The Detroit Lions (4-6) are hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive by winning their first Thanksgiving matchup in nine years. However, the Houston Texans (9-1) have different plans for the outcome of this one.
Houston has had to answer some questions internally after being put on upset alert in a narrow Week 11 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime last week. That game proved, if nothing else, that anything can and will happen in the NFL.
Unlike the Jaguars, the Lions are a team that thrives on coming back, not leaping out to a big lead. This game, though, isn't a good week to get put into a hole. Houston runs the ball and controls the clock better than anyone in the league and falling behind early could certainly spell doom for the Lions.
Don't let the record fool you. These Lions have played everyone they've faced to the wire, losing five of their six games by eight points or fewer.
When: Thursday, Nov. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Listen (radio): 97.1 The Ticket WXYT FM (Detroit); SportsRadio KILT 610 AM and KILT 100.3 FM (Houston)
Spread: Texans -4 (via Bovada)
Houston is coming off of a game in which it again showed concerns in its secondary. It certainly hasn't been a recurring problem, but it has happened twice now. Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns against them in Week 6's disaster loss and Chad Henne put up four of his own last week while only being sacked once.
This is a good thing for the Detroit Lions and odds makers. The Lions may find a way to lose this game, because well, they're the Lions. Playing from behind and not playing much defense can only be carried by the passing game for so long.
Expect the Texans to win but not to cover.
Over/Under: 50.5 (via Bovada)
This game will likely be a high-scoring affair due to the potential explosiveness of each of these two offenses. Matthew Stafford is statistically the No. 1 passer in terms of yards per game (301.8) and Calvin Johnson is the league's top wide receiver in that category (1,117).
Houston has shown it can put up points in droves in response to its defensive lapses. A couple of lapses on Thanksgiving are likely against the Stafford and Johnson connection. Even playing assignments correctly doesn't guarantee Johnson isn't going to make a play that makes you go, "Wow!"
Look for a high-scoring and exciting game that breaks 51 points easily.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/21/2012)
NT Shaun Cody, Back/ribs, Questionable
DE Jared Crick, Neck, Probable
TE Owen Daniels, Back, Probable
S Quintin Demps, Back, Probable
LB Tim Dobbins, Shoulder, Questionable
LB Bradie James, Thumb, Probable
WR Lestar Jean, Knee, Probable
CB Johnathan Joseph, Hamstring, Questionable
CB Brice McCain, Knee, Probable
LB Jesse Nading, Foot, Probable
WR DeVier Posey, Knee/hamstring, Questionable
LB Darryl Sharpton, Neck/knee/hip, Probable
DE Antonio Smith, Ankle, Questionable
RB Ben Tate, Hamstring, Questionable
QB T.J. Yates, Right elbow, Probable
DE Cliff Avril, Knee, Questionable
S Erik Coleman, Eye, Questionable
S Louis Delmas, Knee, Questionable
CB Drayton Florence, Concussion, Questionable
K Jason Hanson, Left foot, Probable
DT Sammie Hill, Knee, Questionable
WR Calvin Johnson, Knee/thumb, Probable
CB Jacob Lacey, Foot, Questionable
LB Ashlee Palmer, Chest, Questionable
DT Ndamukong Suh, Knee, Questionable
DT Corey Williams, Knee, Questionable
WR Titus Young, Not injury related, Out
Fantasy Big Plays
Houston: RB Arian Foster
The league's most talked about running back is coming off of a strange performance in which he failed to gain 100 yards or score against a Jacksonville team that he ran pretty easily on in Week 2. Foster, though, should not be discounted in any league formats. He has shown he has the ability to run effectively against any defense behind the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.
Foster isn't likely to have a repeat performance like last week. Likewise. Matt Schaub will most likely not be throwing for over 500 yards again, although it is possible. Even if this game turns into a shootout, Foster should be able to get something going on the ground or in the passing game to appease fantasy owners after last week's performance.
Like turkey on Thanksgiving, Foster's going to be eating up the Lions' defense in Detroit.
Projected Stats: 26 carries, 123 yards, 1 TD; 4 receptions, 55 yards, 1 TD
Detroit: WR Calvin Johnson
You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him. Megatron has been on an absolute tear this season, especially in the last two weeks. In that span he has put up two touchdowns on 17 receptions and 350 yards receiving.
Houston's defense has been susceptible to the random torching this season. None was more random than last week's 350-plus yard effort from backup Jacksonville QB Chad Henne. Justin Blackmon exploded for 236 yards and one score as the Jags pushed the Texans to the brink in OT.
Johnson will be the go-to guy, as usual, and will end up having a solid if not spectacular Thanksgiving game for his fantasy owners.
Projected Stats: 10 receptions, 112 yards, 2 TDs
Key to Victory
This game begins and ends with the Houston Texans' ability to slow down Stafford's big arm. The Lions' QB had two touchdowns last week in the team's loss to Green Bay. Unfortunately, one of them was to Packers DB M.D. Jennings who returned it 72 yards for a Green Bay touchdown.
Houston will need to pressure Stafford early and often as the Packers did. They sacked him four times and kept the heat on for much of the game. However, Stafford hasn't been under fire as much this season, being sacked 22 times (13th in NFL).
If the QB has time to find receivers, and he will, it's going to be another long day for the Texans' secondary. This time, though, it's on national television for everyone to see.
Both teams are coming off of a week they'd like to forget, although the Texans did bounce back to get the win. Their minds don't have much time to dwell on those feelings because Thursday is rapidly approaching.
NFL players have short memories but the Lions will see some of the things Green Bay and Jacksonville did to take advantage of the weaknesses in the Texans' secondary. Matthew Stafford will have a big game but will have his usual lapses and a poor completion percentage that will stall several drives.
Houston will get out to an early lead and try to run the ball to burn clock. It will work until the late surge by the Lions nearly gives them the comeback win.
Final Score: Houston 31, Detroit 28