

Get after Schaub: I've watched the Texans a lot the past couple of seasons, mostly because they have an exciting offense and it makes me jealous.  I've noticed that Matt Schaub will throw off his back foot and get very little on his passes when he can't fully step into them.  This tendency has led to interceptions and overall poor throws in the past, and the Bills defense needs to make that happen again.  If Schaub is allowed to sit back there unscathed, and find Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Steve Slaton and the other Texans' weapons, the Bills will have little chance of pulling out a victory.  He's not going to self destruct and give the game to the Bills like Mark Sanchez or Jake Delhomme.

Slow Johnson and Daniels:  Teams that have beaten the Texans this year have done a pretty good job of slowing down Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.  In the Texans' three losses, Johnson has caught 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, while Daniels added 17 receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown.  In the four wins, including last week when he left with a bruised lung, Johnson has 22 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns.  Daniels has caught 22 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns in the wins.  Obviously, the numbers aren't bad in the losses but you can see that the yards per catch for both is higher in wins, which shouldn't come as a surprise.  If the Bills can limit the deep and intermediate passes with Johnson and Daniels and hold them to the underneath stuff, the likelihood of holding them down increases.

Keep getting Evans involved: Pretty obvious, right?  Lee Evans has looked energized with Ryan Fitzpatrick in the lineup, putting up 9 receptions, 143 yards and two touchdowns these past two games.  To better understand how big of an improvement that is, consider that in the five previous games, Evans had just 12 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. Besides the next key to victory, Evans may have been the biggest factor for why the Bills have consecutive road victories under their belt.  With Terrell Owens looking totally washed up, the Bills need Evans' big play ability to come through once again. 

Win the turnover battle: Actually, it'd be nice to dominate it again. This is probably the biggest key to victory for this week, as turnovers have played such a huge role in Bills games, wins and losses, so far this season.  Protecting the ball on offense and avoiding giving the Texans short fields will be crucial. Giving Fitzpatrick and the offense short fields is just what the doctor ordered (see last week).  Let's hope the slew of turnovers forced continues for the Bills defense on Sunday.

Don't get down big early: The Bills aren't winning this game if they fall behind by multiple scores early.  I don't believe Fitzpatrick can lead this offense to enough points, if that were to be the case.  I also find it hard to believe the Bills defense would be able to hold the Texans down for the rest of the game in such a situation.  The Bills need this to be another ugly game.  A shootout isn't happening with the Bills offense involved, so keeping the game close and the Texans out of the end zone will be huge.  The Texans struggled to hold onto a 21-point lead last week against the 49ers, but can any of you envision a Fitzpatrick-lead Bills offense coming back from such a deficit?  I can't.

Put a helmet on Slaton: Steve Slaton has been a fumbling machine, to the tune of SIX fumbles (and four lost) so far this year.  Putting a helmet on the ball when he's carrying it or trying to rip it out may result in a cheap turnover or two.  If the Bills are to win the turnover battle, this is a good place to start.

Get Mr. Wilson that ring: After confusion about why the ring ceremony to celebrate Bills' owner Ralph Wilson's Hall of Fame induction was postponed during the Browns game, let's hope there is no reason for controversy this week.  Mr. Wilson is scheduled to be presented with his ring at halftime this week, so it'd be nice if the team played a strong first half so he can get his proper recognition without being bombarded with boos. 

Win Special Teams: The Texans have a very good return duo in Jacoby Jones and Andre Davis, and both have had big returns over the past few seasons.  The Bills have begun to cut out some of their costly special teams errors, so they'll need that to continue this week.  Good kick coverage and keeping the Texans deeper in their own territory will be a big part of deciding whether the Bills will win their third straight.  There's no need to give a good offense a special teams touchdown or good field position in a game like this.

Continue limiting mistakes: Turnovers and penalties (only 3 last week!) have gone down in the past two wins.  That trend needs to continue.  The young players have limited their penalties recently; now they just need to step up their play.

*****

The Texans are playing good football and seem to be flying under the radar right now.  This is not going to be an easy game for Buffalo, even at home and coming off a pair of victories.  Matt Schaub and the Texans' offense present a major challenge to the injury depleted Bills defense.  The entire team needs to step it up this week if the Bills are going to pull off the semi-upset.  Let's go Buffalo!

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