We have finally made it to Thanksgiving Football and we kick off with a lackluster affair when the 3-7 Houston Texans are on the road to face the 4-6 Detroit Lions.
When markets opened, Detroit were 2-point favorites but a lot happened last Sunday for both of these teams and at the time of writing, the Texans are 3-point favorites.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into each team and figure out who might get over the line in this one.
The Texans have won just three of ten games this season, but seem to be playing a lot better than their record suggests. Their most recent performance was one of the best of the week, defeating the Patriots 27-20.
The reason why this team is still afloat is Deshaun Watson, who has the sixth best quarterback rating, thrown for the sixth most yards and has the ninth most touchdowns out of all QBs. This is despite being sacked the second most times out of the top 19 in quarterback rating.
In their Week 11 win over the Patriots, Watson threw 28-37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns, while he ran for 36 yards and a touchdown as well. What makes it even better, he threw no picks on Sunday and that was the fifth week in a row he has done that.
Houston’s defense seemed to come alive against the Patriots as well, sacking Cam Newton twice while getting a hit on him another eight times. JJ Watt was wreaking havoc on the line as well, batting down four passes, while Justin Reid and Zach Cunningham, who leads the league in total tackles, had seven tackles each.
— NFL (@NFL) November 23, 2020
Despite this, the Texans have won just three games and two of them were against the Jaguars. However, only one of their seven losses were against a non-playoff team and have had some very gallant defeats.
They kept within one score of the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, took the Tennessee Titans, who are tied for first in the AFC South, to overtime and almost upset the 7-3 Cleveland Browns, with all three of those games being on the road.
They now come up against the second worst team that they will have played to date, behind the Jaguars, and have a real chance to string two wins together for the first time since week 13 last season.
A team that once sat at 3-3 and was spoken about as being a potential wildcard slot holder in the deep NFC has since gone 1-3, including a 0-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The loss to Carolina was the first time that the Detroit Lions had been shut out in 11 years. Matt Stafford could only manage to throw 18-33 for 178 yards and with no D’Andre Swift at running back, they only got another 40 yards on the ground.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 22, 2020
The Lions offensive line allowed a Carolina Panthers defense, that ranked second last in sacks per game with just 1.1 before Week 11, to sack Stafford five times. During their most recent four week stretch, where they have gone just 1-3, Stafford has been sacked 13 times and is getting banged up because of it.
Those four weeks have seen the Lions go; 20-point loss, 14-point loss, 3-point win as time expired against Washington, and then 20-point loss. Matt Patricia is lucky to still have a job, and this weekend could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
In saying that, the Lions did have a different four week stretch where they went 3-1 including a 26-23 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals, showing that this team has potential to hang around with the leagues middle to upper tier of teams.
The worry heading into this contest, on a short week, is that seven offensive starters were on the first injury report on Monday, including Swift, their star running back.
- Since 2009 there have been 33 Thanksgiving games and the home team has been the underdog just 13 times. Home underdogs are 3-10 against the spread in those games.
- In those 33 games, we have seen more games go under, with a totals record of 15-18.
- Since 2016 there have been 12 Thanksgiving games and the favorites have been 11-1 straight up and 9-3 against the spread in those games.
- The Texans and Lions have only played each other four times in history, with the most recent being in 2016, and the Texans have a 3-1 series lead, however are 1-3 against the spread and the total has gone over three times.
- From Detroit’s last 11 home games, the total has gone over 10 times, while of Houston’s last six road games, the total has gone over five times.
- The Texans are 1-4 against the spread on the road this season, while the Lions are 1-3 against the spread at home.
- In the Detroit Lions last 11 Thanksgiving games, they have gone just 4-7 straight up but were actually 6-5 against the spread and have lost their last three.
- Deshaun Watson is 3-1 when playing on Thursday with a 2-2 record against the spread, while Matt Stafford is 4-6 on Thursday with a 5-5 against the spread record.
NFL Picks & Predictions
This is a very uninspiring way to start what normally is a glorious day of football, but Houston seems to be playing better football at the moment.
They come up against a Detroit defense that is worse than the one they just played and were able to have their way with, whilst their own biggest weakness is defending the run and Detroit’s best and only impactful running back will likely miss due to concussion.
If a Carolina defense can get to Stafford five times, a defense headed by Zach Cunningham and JJ Watt should be able to do the same, if not more, amount of damage.
On the other side, Detroit ranks 27th with just 1.4 sacks per game, meaning Deshaun Watson will have plenty of time to find receivers and make decisions in play action.
Despite a worse record, Houston comes in with a better resume and better form. With the spread being a flat 3.0, meaning a Texans 3-point victory is good for a refund, the favorite should win and cover.
Straight Up: Houston Texans (-160)
Spread: Houston Texans -3.0 (-105)
Total: Over 51.5 (-110)
Deshaun Watson over 300.5 passing yards (-115)
Deshaun Watson over 29.5 rushing yards (-115)
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*Odds correct at time of publication, courtesy of PointsBet.
Image by: KA Sports Photos