The Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills are both struggling in pass protection, and the winner on Sunday may be determined by who can keep their quarterback most clean.
After an 0-3 start, the Houston Texans have won two overtime games in a row to pull to 2-3. The Buffalo Bills are also coming off a narrow victory in Week 5, 13-12 over the Tennessee Titans, and they are also 2-3.
Deshaun Watson has rebounded well from a poor Week 1, with four straight 300-yard passing games (375 or more in three straight). But he’s also been under near constant pressure behind a bad offensive line, with 18 sacks taken and now 82 hits absorbed on drop backs. And that leaves aside his 34 rushing attempts, including 10 against the Cowboys last week, and the extra hits they naturally invite.
Watson visited the medical tent toward the end of regulation last Sunday night, and returned for overtime. But he came out of the game with a chest injury that had him regarded as “day-to-day” earlier this week. He doesn’t appear to be in danger of missing Sunday’s game, but Watson can’t be expected to hold up under the punishment he’s been taking. Brandon Weeden should be on call if Watson can’t be protected better. Part of that equation falls on him, in terms of getting the ball out of his hands faster, but the Texans are easy to tab as the worst offensive line in the league.
Watson’s 18 sacks taken are tied for the second-most in the league, though there would surely be a lot more if he wasn’t as mobile as he is. Who has taken the most sacks through five weeks? That would be Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who has taken 19 sacks despite not playing all of Week 1.
Watson is already a little banged up, and while Allen is better built to absorb hits the Bills seemed to take a precautionary measure regarding their rookie quarterback by signing Derek Anderson this week. No outside observer wants another appearance from Nathan Peterman, and the Bills just put themselves in that camp too in case something happens to Allen.
Bad offensive lines also foster bad rushing attacks. The Bills (20th in the league) and Texans (10th in the league, but take away Watson’s production) are both proving it. Improvement in that area would surely help both quarterbacks function, but it probably isn’t coming.
The pass rushes for Houston and Buffalo are practically equal, with 13 and 12 sacks this season respectively. But talent for talent the Texans have the advantage, with J.J. Watt (six sacks this year), Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus healthy.
This game is likely to be low-scoring, with a few key plays making the difference. The Texans have far more of those kind of difference-making players, and Watson can always pull something out of his hat with his mobility and arm strength. Assuming he survives the game without further injury, that is.