Let me first say that I'm excited about the game on Thursday. I'm excited about every Texans game, but my in-laws are from Detroit and games on Thanksgiving carry extra meaning and tradition. To the game, you have to be at least a little concerned about the potential for fatigue in this game. Both teams are playing on a short week, but the Texans also have to travel 1,300 miles and are coming off a long game that went 12 minutes deep into overtime. I believe the Texans will be able to handle the situation because they won't hit or practice as hard this week and they've had this game circled on the calender since it was announced, so getting up and excited for the game won't be a problem. However, it would definitely be beneficial for them to get out to a big early lead and have the luxury of coasting in the second half. If the game on Thursday is tight and close in the fourth quarter, we might see tired legs and hands on hips start to show up.
Here are a few things to watch.
Capitalize On Lions Mistakes:
The Lions offense is moving the ball well, but they're not scoring at the same rate they did last year. They rank first in passing yards and 2nd in total yards, but rank just 15th in points scored. Last year the Lions ranked fifth in offensive yards and fourth in points scored, rankings that line up more closely like you would expect. Why don't they line up this year? Simple, turnovers. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ranks fourth in the league this season in passing yards but has thrown only 12 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Detroit also fumbles the ball too often, they rank seventh in most fumbles lost. Overall the Lions rank 26th in turnover differential at -7. By comparison, the Texans rank 7th in turnover differential at +8. The Lions are likely to give you a couple of gifts, the Texans have to take advantage of them.
The Lions also are a heavily penalized team with 70 penalties (7th most in the league) for 647 yards (5th most) through 10 games this season. They have a potentially high powered offense, but penalties and turnovers have held them back this year. Good example was last week in a game they should have won at home against Green Bay, but they were penalized seven times losing 50 yards and turned the ball over four times. They're 4-6 on the season in large part because they've beaten themselves with mistakes.
The running game on both sides of the ball is a weakness for Detroit and a strength for Houston. The Texans rank 8th in rushing yards this season and not only do they run to pick up yards, but a big part of their passing game comes off of play action plays out of formations that looks like run sets. On the opposite side the Lions rank 16th in rushing yards allowed, which isn't bad, but it's clearly the weaker part of their defense. They rank 8th in passing yards allowed and their defensive lineman all rush the passer pretty well so I don't want to see Matt Schaub with 55 pass attempts again. On the other side of the ball the Lions don't run the ball very often (rank 24th in attempts) and don't run it very well (rank 23rd in yards and 15th in yards per carry). I expect the Lions to focus on the passing game again this week against a Texans rush defense that ranks 2nd in rushing yards allowed, 9th in yards per carry allowed, and hasn't allowed a single rushing touchdown all season. Both teams are potentially explosive in the passing game, but I think the game will be won on the ground by whoever can make the other team one dimensional.