Now two games back in the division and facing an important three-game stretch, it's do-or-die time for the Buffalo Bills, starting Sunday against one of the league's premier teams in the Houston Texans. Houston, touting a top 10 offense and defense, should be well-rested coming off its bye week.
The Bills are 2-0 against the Texans in Houston, though, and coach Chan Gailey is looking to continue the ground-and-pound style fans have been accustomed to once again this week. A win will not only keep Buffalo within striking distance in the division but would give momentum to a group in dire need of some consistency, particularly with two division games up next.
Watt a predicament. The Bills added right tackle Erik Pears to its list of injured offensive lineman this week, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. With Pears out, Chris Hairston is slated to step in and try to defend defensive end J.J. Watt, who has more sacks this season than Buffalo's top two pass rushers combined. Hairston saw a decent amount of time at the position in preseason workouts, but don't think that will stop the Bills from giving him regular help.
Hit the ground running. Despite the disappointing loss against the Titans, Gailey was happy with the production he received from his two running backs. The duo tallied a combined 222 yards, more than 80 yards of that in the air. Gailey said he would like to get them upwards of of 40 touches a game combined, which may start to open things up even more for the receivers down the field if defenses start to pinch. They certainly need it, as the Bills have converted only 19 passes of 20 yards or more.
Third and wrong. At 45 percent, the Texans' offense is currently boasting the league's fourth-best third-down conversion rate, while the Bills' defense, at 47 percent, is posting the league's highest conversion rate allowed. If the Bills plan on keeping Houston from matching its 31-points-per-game average, they may not have to look at third down as much as first down. Houston has passed the ball 61 percent of the time on first down, so shutting down the pass may force the Texans to get pass-heavy on second and third instead of rely on its running game to move the chains. Houston backs have picked up 56 first downs so far, fifth most in the league.
Six when it counts. Buffalo has been able to rely on its offense inside the red zone thus far this season, posting a 61 percent touchdown rate inside 20 yards. Houston isn't much worse, scoring 57 percent of the time. The discrepancy here lies on defense, with the Texans allowing a mediocre 50 percent touchdown rate while the Bills allow a touchdown 76 percent of the time, a league worst. Forcing the Texans to attempt one or two more field goals could easily change the dynamic of the game.
---A week in Bills posts at AFCEastDaily.com:
Week 9 AFC East game picks: Bills at Texans
Bills' fluctuating sack totals parallel wins, losses
Around-the-Web AFC East power rankings - Week 9
Mario preparing a statement for return to Houston
Bills trying to figure out Watt to do vs. Texans' D
Break over for Bills' underachieving rush defense