Watch Houston Texans vs Buffalo Bills Live Stream Free NFL Playoffs Wild Card Game Online

The Houston Texans will duke it out with the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday at NRG Stadium at 4:35 p.m. ET. The matchup is expected to be a close one, with Houston going off at just a 2.5-point favorite.

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Houston has to be hurting after a devastating 35-14 defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. No one had a big game offensively for the Texans, but they got one touchdown from RB Duke Johnson.

Meanwhile, Buffalo came up short against the New York Jets on Sunday, falling 13-6. QB Matt Barkley had a pretty forgettable game, throwing two interceptions and fumbling the ball once.

The losses put Houston at 10-6 and Buffalo at 10-6. A couple defensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Texans are stumbling into the game with the fourth most passing yards allowed per game in the league, having given up 280.7 on average. To make matters even worse for the Texans, the Bills enter the contest with only 15 passing touchdowns allowed, good for second best in the NFL. Look for both offensives to try attacking early to give their own defense a break.

Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott was sounding an awful lot like actor Gene Hackman playing the role of coach Norman Dale in the basketball movie Hoosiers.

You remember the scene when tiny Milan High School makes it to the Indiana state basketball championship and Dale brings his team onto the floor in the huge arena the day before the big game and points out that the rim is still 10 feet high and the foul line is still 15 feet away, just as it is in their little bandbox of a gym back home.

That was McDermott the past few days, trying to convince his players that yes, there’s a lot at stake Saturday when the Bills meet the Houston Texans in an AFC wild-card playoff game, but everything else between the regular season and the postseason is unchanged.

Same playing rules, same field dimensions, same routine, same attention to detail in practice, it’s all status quo except for the fact that it’s win and move on, or, lose and go home.

For the first time in six games, the Bills won’t be confronted with a top 10 defense. The Texans have some talented players to be sure, led by edge rushers J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, but as a unit, they’ve struggled. They gave up at least 30 points in six games and though the Texans won their division, they were actually outscored 385-378. One of Houston’s biggest problems has been its terrible performance on third down as it allowed an absurd 48.5 percent conversion rate, highest ever for a playoff team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. And in the red zone, the Texans’ defense was the worst in the NFL as it allowed TDs on 71.4 percent of the penetrations inside the 20, and a score on 93.9 percent. The Bills have not been a high-scoring team all season, topping 30 points only in the two wins over Miami, but they will have chances to make plays and score in this game.

One of the big matchups is going to be Watt against Bills rookie RT Cody Ford. It’s uncertain how much Watt will play, but you can bet that for whatever amount of time he’s on the field, he’s going to create trouble. Also unknown is how much Bills RT Ty Nsekhe will play, if at all. So, the Bills are either going to have a rookie, or a banged up 33-year-old, trying to contain Watt. It could be a problem. What Watt’s presence means is that the Bills will likely have to give Ford and/or Nsekhe help, and that’s where Mercilus can make some noise as he’ll likely be one-on-one with LT Dion Dawkins. While Dawkins has had a nice season, Mercilus can be, well, merciless when he gets rolling. Mercilus has been a far more effective rusher when Watt is lined up on the other side as he’s had only 2.5 since Watt went down. If Josh Allen gets pressured, he will need to be able to escape and make the Texans pay with his scrambling which could be a huge factor in the game.

To be successful on offense, the Bills will need to be better on first and second down, and Devin Singletary will play a key role in that endeavor. The Bills need their rookie RB to play well and chip away at a Texans run defense that ranked 25th this season. However, another way to do it is to get Cole Beasley involved early in the short passing game. Beasley has had some nice games, but what Buffalo really needs from him is a Julian Edelman-type performance where he makes clutch play after clutch play and moves the sticks. Beasley was that guy in the second game against the Patriots. If Singletary and Beasley can create some havoc, it should open things up over the middle for Dawson Knox and downfield for John Brown. The Bills had 13 TD drives of at least 70 yards in the first half of the season but only six in the second half. They need to possess the ball, and cash in on those possessions.

One of the biggest keys for the Bills will be to get off to a good start. Their offense has not done well at this as it has only 43 first-quarter points, but Houston was only marginally better with 47 points, including eight scoreless first quarters and only four touchdowns. The Bills defense has allowed only seven first-quarter TDs, and that wasn’t an anomaly because that stinginess was true later in games as well as the Bills allowed only 27 offensive TDs all season, tied for second-fewest with the Ravens. One way to limit the Texans will be to get off the field on third down, and this will certainly be an interesting push-and-pull. The Bills ranked seventh in third-down defense, allowing 35.8 percent conversions, but the Texans were eighth-best on third down at 43.5 percent, including 46.5 at home. Buffalo needs to limit the time Houston’s offense has on the field.

Tre’Davious White seemed to hint on Thursday that he won’t be lining up across from WR DeAndre Hopkins all over the field as he has against several of the top receivers this season. Of course, that could just be a smokescreen because while the Texans certainly have an arsenal of weapons, the player Buffalo needs to control most is Hopkins because he can be a game-breaker. His 31 TD receptions are the most in the league since the start of 2017. White is best suited to do that as he led all CBs who played at least 80 percent of his teams snaps in passer rating against, a phenomenal 46.3 mark which edged out New England’s Stephon Gilmore. If White can take Hopkins away or at least limit the throws his way by QB DeShaun Watson, that will allow the other defenders in coverage to spread out and handle the rest of the Texans threats such as WRs Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, and TEs Darren Fells and Jordan Akins.

The Bills pass rush is going to have to show up. As good as Watson can be, with as many top-level targets as Houston has, Buffalo cannot allow him to stand in the pocket and play catch or it will be a long day. Watson may not be as dangerous as Lamar Jackson, but this season he became just the second QB in NFL history (Steve Young was the other) to have multiple seasons of at least 25 TD passes and five rushing TDs. Watson had 26 and 7 on the way to 3,852 yards passing and a 98.0 QB rating. Last year, the Buffalo defense sacked Watson seven times and held him to 171 passing yards and 13 offensive points. Different year, different teams, but this Buffalo defense is certainly capable of doing that again, especially if it can generate heat. Shaq Lawson’s availability is unknown, but he’s been Buffalo’s most effective end the second half of the season.