Detroit Lions: Why They Are a Sexier Pick Than the Houston Texans

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01:  Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions sits on the sidelines against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 1, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

This is going to be a very special season in Detroit.

The pundits have weighed in, and along with Houston, the Lions are everyone's sexy pick for the playoffs.

I agree with both, even though my Hoosier girlfriend will need to see a stake driven through Peyton Manning's heart before she will give up on her hometown Colts.

There is reason for optimism for both squads. They both have dominant wide receivers named Johnson, they both have a stud young defender that was a top pick and they both have improved enough on both sides of the ball to warrant serious consideration for big years.

However, the Lions, despite playing in the same division as the defending champion Packers, will have a better year than the Texans.


Schedule Only Partly to Blame

Both the Lions and Texans have a very tough schedule. They both get stuck playing the NFC South with their three very good teams that should each be battling for the playoffs.

But while the Lions get stuck playing a fairly decent AFC West division, the Texans get stuck with the AFC North. That's Pittsburgh and Baltimore (among others), two teams that will absolutely beat up on the Texans and their somewhat frail quarterback.

If the Lions had to play those two teams, I would have a much less rosy opinion of our season. Face it, the idea of our own somewhat frail quarterback, Matthew Stafford, being pummelled by James Harrison is enough to have all Lions fans scrambling for the Huggies.

The Lions' schedule isn't exactly a cupcake ride, but it definitely isn't as brutal as the Texans'.


Beginning of Something Legendary

The Lions finally are looking at a full season from their young signal-caller, Matthew Stafford. And while it is too early to start building his bust for Canton, there are reasons to believe he is primed for a breakout year in Detroit.

He has weapons galore this season. Calvin Johnson is one of the most dynamic receivers we have ever seen. But beyond that, the Lions have a stable of receivers that should take a lot of pressure off of Megatron, not the least of whom being tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

And while the Texans have a very solid quarterback in Matt Schaub and their own legendary Johnson, this one being Andre, they lack the secondary targets.

Now, granted, they do have a very dynamic runner in Arien Foster and a running attack that puts the Lions' to shame, but they also just lost their stud fullback, Vonta Leach, and so some of those holes might not be as thick.

Top it off with the fact that Foster has been ailing due to an injured hamstring, and there are reasons to doubt that this attack will be quite so fearsome this year.

Needless to say, Stafford clearly looks primed for a breakout year in Detroit.


Defense, Baby

Both teams had serious holes in their secondary, and they had different approaches on how to fix those needs.

Houston did the traditional fix, bringing in some talented cornerbacks, namely Jonathon Joseph from Cincinnati. This surely will improve that unit.

The Lions, however, strengthened every other aspect of their defense in order to improve their secondary.

The hope in Detroit is that the front seven will be able to put enough pressure on the quarterbacks in order to take pressure off of their secondary.

They also will be hoping for a solid contribution from their young safety Louis Delmas, and a returning core of defensive backs. More than anything, they are hoping that their depth will bring them strength.

One thing in particular that makes Detroit's defense more impressive is that they are putting their best defensive player in a position to succeed.

Ndamukong Suh was truly dominant last year. As a result, they brought in more players to compliment him, including two stud linebackers and rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

Houston has their own stud defender in Mario Williams, however, they are experimenting with a new scheme that will be placing him in a new position: outside linebacker. The hope is that he will be able to excel in more space.

But this is a gamble, and leaves their defense much less settled than Detroit's.



I still think that Houston is a safe bet to win their division. Manning's health makes the Colts too much of a wild card, and Tennessee and Jacksonville are not serious contenders.

That being said, the Lions will be a better team and should have a better record. Both will make the playoffs, but look for Detroit to be a double-digit win team, and Houston to sit closer to .500.


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