Houston Texans (1-2, 2-1 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (2-1, 2-1), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Texans 15.25, Bills 31.75
Spread/Total Movements: 17 to 16.5, 48 to 47
Weather: 65 degrees, 40% chance of rain, 5 mph
Texans Injuries to Watch: LB Zach Cunningham (COVID), DT Ross Blacklock (COVID), WR Danny Amendola (hamstring, out), CB Terrance Mitchell (concussion/illness, questionable)
Bills Injuries to Watch: S Jordan Poyer (ankle, out), CB Taron Johnson (groin, questionable)
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
The Texans are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as an underdog, and the Texans are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
Houston is 5-1 toward unders in its last six games as an underdog.
Davis Mills completed 19/28 passes for 168 yards (5.8 YPA) and one touchdown in his first NFL start against a good Panthers defense in Week 3. Taylor Heinicke was the first QB to get to 20+ FP against the Bills last week, and he needed major garbage-time production to get there.
Brandin Cooks survived the switch to Mills last week with another 9/112 receiving against the Panthers. He’s now posted 18+ FP with 5+ catches and 75+ yards in each of his first three games. Cooks is leading the league with a 38% target share, but he gets his toughest test yet against Tre’Davious White and company. Terry McLaurin (4/62 receiving) and Diontae Johnson (5/36/1) have each struggled in this matchup.
Anthony Miller was forced into the lineup with Danny Amendola missing Week 3 with a hamstring injury, and the former Bears WR capitalized with 4/20/1 receiving on six targets with 64% of the snaps. The Bills limited Adam Humphries to a seven-yard catch on four targets out of the slot last week.
Mark Ingram led this backfield with 7/20 scrimmage last week while Phillip Lindsay managed 7/5 rushing and David Johnson added 2/11 rushing. GROSS. The Bills are giving up the fourth-fewest FPG (13.8) to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Bills Stats and Trends
Buffalo is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games and 6-2 ATS in its last eight home games.
Buffalo 12-7 toward overs in regular season games since 2020.
The Bills finally flipped on the switch last week with Josh Allen ripping Washington for 358/4 passing in a Week 3 best 43-point explosion.
Josh Allen busted out of his mini-funk to start the season by hanging 37.2 FP on Washington last week with 358/4 passing (8.3 YPA) and 4/9/1 rushing. Sam Darnold posted 304 yards and averaged 8.9 YPA and he added two rushing TDs against the Texans.
Stefon Diggs is off to a bit of a disappointing start with 12.2-16.0 FP in each of his first three games. He’s not dominating targets like he did last season with a 27% share, but he’s still seen the league’s third-most air yards (409) so he could be ripe for a breakout with Allen hitting his stride last week. D.J. Moore ripped the Texans for 8/126 receiving last week.
Emmanuel Sanders showed his upside in Week 3 with Allen coming to life, posting 5/94/2 receiving on six targets while playing a healthy 80% of the snaps (Gabriel Davis was at only 29%). Sanders has posted 48+ receiving yards in each of his first three games with his new team. Robby Anderson flopped in this matchup last week with just one catch but D.J. Chark did have 3/86/1 receiving as the deep threat in the season opener.
Cole Beasley has a pair of 13-target games sandwiched around a four-target game in Week 2. He owns a 24% target share with 4+ catches in every game. Desmond King is giving up a solid 1.22 yards per coverage snap in the slot this season.
Dawson Knox has 8+ FP in each of his first three games, and he had his best game of the young season with 4/49/1 receiving on five targets against Washington. Most promisingly, OC Brian Daboll is starting to trust him more with his route run percentage climbing every week (45%<77%<80%). The Texans are giving up the fifth-most FPG (18.9) to TEs this season.
The Bills are back to riding the hot hand in their backfield with Zack Moss going from a Week 1 scratch to playing 56% of the snaps in Week 3. He now has three TDs in the last two games and he finished with 16/91/1 scrimmage last week. Devin Singletary has seen his snap share fall for three straight weeks (75%>66%>43%), and he managed just 12/26 scrimmage last week. The Texans are giving up the 12th-most FPG (26.3) to RBs through the first three weeks of the season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Week 1-3 – Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.7 (15th)
Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 63.0 (12th)
Week 1-3 – Pass: 54.5% (28th) | Run: 45.5% (5th)
Week 1-3 – Pace: 26.6 (8th)
Week 1-3 – Plays per game: 76.0 (6th)
Week 1-3 – Pass: 60.9% (16th) | Run: 39.1% (17th)
The Bills are hilariously 17-point home favorites over the Texans at press-time, and if that holds, it’ll be just the 14th time since 2015 where an underdog has laid a three score spread. (For what it’s worth, favorites are 5-8 ATS in this sample). Regardless, this is a blowup spot for Josh Allen & Co. It may look like Buffalo has been more run-heavy on the surface, but that’s just the nature of the last two games they’ve played after wiping the floor with Miami in Week 2 and then cruising over Washington in Week 3. The Bills are ninth in pass rate over expectation to start the season.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
With Brandin Cooks, we don’t need to trust the Houston offense, we just need to trust that Cooks will not be injured. With the second-highest target rate this season (37%) and seeing the second-most air yards/game (142.3), Cooks is — ahem — cooking with consistency. Every week I tell myself that I am going to limit all of my main slate recommendations to those in Of course, the Bills distribute the second-fewest FPG to WRs (25.2). And Cooks will need to deal with Tre'Davious White or the underrated Levi Wallace on either perimeter. It’s a bad matchup, but I’m not sure it matters given Cooks’ high volume of usage.
Just think, three weeks ago, Bill RB Zack Moss was healthy-scratched in favor of Matt Breida, no less. After two opportunities on the gameday roster, Moss is averaging the eighth-most FPG (17.3). And it appears the Bills’ staff is fully invested in Moss as their goal line back, but also viewing him as an asset in the passing game. Moss is second among RBs with 2.5 carries/game inside the five. How significant is that role? Moss has five carries inside the five compared to 21 total carries. Buffalo is currently favored by over two TDs (16). Do the math.
If I were playing a Bills’ secondary WR this week, I’d take Emmanuel Sanders on the outside over the difficult matchup with Desmond King in the slot for Cole Beasley.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Wes really got to the heart of the matter. I don’t think I can sit Brandin Cooks even with Davis Mills at QB and this being a tough road matchup in potentially iffy weather. Cooks is a volume-based WR2, as his 32 targets rank him among the league leaders.
As for Mills, it’s not like you’re starting him for fantasy, but apparently the Texans are opening things up for him.
Davis Mills proved he could do more than the limited offense the #Texans coaching staff placed on him against Carolina. On how they plan to expand his responsibilities:https://t.co/pXMikeSkfK— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) September 28, 2021
We’ll see what that means. What I do know is the only Texans to get more than 1 target last week against the Panthers were Cooks (11), TE Jordan Akins (5), and WR Anthony Miller (6). Miller scored in his Texans debut and played over 60% of his snaps from the slot last week. He’s not a season-long option yet, but it’ll be interesting to see if he does emerge as a reliable second target, and Bill slot CB Taron Johnson (groin) is dinged. Dedication issues led him to being traded from Chicago. He’s got a shot to establish himself here.
The Texans played four running backs in last week’s loss to the Panthers. They all played between 38% and 15% of the snaps. The Bills are stingy to RBs and no Texan RB ranks in the top 40 in total scoring.
The Bills are three-score favorites in this game, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a day to load up on the run game. They won by three scores last week because Josh Allen went nuclear on Washington, looking like the 2020 MVP version of Allen. While the Bills have been mixing the ball around more effectively this year, taking some shine off of Stefon Diggs’ massive 2020 ceiling/floor combo, but Diggs’ 32 targets are still tied with, coincidentally, Cooks for 4th among all WRs. He’s a weekly starter.
Wes broke down above why he prefers Emmanuel Sanders over Cole Beasley. I think both are in the WR3 mix this week. Sanders took an 80% snap share last week, over Gabriel Davis’ 29%. As long as he’s healthy, he’s the #3 WR here. If you want a TE flier, Dawson Knox has seen his involvement grow in every game, and the Texans are giving up the 5th-most FPG to the position.
I still get the willies when I’m asked to trust a Bill RB, but I have to admit I thought Zack Moss looked fantastic last week. But the matchup is pretty good, and Devin Singletary’s snaps have fallen in each of the last two weeks as Moss has earned significant work in the short area — despite playing just two games, Moss has outsnapped Singletary 6 to 4 inside the opponents’ 10-yard line. Moss is a low-end RB2/FLEX option and I’m not considering Singletary.
Note also the Texans put defensive contributors Zach Cunningham and Ross Blacklock on the COVID list on Friday.