During Wild Card weekend of the 2019 NFL season, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills traveled to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans in an AFC playoff game on Jan. 4, 2020.
The game brings back painful memories for Bills fans. Buffalo raced out to a 16-0 lead in the third quarter, only to have Watson and the Texans’ offense storm back with 19 unanswered points. A 47-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka forced overtime, but ultimately, the Bills came up short in their efforts to win their first playoff game since the 1995 season, falling 22-19 in overtime.
The futures seemed bright for both of these squads, and fans of both teams envisioned a budding AFC rivalry between Allen’s Bills and Watson’s Texans, but in the 20 months since that wacky Wild Card game, these two teams could not have taken different paths into the 2021 season.
As the Bills (2-1) get set to host the Texans (1-2) in a Week 4 game at Highmark Stadium, these franchises are heading in opposite directions.
The Bills have won 15 of 19 games since that playoff meeting, including going 13-3, winning the AFC East crown and advancing into the AFC Championship game during the 2020 season. They return 26 players (18 starters), and have consistency in the front office, with the same general manager (Brandon Beane), head coach (Sean McDermott), offensive coordinator (Brian Daboll), and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach (Leslie Frazier).
Meanwhile, the Texans have gone 5-14, have only 12 players (seven starters) back, and feature a new general manager (Nick Caserio), head coach (former Buffalo quarterbacks coach David Culley), offensive coordinator (Tim Kelly) and defensive coordinator (former head coach Lovie Smith) from the 2019 season.
Since the #Bills and #Texans played in the 2019 Wild Card:— Nate Mendelson (@NateMendelson) September 28, 2021
Bills: 15-4, AFCE Champs
Texans: 12 players from ‘19 roster, 7 O+D starters
Bills: 26 players from ‘19 roster, 18 O+D starters
Texans: New HC OC DC GM
Bills: Same HC OC DC GM
Talk about divergent paths
Led by Allen and a prolific offense and resurgent defense, Buffalo (2-1) has Super Bowl aspirations. After a slow start, Allen and the offense appears to be back on track, thanks to Allen completing 74 percent of his passes for 358 yards and five total touchdowns (four passing) during a 43-21 win over the Washington Football Team that earned Allen AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hauled in two touchdown passes, Cole Beasley added 11 receptions, and Zack Moss and Dawson Knox each caught touchdown passes in the blowout win.
The Texans are starting a rookie quarterback, Davis Mills, after starter and former Bill Tyrod Taylor wound up on the injured reserve with a left hamstring injury. Oh and Watson? He requested a trade in January, has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior in 22 active civil lawsuits and has been inactive during the first three weeks of the season.
With Mills at the helm, Houston suffered a 24-9 setback vs. the Carolina Panthers in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football. Mills completed 19 of 28 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown, and Brandin Cooks caught nine passes for 112 yards, but Houston managed only 42 rushing yards on 17 carries and finished with 193 yards of total offense. The Texans allowed Carolina to amass 28 first downs and 407 yards of total offense.
Buffalo is favored by 17 points, the largest spread so far this year in the NFL.