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AFC South Thanksgiving Day Match: Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

The Houston Texans are taking on the Detroit Lions in a classic Thanksgiving Day matchup. The Texans are favored by three, and while that number may seem low, take into account Houston’s narrow win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. However, Houston’s defense is still elite, even though they gave up 37 points to the lowly Jaguars. They hold defenses to only around 300 yards a game while only giving up 18 points per match. Detroit’s offense is explosive, but Houston’s proved last week that they can stick with anyone in a gun slinging match. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 527 yards and five touchdowns while superstar wide receiver Andre Johnson caught 14 balls for 273 yards. However, head coach Gary Kubiak still wasn’t impressed with the defensive effort.

“We obviously didn’t play up to our standard,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We gave up big plays. We had a few assignment issues, which is unusual for us. That’s something we’ve got to fix.”

However, as bad as the Texans’ defense was last week, they won’t have to deal with Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young, who was suspended by the team for personal infractions. Even the normally quiet Calvin Johnson was upset with his talented but apparently troubled teammate.

“He’s been a distraction the last few weeks whether just not being fully prepared or not showing up to things when we have things on the schedule — him not being there on time,” Johnson said. “It’s just him not being a professional.”

The Detroit Lions love to sling the ball around; sometimes they forgo the run entirely, though with Mikel Leshoure in the backfield, they would be wise to emphasize the running game against the Texans. Grinding it out on the ground is the only way to beat the Texans; it takes solid ball management and turnover-free ball to keep Houston’s own potent running game from controlling the clock. Leshoure is having a solid year: he has rushed for 502 yards on 124 carries, scoring five touchdowns and averaging four yards per rush. He has been solid, though compared to Detroit backfields of the past, Leshoure has been downright fantastic. The Lions defense might also receive a boost in the return of safety Louis Delmas from injury. Delmas is one of the most underrated defensive players in the league, and the lynchpin of the Lions’ unit.

“There’s nothing like having the leader or your defense, a guy who is literally the heart and soul of our defense, and a guy that’s been experienced and played well in our defense,” Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.

While taking Houston at -3 might seem like a steal, bettors should be careful. Houston is coming off of a brutal overtime win, and is playing only several short days later. That’s a lot to ask of a team, even a team as good as the Texans. In a vacuum, you would be crazy to favor Detroit in this game, but pay serious attention to the factors at work here. The Texans are going to be worn down and tired, and Detroit is at home. I still like Houston in this game, but only marginally. I think their pure talent wins out in the end, but that this game will much closer than casual fans may think.

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