Last updated: January 2nd at 7:45pm ET
Team Totals: Texans 23, Bills 20.5
Buffalo and Houston kick off Wild Card weekend after taking advantage of Week 17 opportunities to rest starters, and both clubs should be in plus condition for Saturday’s opener. The Bills are among the AFC’s most dangerous teams, having yielded more than 24 points once over their last 19 games via Sean McDermott’s fundamentally sound defense, and offering explosive offensive potential keyed by erratic playmaker Josh Allen, who finished 2019 third among NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards (510) and first in rushing TDs (9), and now faces a Texans defense that’s allowed the league’s seventh-most QB rushing yards. Only Arizona and Miami gave up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than Houston. Allen is a scary playoffs-bracket pick because Buffalo’s chances of Divisional Round elimination are high, but the Bills did play Baltimore to a one-score outcome in Week 14 (24-17). Either way, I love Allen as a Wild Card Round DFS starter and high-ceiling contrarian play in full-postseason fantasy tournaments.
The Bills gave Devin Singletary honorary on-ice treatment in last week’s meaningless loss to the Jets after deploying him as a true every-down back in their prior-week attempt to usurp New England for the AFC East crown. Singletary logged a season-high 96% of Buffalo’s Week 16 offensive snaps and has cleared 16 touches in six straight appearances. On two snaps, Frank Gore didn’t touch the ball against the Pats. Singletary’s ceiling can be capped by Allen’s penchant for close-in TD vulturing and scrambling instead of checking down, but Singletary shouldn’t have to worry about Gore in Saturday’s do-or-die game. And his matchup is pristine; Houston got clocked for 220/1,083/7 (4.92 YPC) rushing by enemy backs over its last nine games, while Texans DC Romeo Crennel’s defense has coughed up the league’s second-most receiving yards to Singletary’s position (891). LE J.J. Watt’s (pec) return is notable, but he is one player coming off a debilitating arm injury that could easily limit Watt’s effectiveness after over two months off. Singletary is an exciting usage- and matchup-based DFS play and postseason bracket pick.
Allen’s Weeks 13-16 target distribution: Cole Beasley 32; John Brown 26; Dawson Knox 17; Singletary 16; Isaiah McKenzie 10; Robert Foster 9; Tyler Kroft 3; Andre Roberts 2; Gore 1. … Beasley never feels like a fun fantasy play, but he’s cleared 70 yards and/or scored a touchdown in 11-of-15 appearances (73%) and leads Buffalo in red-zone catches (7). Beasley runs 78% of his routes inside, where Texans slot CB Vernon Hargreaves has hemorrhaged 65 receptions on 88 targets (74%) for 865 yards (9.8 YPA) and five TDs this season. … Brown’s consistency is likewise underrated with 70-plus yards and/or a score in 10-of-15 games (67%), while fellow outside WRs A.J. Brown (4/124/1, 8/114/1) and Breshad Perriman (7/102/0) took turns torpedoing Houston’s secondary over the last three weeks. The Texans have given up the NFL’s eighth-most 20-plus-yard completions (58), while Brown ranks top ten in the league in targets thrown 20-plus yards downfield (27). Brown’s ceiling is among the highest on Week 18’s wide receiver slate. … Knox and McKenzie are long-shot dart throws against the Texans. Houston has yielded the league’s seventh-most receiving yards to tight ends, giving lightly-used Knox a shot at paying matchup-based dividends enhanced by the Texans’ placement of FS Tashaun Gipson on I.R. this week. McKenzie has been Buffalo’s decoy-type No. 3 wideout for most of the year.
Deshaun Watson enters Week 18 battling back and ankle injuries to face a ceiling-capping Bills defense that has allowed the NFL’s fewest 20-plus-yard completions (34), plays a suffocating zone that keeps eyes on dual-threat QBs, has yielded the NFL’s fifth-fewest quarterback rushing yards this year (155), and trots out Tre’Davious White to tangle with DeAndre Hopkins. Only the Ravens and Patriots have permitted fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks than Buffalo. Late-week reports indicated Will Fuller (hamstring, groin) will not return; Watson averages 1.5 fewer career yards per attempt, 49.3 fewer passing yards, 0.96 fewer touchdown passes, and 4.7 fewer fantasy points per game sans Fuller.
Bill O’Brien’s year-long preference for Carlos Hyde over Duke Johnson combined with O’Brien’s Week 17 willingness to play Johnson on 32% of Houston’s offensive snaps versus Hyde’s 8% in a meaningless game reinforced his backfield pecking order. Hyde’s near-utter lack of passing-game involvement keeps his DFS floor low, but McDermott’s purposeful concession of rushing production in exchange for limiting big-play passing also favors Hyde over Johnson from a matchup standpoint. As usual, Hyde is a touchdown-or-bust fantasy gamble. Johnson doesn’t stand out as a 7.9 touches-per-game back.
Hopkins’ target counts in the Texans’ five-game non-Fuller games are 13 > 12 > 11 > 13 > 12. He dips to a 9.2-target average when Fuller plays. Hopkins’ trip to Tre’Davious White island is no cakewalk, but his volume projection rivals Michael Thomas for highest on Week 18’s wideout slate. … Among the NFL’s least predictable producers, Kenny Stills is a full-on DFS-tournament play on Wild Card slates whose outlook is enhanced by White’s likely sticky coverage on Hopkins. No. 2 CB Levi Wallace’s Week 17 ankle injury may force Buffalo to dig into its cornerback depth. … Even on the off chance Fuller plays, he will be a severe in-game setback risk with slate-breaking upside but a devastating floor. … O’Brien has stayed committed to two-tight end “12” personnel as his base offense, keeping Keke Coutee and slot WR competitor DeAndre Carter in an ongoing practice-based battle for playing time. With Steven Mitchell also involved for slot snaps, the Texans’ third receiver job is entirely up in the air assuming Fuller misses. … TE Darren Fells has drawn only one fewer red-zone target (13;12) and one fewer target inside the ten-yard line (5;4) than Hopkins. Neither Texans tight end catches a positive matchup against athletic phenom LBs Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano nor safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, yet Fells continues to be the superior touchdown-or-bust bet ahead of Jordan Akins.
Score Prediction: Bills 24, Texans 20