Houston Texans (9-1 SU, 7-3 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (4-6 SU, 4-6 ATS)
NFL Week 12
Date/Time: Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 12:30 p.m. EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
by Vesper Abadon, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Hou -3/Det +3
Over/Under Total: 49
The Houston Texans were projected to be AFC Super Bowl contenders prior to the start of the season, and through ten games they’ve not disappointed. They’re an NFL best 9-1, tied with the NFC’s Atlanta Falcons, and a cinch to make the Playoffs. On the other hand, the Detroit Lions, who finished in 10-6 in 2011, have fizzled in the early going and are a lackluster 4-6.
So what has these teams, which are both in the offense and defense top ten, at opposite ends of the results spectrum? The answer is simple-the Texans are better balanced and more disciplined. Their offense is 6th in the league thanks to an 8th-ranked rushing game, which averages 136.7 yards per game (YPG), and 12th-ranked aerial attack at 246.2 YPG.
Running back Arian Foster has been the team’s workhorse, carrying 249 times (more than any other back in the league) for 949 yards (3.8 AVG) and a league-leading ten touchdowns. Overall Foster is listed as the fourth-best running back in the NFL through Week 11, behind just Doug Martin (3rd), Marshawn Lynch (2nd) and Adrian Peterson (1st).
What’s more, the Texans’ offense also thrives through the air. Last week, quarterback Matt Schaub threw a career-high five touchdowns passes and completed a franchise-record 43 passes for 527 yards, second most in NFL history, in a 43-37 overtime win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. More than half those yards, 273 to be exact, went to wide receiver Andre Johnson, who caught 14 passes and scored a single touchdown. Needless to say, the Texans have a plethora of weapons both on the ground and through the air.
Defensively the Texans are pretty good too; in fact, they’re ranked 4th-best in the NFL as they hold opponents to an average of 299.2 YPG, which includes 213.6 YPG through the air and 85.6 YPG on the ground. They’re allowing a third-down conversion rate of just 25.6%, and hold opposing teams to an average of just 18 points per game. To put it simply, it’s extremely difficult to move the ball against the Texans.
With that said, if any team can do it, it’d be the Lions, who have the 2nd-best offense in the league. That comes courtesy of the best passing game in the NFL with 301.8 YPG, and the 23rd-ranked rushing offense at 99.9 YPG.
The rushing game, featuring Mikel Leshoure (124 carries for 502 yards and five touchdowns), isn’t overly impressive, but has helped open up things for Matthew Stafford. The young quarterback has completed 265 of 427 passes for 2,988 yards, 12 touchdowns, and ten interceptions-giving him a fourth-best 82.6 rating among quarterbacks. Obviously his favorite target is Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who has hauled in 65 receptions for 1,117 yards (17.2 Avg) and three touchdowns. While he hasn’t found the endzone as frequently as last year, Johnson continues to show he’s one of the best at what he does.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions hold opponents to an average of 328.1 YPG, which includes 214 passing YPG and 114.1 rushing YPG-good enough for the 10th-best defense in the league.
Vesper Abadon’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I can’t think of a better way to kickoff Thanksgiving Day than with this game. The last time these two teams met was way back on October 19th, 2008 when the Texans won 28-21. Before that was September 19, 2004 when the Lions won 28-16. It’s a rare inter-conference matchup, and that always makes for a sweet treat.
I think that Houston may have peaked already and I also think Detroit is starting to heat up. I expect a battle on Turkey Day with the Lions pulling off a major upset which will leave many with a second stomach ache. I’m “gobbling” up the +3.5 with the Lions!
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