The Houston Texans are expected to be without wide receiver Will Fuller when they take the field against the Buffalo Bills in the opening game of the NFL playoffs on Saturday.
Fuller had been trying to return from a groin injury and was listed as questionable throughout the week, but Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported on Twitter that he is considered unlikely to be on the field when the game kicks off at 4:35 p.m. ET. Wilson noted that the final answer likely won’t come until close to kickoff, but the outlook doesn’t look good for Fuller or the Texans.
“Texans’ Will Fuller regarded as unlikely to be able to play against Bills due to groin injury suffered against Buccaneers, still dealing with muscle tightness, according to sources,” Wilson wrote. “He has been characterized as a game-time decision by Bill O’Brien. Three-week injury, per MRI.”
Fuller is the No. 2 wide receiver for the Texans behind DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller hauled in 49 catches for 670 yards this season but has been one of the biggest difference-makers for the Texans. As Doug Farrar for Touchdown Wire reported, the former 2016 first-round pick is key to helping the Texans stretch the field. He was tied for the team lead with nine catches on passes of 20 yards or more, and usually requires the attention of a deep safety, opening up the middle of the field more for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The difference with Fuller on the field is significant for the rest of the offense, the report noted.
“Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Texans have a QBR of 75.2 with Fuller, and 59.8 without him,” the report noted. “The team’s overall yards per play drops from 6.08 to 5.29 without him, yards per attempt from 7.78 to 6.32, sacks per attempt go up from 7.8% to 10.7%, and third-down conversion rate flattens from 51.9% to 32.9%”
Texans wide receiver Will Fuller loosening up in practice pic.twitter.com/oNHhfWQCjK
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 2, 2020
With Fuller likely not on the field, Buffalo’s All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White will be able to focus more on Hopkins. It could also allow the Bills offense, which was near the bottom of the league this season, to stay in the game.
Should the Texans manage to win on Saturday, they could have a greater chance of getting Fuller back for the divisional round. And while the Texans may be losing Fuller, it appears they will be getting back All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, who has recovered from a torn pectoral muscle far ahead of schedule and is expected to take the field on Saturday.