In advance of this weekend’s wildcard games, I wanted to isolate specific advantageous matchups that could be interesting from a fantasy and prop perspective. We’ll break it down by game, starting with the Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans.
Buffalo offense vs Houston defense:
- Based on DVOA ranks, the Houston defense ranks 13th defending the run and 25th defending the pass. The Texans have allowed 9% of passes to go for 20+ yards and rank 23rd in explosive passes allowed.
- Josh Allen was the only starting QB to not throw for 300+ yards in any game but did have a good connection with John Brown and Cole Beasley, who should excel in this game.
- Brown has a chance to really light up this Houston secondary as he ranks 17th in percentage of targets of 20+ yards and is tied for 14th with 10 receptions of 20+ yards. The Texans rank 26th in average depth of target allowed in the secondary.
- Beasley will get to face slot DB Vernon Hargreaves, who has allowed the 10th highest passer rating and a 69% completion percentage in the slot since Week 10.
- Allen and the Bills will get to face a Texans defense that ranks second-worst in pressure rate this season. The return of J.J. Watt will provide a boost but who knows how many snaps he can play and how effective he will be.
- Devin Singletary grabbed the reigns in week 9 and since then has averaged 16 carries for 75 yards with another 17 receiving yards per game. Singletary is second in the NFL among RBs in explosive run percentage and the Texans are 21st in explosive runs allowed. Houston has only faced one other RB who ranks in the top 10 and that was Gus Edwards, who ranks fourth in explosive runs. Against the Texans, he ran the ball eight times for 112 yards including a 63-yard run. The Texans also rank dead last in allowing 59.4 receiving yards to RBs out of the backfield. Singletary could be on tap for a big game.
- With the emergence of Singletary has come a shift in the Bills’ personnel strategy. In the first 8 weeks, Buffalo ran 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) at a league-average rate of 60%. Since Week 9, however, the Bills lead the NFL in 11 personnel frequency at 79%. While passing the ball has been a struggle during that stretch, Buffalo has run the ball very well out of 1-1 with a 49% success rate.
Houston offense vs Buffalo defense:
- The Bills defense ranks 3rd defending the pass and 20th defending the run, based on DVOA.
- Deshaun Watson was fantastic this season but it’s hard to like him Saturday against this Buffalo pass defense. Buffalo has allowed the lowest percentage of explosive passes and ranks second in DVOA against deep passes. The status of Will Fuller could also play a crucial role in this game. Fuller played extensively in nine games this season. In those games, the Texans had a 7-2 record and averaged 26.0 points and 380.8 yards of offense per game. In the other six games (excluding Week 17) Fuller missed outright or exited early due to injury, the Texans went 3-3 and averaged 21.7 points and 344 yards of offense per game. Watson will have a tough time on the ground as well with the Bills defense ranking second in success rate to QBs this season. Outside of a Week 1 blowout of Miami, Lamar Jackson’s lowest rushing output this season came against the Bills with only 40 yards.
- DeAndre Hopkins will have a brutal matchup against shutdown CB Tre’Davious White, who has allowed the second-lowest passer rating in the NFL and 0 TDs.
- The Texans may have to rely much more on their ground game against a Bills defense that ranks 20th in DVOA run defense and 29th in explosive run percentage allowed. The Bills rank 24th in success rate allowed since Week 10 after starting the season 13th. The Bills only faced three rush offenses in the top 20 in success rate during that stretch.
- Carlos Hyde should be the beneficiary of a run game that ranks 13th in DVOA and Hyde ranks 13th in success rate among RBs. Excluding the meaningless Week 17 game against the Titans, Hyde has averaged 74 rushing yards on 4.6 YPC in his last 8 games. Against 10 other DVOA run defenses this season that rank in the bottom half of the NFL, Hyde averaged 76 rushing yards per game on 4.9 YPC. He cleared his 66 yards per game average in six of those 10 games.