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Bills-Texans: AFC Wild Card Weekend preview

Viewers can watch the broadcast live on ESPN/ABC at 4:35 pm ET as well as stream live on the NFL App and Yahoo Sports app.

The Backstory

Tucked away in the Saturday afternoon slot to kick off NFL Wild Card Weekend, the clash between the Bills and host Texans will conclude with one franchise moving forward with a seminal postseason victory.

Playoff defeats and/or postseason absences have summed up these teams' fates for far too long.

On Saturday, quarterback Josh Allen and a phenomenal defense lead the fifth-seeded Buffalo Bills (10-6) into an AFC Wild Card Game against the fourth-seeded Houston Texans (10-6), who won the AFC South thanks to the exploits of QB standout Deshaun Watson and wide receiver extraordinaire DeAndre Hopkins, among others.

It will be 10th meeting between the teams, but the first in the playoffs, where both are known more for their struggles than their celebrations.

Houston is riding a two-game postseason losing streak into the matchup, most recently falling to the Colts in last season's opening round. Under coach Bill O'Brien, the Texans are just 1-3 in the postseason and the franchise stands at 3-5 without ever having advanced past the AFC Divisional Round. With notables such as Watson, Hopkins, J.J. Watt, who's coming back from a torn pectoral because this game is just that important, and new additions Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Carlos Hyde, the Texans need to become a player within the playoffs rather than just a team that regularly appears in the playoffs but rarely makes any noise.

For all the postseason pitfalls in Houston, Buffalo was once synonymous with playoff anguish, but is now in a drought of any kind of January success. The Bills made it to the playoffs in 2017 for the first time this century. Now, they'll once again look to gain their first postseason win since 1995, a drought of 23 seasons that's third-longest in the NFL.

Within the playoff field, there are four franchises represented who have never hoisted a Lombardi Trophy and two of them are facing each other in this game. Quite obviously, a Wild Card Weekend win is still a distance from a Super Bowl triumph, but it's a big step forward for either of these franchises who have long been starved for postseason celebration.

A monumental win is likely to be seen Saturday at NRG Stadium.

Under Pressure

Bill O'Brien, head coach, Texans: It most certainly isn't the case, but it feels like just about every season the Texans are playing in the opening game of the playoffs on Saturday afternoon, fall to the wayside and a collection of stellar talent is tucked back in for the offseason. O'Brien is 1-3 in the postseason and this time around he's not just the coach, but was responsible for a flurry of transactions that saw, in part, the additions of Laremy Tunsil, Duke Johnson, Kenny Stills and Carlos Hyde in the offseason. The Texans won the AFC South again, but the point has come where that's not good enough. For the fourth time in five seasons, Houston is back in the postseason and a second victory in that span is needed for O'Brien to shake the perception that his teams are just happy to be in the dance. In Watson, Watt and Hopkins, he has three elite talents that need postseason triumphs to bolster their resumes rather than just regular-season highlight reels and Pro Bowl trips.

Josh Allen, quarterback, Bills: While you could argue there's more pressure on kicker Stephen Hauschka just because he's a Bills kicker in the playoffs and also struggled at times during the season, Allen is developing and with his maturation comes -- quickly albeit -- the aspirations and pressures of being a franchise quarterback. A reputation for getting it done when it counts comes quickly in the playoffs and Allen's inaccuracy and wild play can still be as exciting as it is troublesome. He's looking to be the first Bills quarterback since the great Jim Kelly to win a playoff game. If he sinks, it could make for a long offseason.

Matchup to Watch

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Bills CB Tre'Davious White: Likely one of the most talented players in the NFL world regardless of his position, DeAndre Hopkins is one of the elite receivers in the game and Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White has emerged as such in the cornerback ranks, as well. And that's very much what the playoffs should be: The best versus the best. And that's what this is. Hopkins has played three times against the Bills and found the end zone in each instance. However, according to Pro Football Focus, White has yet to allow a touchdown in coverage this season. Obviously there are no assurances of how many times the two will lock up, but when they do it will be a matchup to behold. Regardless of who's picking him up, Hopkins (104 catches, 1,165 yards receiving, seven touchdown catches) is going to see the ball thrown his way by Deshaun Watson, it's who the Texans are as the wideout has garnered 29 percent of his team's targets (second in the league, per NFL Research). While White is looking to shut down Hopkins, he's also a danger in coverage as evidenced by his six interceptions (tied for first in the NFL). This is a fun one to watch and one that's likely to be pivotal in deciding who moves on and who goes home.

Prediction

The Texans' high-profile offense against the Bills' third-ranked defense is the synopsis for this one, but each team as a whole has been largely mercurial, winning and losing against playoff and non-playoff teams alike.

The Bills are 6-2 on the road against a Texans team that is more experienced in the postseason, but it's hardly been a good experience. The safest prediction is a hearty celebration from either fan base due to the lack of postseason success as of late.

However, in this one, look for the X-factors. Watson is 5-0 in his career against teams finishing the season in the top five in pass defense (Buffalo is ranked fourth). The ultra-talented QB has shown an ability to come through in the clutch in the regular season but is still striving for that breakout playoff performance. This feels like that moment in time. Couple that with the return of Watt. Though he might not play all that much, the boost of having the leader and playmaker doing everything he can to get back on the field has to bode well as it relates to inspiring the Texans.

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