Happy Thanksgiving! We get three NFL games this Thanksgiving day, and the first game kicks off at 12:30 EST as the Texans (3-7) head to Ford Field to take on the Lions (4-6).
Thanksgiving Prime Time Picks: Texans (-3) vs Lions (+128) O/U 51 – All lines via DraftKings
Prime Time Picks: 12-11
Turkey Day Tradition
With the exception of a six-year hiatus during to World War II, the Detroit Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1934. The Lions own a record of 37-41-2 on turkey day, and have lost the last three in a row. They have also lost 12 of the last 16 Thanksgiving Day games. They look to turn things around in 2020 as they welcome the Texans to town.
Matt Patricia on the Hot Seat
Lions head coach Matt Patricia is on the hottest of seats. Currently in his third season as head coach, Patricia has a record of 13-28-1 (.321), and is coming off arguably the worst game of his tenure in Detroit. They got completely shut out against the Panthers 20-0 on Sunday, and it looked like they simply gave up. It was the first shutout loss for the Lions since 2009. The Panthers started P.J. Walker at quarterback, who last played in the XFL, and he completed 24 of 34 pass attempts for 258 yards and a touchdown against a Lions defense that hasn’t really stopped much of anyone this season. The Lions could do nothing offensively, and in the rare times when they could, Patricia called for them to punt in Carolina territory multiple times. Detroit did not reach the red zone a single time, and only got within Carolina’s 30-yard line once. It was an embarrassing loss, and Patricia’s job status moving forward is certainly in question. The Lions are 4-6 on the season, and have lost three of their last four. His W/L record speaks for itself, but the Lions have been known to give up leads on the rare instances when they are ahead. In fact, earlier this season, the Lions lost their sixth straight game after taking a double-digit lead, a record in the 100-year history of the NFL. Not ideal. Patricia is firmly on the hot seat, and might be coaching for his job in this game.
The Romeo Crennel Era in Houston
The Texans have had coaching problems of their own, as they fired Bill O’Brien after the team started 0-4 to start the 2020 season. O’Brien finished his tenure in Houston with a 52–48 (.520) regular season record, and was 2–4 (.333) in the playoffs. 73-year old Romeo Crennel took over as the man in charge, and has led the team to a 3-3 record. They now sit at 3-7 overall for the season. They defeated the Patriots in Houston last week 27-20, and come into this Thanksgiving Day game having won two of their last three games.
Neither Team Can Run the Ball
Both of these teams struggle to run the ball. Both Houston and Detroit are in the bottom of the league in rushing offense, as the Texans are 31st with just 84.6 yards per game, while the Lions are 29th with 95.4. On top of that, both teams have some injuries they are dealing with that will even further limit their rushing attacks. For Houston, RB David Johnson has been put on IR with a concussion from their Week 9 game against Jacksonville. Duke Johnson has now been their #1 back, but in his three games as their top guy, he has 40 carries for just 110 yards (2.75 YPC), and carried the ball 10 times for a measly 15 yards last week against New England. For the Lions, rookie RB D’Andre Swift suffered a concussion against Washington two weeks ago, and had not practiced since the injury up until Tuesday, as he was listed as a limited participant. He is listed as questionable for Thursday. That leaves the ball-carrying duties to veteran Adrian Peterson (104 carries, 389 yards, 3.74 YPC, 2 TD), and Kerryon Johnson (36 carries, 129 yards, 3.58 YPC, TD). Both had a tough go of it last week against Carolina, as Peterson ran 7 times for 18 yards and Johnson ran 6 times for 17 yards.
Deshaun Watson Leading the Way
The Texans may be just 3-7, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that Deshaun Watson is playing great. He has been one of the few bright spots for the Texans this season. For the season, Watson is completing 68.9% of his passes, has 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He has also rushed for 269 yards and two TD’s. He has not thrown an interception in five straight games, and is leading a Texans offense that is in the top-10 in passing yards per game with 274.3. It is kind of amazing he is playing this well without DeAndre Hopkins and zero running game. It just shows how talented he really is. Watson was excellent last week against the Patriots, and in the first half, the Texans gained 274 yards of total offense—Watson accounted for 271 of those yards. He is doing it all. I expect him to have another solid effort against the Lions, who are in the bottom-half of the league in passing defense (25th with 258.4 yards/game), and have a very banged up secondary.
Stafford Playing Hurt
Matthew Stafford has thrown for 2,581 yards with 17 TD’s and 7 INT’s on the year, and has the Lions passing attack ranked 15th in the league with 247.5 yards/game. Last week against Carolina, much like the Lions offense as a whole, Stafford looked pretty bad. He was just 18 of 33 for only 178 yards. It should be noted that he is dealing with a torn ligament in his thumb on this throwing hand, an injury he sustained two weeks ago against Washington. That can’t be comfortable to throw with, and it could have an impact on the game Thursday. Stafford is just one name on a long list of injuries for Detroit, including WR Danny Amendola (hip/no practice), RB D’Andre Swift (concussion/no practice), CB Jeff Okudah (shoulder/no practice), CB Mike Ford (concussion/no practice), WR Kenny Golladay (hip/limited practice), and TE T.J. Hockenson (shoulder/limited practice).
The Lions are banged up. They have a lot of injuries to deal with, and even the guys who are playing are not fully 100%. That always looms large, but even more so on a short week. Detroit looked absolutely atrocious last week against Carolina, and I just don’t have a lot of faith in Matt Patricia flipping the switch convincingly with just a few short days to prepare. The Lions cannot run the ball, and with Stafford playing hurt, it could be a tough offensive day. The Texans defense may be one of the worst in the league, but they have done enough to win two of their last three games, and they were able to hold the Browns to just 10 points in a 10-7 loss. To be fair, both offenses were dealing with terrible weather conditions in that game, so points were going to be at a premium anyway, but holding the talented Browns offense, who love to run the ball, to just 10 points is still impressive. The Texans were not good in that game offensively, but I think Deshaun Watson will be a lot more comfortable in the dome at Ford Field. The Lions defense hasn’t offered much resistance to anyone this season, and they gave up 258 passing yards to P.J. Walker last week. That is troubling considering that was only Walker’s 3rd ever NFL appearance and his 1st ever start. Watson hasn’t thrown a pick in five games, and the Lions have just 7 interceptions in 10 games this season. Watson is coming off a game in which he threw for 344 yards and 2 TD’s, along with a rushing TD as well. I just think Watson is going to put up solid numbers against the Lions defense, and that the Texans are going to take the momentum from their big win against New England and translate that into a win here against the Lions. Detroit seemingly has no momentum whatsoever, and are so banged up it would be tough for them to win no matter who they are playing. And I don’t trust Patricia. I like the Texans -3.
Title Photo: ESPN