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Texans-Bills Preview: Five Things To Watch

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Here's your viewing guide for this Week Thirteen matchup, including five things to keep an eye on as the Texans take on the Bills.

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Well, well, well, here we are. The Houston Texans have won four in a row and have almost escaped the bowels of the toughest part of their schedule. Only the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, in terms of teams that have winning records, are left after this one. This week Houston takes on the Bills,  who are now on the outside looking in on the playoffs after being a possible wild card contender.

Let's get on with it.

1.) I Hate Rex Ryan

I was writing a lot about football before I left for California. My favorite thing I wrote during thay time was my Cormac McCarthy rendition of J.J. Watt, but my second favorite thing I wrote was about the Buffalo Bills' defensive line. Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Jerry Hughes were a murderous bunch. They eviscerated teams, bathed in the tears of their opponents, and wallowed in their guts, and...you get it by now. They were really good, and they finished the year second in defensive DVOA.

This year, the Bills are 21st in defensive DVOA.  They are 30th in rush defense DVOA. Yes, Dareus and Williams have missed time, and yes [pours some water with chia seeds in it onto the carpet] Kyle Williams is out for the season. However, this defense wasn't incredible this year even they were healthy.

It's a classic example of a coach having to play his scheme. Ryan is a 3-4 coach who loves to blitz and use zone blitzes to mess with quarterbacks. This moved Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams to outside linebacker, Kyle Williams to defensive end, and Dareus to nose tackle. Because of Ryan's scheme, Buffalo took their core competency and put them at four entirely different positions. All because this is what Ryan is comfortable with.

The job of a coach is to put his players in a position to succeed. There's nothing worse than when a coach destroys a team because of his system. Great coaches can get production out of great players. Ryan is not a great coach. If the Bills were able to add the defense they had last year with this offense, they would be a Super Bowl contender. But they aren't. I hate Rex Ryan.

So instead of getting to watch those four monsters take on a very good Texans' offensive line, we get the 21st best defense in the league.

2.) If Only We Had a Quarterback

That's what Bills fans moaned after going 9-7 last year. They benched EJ Manuel and brought Kyle Orton out of retirement. Scratch that...the best part of the Bills last year wasn't their defensive line, it was Orton's game-winning touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.

Never forget.

This season the Bills actually have a quarterback. Tyrod Taylor and the offense are the lighthouse guiding this team through the rocky coasts of the NFL season. According to DVOA, Buffalo is 9th in overall offense, 10th in passing offense, and 6th in rushing offense.

Taylor is 6th in yards per pass attempt at 6.8. He throws a beautiful deep ball. It's high, spiraling , and graceful, and he usually hits one a game. He's 6th in completion percentage at 66%, which is very surprising. He's also 14th in DYAR and 8th in DVOA. Somehow, the Bills have farted their way into their first actual starting quarterback since EJ Manuel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman, Drew Bledsoe, Alex Van Pelt, Rob Johnson Doug Flutie.

The thing about Taylor that interests me is how he fell into the starting position in Buffalo. He was drafted in the 6th round by the Ravens in 2011. There he hung out and learned from the master, Joe Flacco. His first playing time didn't come until an end-around handoff in 2013. After his rookie contract was up, the Bills took a chance on him and brought him into camp. From there, he beat out Matt Cassel and Manuel for the starting spot. It's a Ryan Mallett situation that actually worked out. Take a chance on the unknown quantity instead of the game manager who you know is below average, and see what happens.

After watching Taylor, Brock Osweiler, and even Blaine Gabbert resemble a decent quarterback this year, I'm starting to lean in the direction that sitting and teaching is the best way to develop a quarterback instead of just tossing them from the fridge into the frying pan. I'm just hoping this opinion doesn't trick my D-U-M brain into getting excited for the Tom Savage era.

3.) J.J. Watt: The Denizen of the Backfield

One of the things I do as I read is underline all the words I don't know and anything else that interests me. Then when the book is finished I open up a Word document and the newly completed book. I flip through the entire thing and turn my ignorance into knowledge. Then when I write, I have new words to try out, and I have a new arsenal to use to describe the universe in front of me.

"Denizen" is one of these words I learned. Nobody has used it since the 1850s, but It's really cool. It has a nice "Z" in there.  It just sounds dark and powerful. And you would think it would mean something similar. But it doesn't. It just means "an inhabitant or occupant of a particular place."  So when you buy beer after 11 a.m. tomorrow, you are the denizen of the grocery store.

Anyways, J.J. Watt had probably the silliest game of his career against the Buffalo Bills last season. In Houston's 23-17 win over Buffalo, Watt had 6 quarterback hurries, 1 pass defensed, 5 tackles, 9 QB hits, 0 sacks, and 1 interception returned for a touchdown.  He was also held ∞ times. It was one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the league. If you ever have a bad day , ust watch the All-22 on this one.

This week he gets to take on a Bills' offensive line that's allowed 30 sacks and is 28th in adjusted sack rate at 8.4%. Since the Titans game -- over the last four games -- Watt has 20 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 4 stuffs.  I feel just awful for Tyrod Taylor, Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, and Seantrel Henderson.  Okay, maybe not Incognito because he's a jerk, but everyone else should just pull an Eric Fisher and call in sick tomorrow.

4.) Clemson is Like SO Hot Right Now

Clemson is ranked #1 in the country at the time of this keyboard clacking and they are playing for the ACC championship tonight. If they win, they go to the College Football Playoff, which is really, really important. In Buffalo tomorrow afternoon, Clemson has two former players and first round picks playing on opposite teams.

DeAndre Hopkins has been remarkable this season. He's made the leap from a top fifteen to a top three receiver. He's done things he shouldn't do with the quarterbacks he's had throw to him. The game plan has turned into throw the ball to Hopkins fifteen times, hand the ball to Alfred Blue thirty times, watch J.J. Watt be an extraterrestrial, and go home with a win.

Hopkins

Buffalo traded up to take Sammy Watkins in the 2014 NFL Draft. He's had a weird tenure there so far and a weird season this year. In 2015, he's had 5 games with less than 60 yards of receiving and two games with more than 150 yards receiving. He's been all over the place. In this one he should be in the below 60 yard range. Houston's secondary has turned into one of the best in the league since Andre Hal took over for Rahim Moore, and Kevin Johnson took over as the team's second cornerback. Everytime Watkins is matched up with Johnson, it should be a fun battle of quickness.

5.) Playoffs?

This is the last game before the Patriots next week on Sunday Night Football. If Houston wins this one, it means they will have gone 4-0 in the hardest part of their schedule and 5-0 over their last five games. It really is remarkable that Bill O'Brien and this coaching staff have been able to turn this thing around and get the Texans back in the playoff hunt. They're still tied with the Indianapolis Colts, who are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. If the Colts win, it opens the door for the wild card for both of these AFC South teams. Right now, each one has less than a 5% chance of winning a wildcard. These numbers can jump to above 25% if the Colts win.

Here are the playoff odds, future schedule, and opponent this week for the team' fighting for the AFC South title and AFC Wild Card spots:

Team Playoff Odds Future Schedule Opponent This Week
HOU (6-5) 49.5% -.4% (17th) Buffalo
IND (6-5) 50.5% -7.9% (26th) Pittsburgh
JAC (4-7) 5.9% -12.8% (32nd) Tennessee
KC (6-5) 87.2% -6.4% (24th) Oakland
PIT (6-5) 44% 3.5% (10th) Indianapolis
NYJ (6-5) 36.7% -1.3% (19th) New York Giants
BUF (5-6) 16.8% -6.4% (25th) Houston

The Texans are currently in decent shape for a playoff berth.  A win tomorrow in Buffalo would only strengthen their chance for postseason participation.

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