Bills vs. Texans Odds & Pick: How We’re Betting Saturday’s AFC Wild Card Matchup
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen
- Our staff previews the most important matchups for Saturday's AFC Wild Card matchup between the Bills and Texans.
- Find odds, how our experts are betting the spread, their favorite player props and more predictions below.
Bills at Texans Picks & Betting Odds: Wild Card Weekend
- Odds: Texans -2.5
- Over/Under: 43.5
- Kickoff: 4:35 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: ABC/ESPN
Odds as of Friday and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Wild Card Weekend kicks off with an AFC showdown between the 5-seeded Buffalo Bills and 4-seeded Houston Texans.
Deshaun Watson and Co. have been bet down from 3- to 2.5-point favorites since the line opened despite a slight majority of tickets backing them to cover.
So how are our experts projecting this game? They preview all the important matchups and make their picks.
Bills-Texans Injury Report
Which team is healthier? Bills
All four players on the Bills’ injury report are listed as questionable. The most notable are cornerback Levi Wallace (ankle) and edge defender Shaq Lawson (hamstring). Lawson is one of the best pass-rushers and is second on the team in quarterback pressures and sacks. His potential absence would be good news for Deshaun Watson.
Meanwhile, the Texans welcome back J.J. Watt (pec), who has been activated off injured reserve and practiced in full on Thursday.
Houston remains banged up in the secondary, however, with cornerbacks Bradley Roby (hamstring) and Johnathan Joseph (hamstring) listed as questionable. They practiced in a limited fashion all week, suggesting they’re trending toward playing.
Will Fuller (hamstring) also practiced in full all week, but head coach Bill O’Brien said the wide receiver is a game-time decision. — Justin Bailey
Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds
- Projected Spread: Texans -3
- Projected Total: 43.5
Biggest Mismatch When Bills Have the Ball
Bills WR Cole Beasley vs. Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves
The Texans’ biggest defensive weakness is their secondary. They recently placed starting SS Tashaun Gipson on IR while backup Jahleel Addae is dealing with an Achilles injury. And as we highlighted above, Joseph and Roby are dealing with hamstring issues.
To end the season, Hargreaves had slot duties for the Texans after being cut by the Bucs. Hargreaves has not been very productive in the slot, ranking 30th in yards per slot snap among 32 corners with at least 200 coverage snaps in the slot this season, per Pro Football Focus.
Hargreaves has been bad overall all season. Of 93 corners with at least 500 overall snaps in coverage, Hargreaves ranks 90th in PFF’s coverage grade. It’s no coincidence that the Bucs’ secondary improved dramatically after they cut the former first-round draft pick. (Teammate Lonnie Johnson, who has seen his role diminished late in the year due to lack of production, actually ranks dead last.)
This could all lead to another blowup game for Beasley.
If Houston decides to play more zone, look for Beasley to find the holes underneath as a nice security blanket for Josh Allen in the quarterback’s first career playoff start. And when Houston plays man, Beasley should get the better of a matchup with Hargreaves. The former Cowboy, who ranks inside the top 10 in slot targets this season, could be the Bills’ to keep the chains moving on third downs. — Stuckey
Biggest Mismatch When Texans Have the Ball
Texans RB Carlos Hyde vs. Bills Rush Defense
The must-see matchup of this game is Tre’Davious White vs. DeAndre Hopkins. Almost everyone knows that Hopkins is one of the NFL’s best receivers, but some may not be familiar with White, who I now have in the category of elite corners in the league.
The former first-round pick out of LSU allowed the second-lowest passer rating among corners who faced at least 50 targets this season. White also didn’t allow a single touchdown while finishing in a tie for most interceptions. Six interceptions and zero touchdowns allowed — not too shabby for the guy you can expect to shadow Hopkins throughout.
The Bills also do an excellent job of limiting explosive plays in the passing game. They have two excellent safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, who lead a defense that’s ranked near the top in explosive passes allowed over the past few seasons. That’s important here as deep balls are a major part of how the Texans attack opposing defenses. (Keep an eye on the status and health of Fuller, who makes their aerial attack much more dynamic when healthy.)
Watson ranked in the top-five in deep passing attempt percentage (20 or more yards) and led all quarterbacks with a 54.1% adjusted completion percentage on deep passes (minimum 50 deep attempts).
The Texans simply have too much talent on the outside not to make a few plays in the passing game, but the Bills’ secondary can certainly match up. So in order to sustain drives, the Texans will have to rely on their ground game, which features Hyde, who ran for over 1,000 yards this season.
Hyde isn’t the most elusive back, but he should be able to pound away against a vulnerable Bills defense that ranked 18th against the run in Football Outsiders’ DVOA — a category the Texans’ offense ranked 11th in.
Also, keep your eye on Duke Johnson, especially out of the backfield in the passing game. He and Hyde should have success against a Bills defense that allowed 4.2 yards per carry and ranked a subpar 18th despite facing the easiest schedule of opposing offenses.
And if the Texans can gash the Bills’ vulnerable linebackers in the run game, it will force Buffalo’s special safeties down into the box, setting up the deep passes that have been so lethal for the Texans offense. — Stuckey
Special Teams Mismatch
The Texans hold the overall edge here, but the most glaring advantage is in the punting department.
Bryan Anger ranks seventh in punting average with a league-low two touchbacks to go along with 24 inside the 20-yard line. And from a net perspective, Anger finished tied for first with Jaguars punter Logan Cooke at 44.5 yards.
The Texans allowed only 53 punt return yards on 45 punts this season. That’s dominant.
Conversely, Bills punter Corey Bojorquez struggled mightily, finishing with an average of 41.9 yards per punt — the second-lowest mark behind only Cowboys punter Chris Jones. Bojorquez also led the NFL with seven touchbacks and finished with a putrid net average of 37.7 yards.
This punting edge could loom large in the field position battle, which becomes even more critical in the postseason. — Stuckey
Stuckey: Texans -2.5
There’s slight value on the Texans since I make this spread higher than a field goal.
The coaching mismatch does scare me, especially since I assume McDermott and his staff have been preparing for the Texans for the past two weeks as they clearly had no interest in their meaningless Week 17 matchup against the Jets.
The Bills were much better than I thought earlier on, but they still defeated only one playoff team all season, and that was the Titans back when Marcus Mariota was under center. They were also gifted four missed Titan field goals from Cairo Santos (who was then waived) in a 14-7 victory.
The Bills definitely benefited from the easiest schedule among all AFC teams (SOS .461) as well as favorable weather conditions in a number of games that may be contributing to some inflated defensive statistics.
So, while both teams finished with a 10-6 record, it was a much more difficult path for the Texans. They finished with a 3-3 record against playoff teams — and they rested starters for their Week 17 loss to Tennessee — while the Bills went 1-4 with their lone win coming against a completely different Tennessee team.
Watt’s return is the wild card here. The Texans defense has fallen off a cliff without him, and while I don’t expect he’ll be at full strength, he’ll draw attention and could still easily make a game-changing play or two.
While the coaching edge favors the Bills, the Texans have the better quarterback (with playoff experience), home-field advantage and are coming off the hardest strength of schedule among all AFC playoff teams (.520). I expect them to move the ball on the ground and for Watson to make just enough plays through the air and with his legs to pull out a close victory.
And don’t sleep on their punting advantage!
Stuckey is 319-268-9 (54.3%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
Chris Raybon: Cole Beasley Over 47.5 Receiving Yards
This sets up as a Beasley game for two reasons.
For one, as you would expect from a receiver who spends 75% of his snaps in the slot, Beasley leads the team with a 30% share of targets to the short middle, which is Houston’s main vulnerability in pass defense. According to DVOA, the Texans defense ranks dead last in schedule-adjusted efficiency on short-middle passes by a wide margin. Whether the Texans are in zone or Beasley sees man coverage from Vernon Hargreaves, who finished 116th of 125 qualifiers in PFF’s cornerback grades, this is a weakness the Bills are sure to attack to keep the chains moving and Deshaun Watson off the field.
Then you add in the game script factor: The Bills are a run-first team, so you would expect Beasley’s numbers to spike in close games, and the numbers bear that out. In four games where the Bills were favored by more than 3.5 points, Beasley averaged 5.5 targets for 28.5 yards with a median of 32 yards. In the 11 games he was active when the Bills were underdogs or favored by no more than 3.5, his averages spiked to 7.6 targets and 60.3 yards with a median of 74 yards.
I would bet the over up to 54.5.
Raybon is 191-150-11 (56%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
Mike Randle: Carlos Hyde Over 64.5 Rushing Yards (-113)
As fans, we’re attracted to speed and power, especially with running backs. Hyde has been undervalued all season because he’s a 29-year-old plodder. However, as the lead back in a home playoff game against the Bills, Hyde’s props jump off the page.
Hyde has exceeded this number nine times this season, but the casual fan will be swayed by recency bias. He managed only 27 yards at Tampa Bay and 13 at home against Tennessee. However, the Buccaneers and Titans both rank top-10 in run defense DVOA.
The Titans get to face a Bills’ run funnel defense that allowed 4.6, 5.3 and 5.9 yards per carry to opponents primary backs over their last three road games.
I would be the over up to 67.5 rushing yards.
Randle is 246-242-5 (50.4%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.