The Buffalo Bills enter Sunday’s matchup with the Houston Texans looking for their third consecutive win. At publication time, Buffalo is a 16.5-point favorite. This has the makings of the classic “trap game,” given that Buffalo has a rematch of the AFC Championship Game on tap next week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Those were the old Bills, though. Head coach Sean McDermott seems too focused, too detailed, and most importantly, too anal (for lack of a better phrase) to allow his team to look past anyone. He colorfully shot down the idea of looking beyond his opponents in a press conference earlier this week, so I don’t think the Bills are going to lack focus coming into this one.
With plenty of big names on the injury report this week, the Bills may need some players to step up from their reserves in order to pull out another victory. That makes looking at our five players to watch a little more difficult this week, but I’m game for the challenge.
Here’s who we’ll be watching this week against Houston.
G Cody Ford
After an abysmal week where he was manhandled by Daron Payne, Ford needs to bounce back in a big way this week. Ford allowed 11 pressures in Week 3, an almost unheard of total that caused quarterback Josh Allen to run and create all throughout the day. Fortunately for Buffalo, Allen was up to the task. Another game like that one and Ford could start to cede snaps, although thanks to Jon Feliciano’s appearance on the injury report this week with a concussion, that might not happen until next week at the earliest. Protecting Allen is obviously this team’s top priority on offense, so Ford needs to be better.
G Ike Boettger
Two offensive linemen? Yep, two offensive linemen. If Feliciano can’t go, it’s Ike who is in line to step in. Given Ford’s struggles, Boettger can essentially treat a spot-start as an audition this week. If he holds up in pass protection and helps clear running lanes for Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, he may give McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll reason to start him over Ford. Given Feliciano’s late-week designation, I’m guessing that he won’t play but, even if he does, I think Boettger might sneak on the field for some snaps this week.
TE Dawson Knox
The Texans have allowed 19 receptions for 212 yards and a touchdown to opposing tight ends this year. Knox has caught ten passes on 12 targets for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including an incredible grab for a touchdown last week. The third-year tight end seems to be coming into his own. Against a defense that has a clear issue covering tight ends, he could be in line for a big day.
DE Jerry Hughes
The pass rush has been really, really good through three weeks. Buffalo already has nine sacks, so they’re on pace to make it to 51 sacks on the 17-game season. Hughes is the most tenured player on the roster. He’s also yet to notch either a sack or a quarterback hit this year while playing the highest snaps percentage (53 percent) of any edge player on Buffalo’s defense. Last week, Houston quarterback Davis Mills dropped back to pass 32 times. He was sacked four times and hit 14 times. The Bills’ front four should be salivating this week. Hughes will notch his first sack on Sunday.
S Jaquan Johnson
Starter Jordan Poyer left last week’s game with an ankle injury, was spotted in a walking boot after the game, and did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. If he misses this week’s game, it will likely be Johnson stepping in with what would be his first career start. A third-year player out of Miami, Johnson is a missile on special teams, but he’s only played 119 defensive snaps in his entire career to date. Poyer and Micah Hyde are part of the reason why Buffalo limits deep shots so effectively, as they provide cover in the back end as one of the league’s best safety duos. Johnson will be tested, but he’s a hard hitter who seems to have great instincts. The Texans will want to isolate him if they can, but expect the Bills to use plenty of familiar zone concepts to keep Johnson in good position if he’s pressed into duty.