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Houston Texans vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction


The Detroit Lions host their traditional Thanksgiving Day game today, as they will take on the Houston Texans at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The opener of the NFL’s turkey day triple-header features a Lions team that’s lost two in a row and is almost in a must-win situation if it wants to keep its playoff hopes alive. On the other side are the Texans, who enter this game with an AFC-best 9-1 mark and a three-game lead over the Colts for first place in the AFC South.

When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
Detroit is second only to New England in total offense, averaging nearly 402 yards per game, but all of this yardage gained has not necessarily translated into points. The Lions are 15th in the league in scoring at 23.6 points per game. Just like last season, Detroit is struggling to run the ball, averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Mikel Leshoure has shown glimpses of why the Lions drafted him in the second round two years ago, but for the season he’s averaging four yards per carry. The biggest drop off offensively, however, has been with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Through 10 games last season, Stafford had thrown 25 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. This season those numbers are 12 and 10. The good news for Stafford is that All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson doesn’t appear to be as hindered with the knee issues he’s been dealing with all season. Johnson is averaging nearly 160 yards receiving over his last three games and has caught a touchdown in each of the past two contests.

Houston is fourth in the league in total defense and second against the run. The Texans are giving up less than 86 yards rushing per game and have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. They also are seventh against the pass, but are coming off of last week’s overtime win against Jacksonville in which they allowed backup quarterback Chad Henne to throw for 354 yards and four touchdowns. The Texans are among the league leaders in sacks (27) and interceptions (11) thanks in large part to the efforts of Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt (11.5 sacks).

When the Houston Texans have the ball:
Houston is known for its ability to run the ball, as the Texans’ rushing attack led by Arian Foster is eighth in the league with 136.7 yards per game. Foster is a workhorse, averaging nearly 25 carries per game and he is fourth in the league with 949 rushing yards while his 10 rushing touchdowns are tops. Despite the Texans’ tendency to run the ball more than pass it, quarterback Matt Schaub is more than capable of producing through the air when called on. Last week against Jacksonville, Schaub set a franchise-record with 43 completions and his 527 yards passing tied for the second-most ever in a regular-season game. Schaub also had five touchdown passes against the Jaguars, including one to his favorite target, Andre Johnson. Johnson, like his Lions’ counterpart Calvin, is an All-Pro-caliber wide receiver and is coming off of his best game of the season, as he hauled in 14 passes for 273 yards and a score against the Jaguars.

Detroit is 10th in total defense and has done a better job against the pass compared to the run. They are ranked eighth in pass defense and 16th in rushing defense. The Lions are 23rd in the league in scoring defense, allowing 23.6 points per game, but have held teams to 24 points or fewer in seven of their last eight contests. They also have struggled to force turnovers, as they have just 11 through 10 games.

Key Factor:
Detroit has not fared well when it has played teams that can run the ball effectively. The Lions have faced four teams — Chicago, Minnesota (twice), San Francisco and Seattle — ranked among the top 10 in rushing offense. In these five games, they have given up an average of 155 yards rushing per contest. The Texans enter this game ranked eighth in rushing offense. Detroit needs this win more than Houston, but we like the Texans’ running attack powered by Foster to allow them to get a leg up, or perhaps two, on the Lions this afternoon.

Texans 34, Lions 23