Players that have to show up for Houston to beat Buffalo

Who better ball for Texans vs. Bills

These are the players that have to ball out for the Texans to beat the Bills

Deshaun Watson

​Deshaun Watson has to play better than he has after the bye. Before the bye he was regularly efficient and dynamic. Post-bye, it has been inefficient and irregularly dynamic. A season filled with promise and headed towards surpassing last year led to a season where he failed to beat almost all his statistics from last season. Some of that is on the offense but it is on Deshaun Watson too.

Last year, albeit with a terrible line and banged up wideout crew, he played awful in the playoff game. First-time playoff quarterbacks have issues usually. That's not Watson now. This is one of the toughest defenses he has played all season. Comparable to the New England defense he and the rest of the Texans offense shredded post-bye.

Whitney Mercilus

​New deal, new year, hopefully the same old Mercilus in the playoffs. Whitney Mercilus has to finish against the Bills to make sure the Texans win. He had a huge start to the season but he dipped in the middle only to recover with a huge game against the Buccaneers.

Mercilus has six career sacks in six playoff games. Here's what's important though, when rushing the passer as his primary job, which is over three games, he scored all six of those sacks to go along with three more quarterback hits and another tackle for a loss. He totaled 12 tackles. He was a force.

Dion Dawkins should draw the assignment on Mercilus and he is the best pass blocker on the Bills. Plus, Josh Allen's mobility is incredible in extending plays and keeping plays alive. Mercilus kicking ass would go a long way to the Texans getting a win.

Bradley Roby

Bradley Roby and who he covers will be one of the more interesting things happening on the field for the Texans. If he has to drop inside to cover someone, they trust others to not have the Bills playmakers hurt them. If he is taking care of their T.Y. Hilton, aka John Brown, then who is taking care of the over-the-middle success the Bills will surely have.

Roby wants a big deal and he took a one-year prove it deal. He has plenty to prove in the playoffs. For the Broncos a couple of seasons ago he forced a huge fumble against the Steelers that led to a game-changing touchdown. Time to prove it for a Texans team. He had a huge interception against Tom Brady and surely Josh Allen will give him chances.

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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