Texans to Watch: Detroit Lions Edition
The 9-1 Houston Texans look to defeat the 4-6 Detroit Lions in a Thanksgiving Day Week 12 matchup. The Lions are coming off a disappointing 24-20 home loss to their division rival Green Bay Packers while the AFC leading Texans are looking to extend their four game win streak. This is the Texans first Thanksgiving Day game and only second ever trip to Detroit, a game they lost in 2004. The Lions, on the other hand, play this game on an annual basis but haven’t won it in 9 years.
Two big impact players with previous injuries that have a chance to play this game are Ben Tate for the Texans and safety Louis Delmas for the Lions. Ben Tate’s return from an ailing hamstring injury that has kept him on the shelf for 3 games would bolster an offense that relies on the running attack.
“I think (Tate) has a good chance (of playing),” Kubiak said. After Tuesday’s practice, Kubiak appeared even more encouraged by saying, “Ben (Tate) worked harder than the whole team today. I listed him as not practicing, but he works with the trainers and ran his tail off. It was very positive. What we’re looking at is how he comes out of the hard work. He did it three days ago came out okay, still a little soreness so we pushed him back today. If he walks in here tomorrow, ‘Hey, I feel great. I came out of it good.’ Then I think we got much more of a chance of putting him on the field Thursday so we’re trying to watch how he comes out of the hard work.”
The Lions lost safety Louis Delmas from a knee injury he suffered in a 28-24 win over Seattle on Oct. 28, but expect he may play Thursday. “There’s nothing like having the leader of 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,” Schwartz told the team’s website.
Texans to Watch: Defense
The Texans gave up too many big plays last week and will need to fix this before letting Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson go wild. The Lions live for the big play. If Johnathan Joseph cannot go due to his slight hamstring strain, then Kareem Jackson will be lined up on Johnson. Wade Phillips may attempt to play his base defense at first, which includes alot of man to man coverage. If that fails, then expect either safety help over the top or even a two deep look. The Texans to watch this week are both safeties, Danieal Manning and Glover Quin. Besides Calvin Johnson, the Lions have a big weapon at tight end in Brandon Pettigrew, who reminds many of Jaguars’ Mercedes Lewis – and we saw how that worked out.
When asked about his chances against the Texans’ defensive backfield, Calvin Johnson said, “Yeah from watching film we see things that we can go at them with, so definitely. There is going to be some opportunities there. Of course they’re going to come back especially being on Thanksgiving and sharpen up what they, especially do better than they did last time out. We expect them to have a little chippiness about them, but at the same time, still got to play the game.”
In addition to the Texans’ safeties, the defensive line play will need to bring more pressure on Stafford. In an interview earlier this week, Lions’ offensive lineman Dominic Raiola didn’t seem fazed by J.J. Watt. “You know, whatever. Bring it,” Raiola said. “Just bring it. We play top D-tackles every week, so J.J. Watt, bring it.” Watt, who didn’t take the bait, replied with, “Just watch the game and find out.”
But Watt went on to add, “I think if you put enough pressure on any quarterback and you attack any quarterback you can make them do things they don’t want to do. That’s our goal. We want to go in there and like I said stop the run, but then we want to put a lot of pressure on him, make him hopefully throw the ball to our guys.”
Texans to Watch: Offense
The Texans’ offense will not want to get into a shoot out on the road like they did at home against the lowly Jaguars. In order for the Texans to win, the offense will need to get back to a ball control running attack that eats up the clock. In other words, the Lions offense can’t score if they don’t get the ball. The Texans will be facing one of the most prolific front fours in the NFL, led by bad boy Ndamukong Suh.
When asked about this stout defensive front, Kubiak said, “No doubt, it’s as good a front as we’ve played and will play, all year long. Playing at their place on that turf, the way they’ll get off the ball on the cadence, it’s going to be a big, big factor for us. We’ve got our work cut out for us up front, protecting our quarterback, which we take a lot of pride in and like I said, just not going to be able to sit back there and hold it long. They can get after the quarterback. They don’t have to really blitz to get to you because they push the pocket so well. With that being said, it still goes back to our ability to stay on schedule and run the ball.”
This week’s Texan to watch on offense is Wade Smith. Smith will be matched up against former first rounder Ndamukong Suh and his performance will dictate how effective the Texans’ running game will be. Smith may even see a rotation of Suh and another first rounder, Nick Fairley. Needless to say, it will be tough sledding to get yards up the middle and left side for Smith and the other offensive linemen.
Kubiak realizes that a shootout like last week favors the Lions, “The first thing that would jump at me is to win on the road you’ve got to run the ball and play good defense from a consistency standpoint. If you’ve got to go on the road and throw it 55 times like we did this (past) weekend, that’s a hell of alot harder to do on the road than it is at home.”
With the family traditions and football on Thanksgiving, this will be a game most of the country will be watching. It is the first of three games Thursday. J.J. Watt, as most NFL players, has dreamed of this day. “Really excited, I’m really excited about it. Every Thanksgiving back home I eat with my family, my extended family. We watch the game together, go out on the front yard, play Turkey Bowl, so really excited to be actually playing in the game and knowing that all my family back home is going to be watching. It’s going to be really cool. I’m really excited about it and looking forward to the chance,” said Watt when asked about the meaning of playing on Thanksgiving. Quaterback Matt Schaub added, “To go out and play on Thanksgiving Day, that’s a pretty cool deal. Everyone growing up on Thanksgiving that’s what you did. You watched football and you ate turkey. That’s kind of what it was all about.”
Here’s to hoping for a Texans’ win on Thanksgiving!