Wild Card Weekend is here! As we gear up to start the 2019-20 NFL Playoffs, we zoom in on the first matchup of the postseason. The Houston Texans host the Buffalo Bills in what looks to be an evenly matched game. The Texans are currently -2.5 favorites at home, which speaks a lot to what oddsmakers think about the Buffalo Bills. If this game were on a neutral field, the Bills would be favorites by a slight margin. While many NFL analysts are skeptical of Josh Allen’s capability to win on the road in a playoff scenario, the real story that shapes this game is the availability of Houston deep-threat Will Fuller.
Since entering the league in 2016, Fuller has continuously been sidelined with every leg/lower body injury known to man. When on the field, he has lived up to the hype that propelled him to be a 1st round draft pick out of Notre Dame and provides stability to the passing attack. Off the field, however, this Texans offense looks absolutely lost. The on and off the field splits present a challenging day for quarterback Deshaun Watson if Fuller is in fact not able to play on Saturday. Over the last 22 games that Watson and Fuller have both played, Watson averages a full touchdown and roughly 50 more passing yards per game than when Fuller is not available to play. This Houston offense lives and dies with being able to stretch the field and throw the deep ball, as both Watson’s yards per attempt and aDOT (Average Depth of Target) this season falter when Fuller is not running routes (8.3 yards per attempt and an aDOT of 9.3 yards with Fuller, 7.0 yards per attempt and an aDOT of 7.5 without).
Fuller’s availability also affects the rest of this offense, mainly star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. While Hopkins may still be an elite receiver without Fuller, he’ll be drawing All-Pro corner Tre’ Davious White for most of this game. If Fuller does end up sitting, this Texans offense immediately takes a significant hit. It will be up to receivers Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills, and DeAndre Carter to make up for Fuller’s absence, which may not be enough for Houston to survive this round.
Think the Bills can cover the +2.5 spread or win outright with no Will Fuller? We’ll find out Saturday afternoon.