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NFL Picks: Texans at Lions Predictions and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 11/21/2012

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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford

There are three games on offer this Thanksgiving, and it’s the strongest group of games we have seen on Turkey Day in quite awhile. The Patriots and Jets will be good for some fireworks, and the RGIII show rarely disappoints, but in my eyes the first of the three games is by far the most interesting. Both of these teams have the potential to be very good, but both have shown — many times over in the case of the Lions — that they are vulnerable and imperfect as well. There is no shortage of good storylines, and this is a great way to kick off a day of gluttony and excess. Besides, Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving game for 73 years, so it’s a tradition you don’t want to mess with.

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Texans at Lions Betting Storylines

It’s strange to say that a team has to bounce back after a win that featured an epic offensive output, but after needing overtime to get past 1-8 Jacksonville — and giving up 37 points to a team with a backup QB at the helm in the process — bouncing back is just what they need to do. Offensively, Matt Schaub’s 527 passing yards were the second highest total in league history, and Andre Johnson says he played the best game of his career — an assertion that’s hard to argue with. After Blaine Gabbert was hurt early on, though, Houston’s secondary was powerless to contain Chad Henne. He passed for 354 yards and four touchdowns, and he made it very obvious why Justin Blackmon was such a desired draft choice. The previous three Houston opponents had scored 13 or fewer points -- and the defensive improvement has been the defining story of these Texans -- so this past game is a real concern. Was it just an aberration — a shootout that carried both teams away — or did Henne provide a framework for exploiting the Texans that others, starting with Matt Stafford this week, can follow?

So, can the Detroit offense exploit the Houston defense? That’s a big question because this Lions offense is so bizarre. On one hand they can certainly move the ball — they are tops in passing yardage with more than 300 yards per game, and second in total yardage. They haven’t been able to translate that ball movement onto the scoreboard, though. They sit just 15th in points scored, and they have been shockingly bad in the red zone. Most striking is the problems Calvin Johnson has had. He’s on track for almost 1,800 receiving yards and is leading the league by 114 yards. For some reason, though, that productivity has not turned into points. Last year he scored 16 touchdowns. The year before he had as many yards in 15 games as he has had in 10 this year, but he scored 12 times. So far this year he has found the endzone just three times. He’s owning the middle of the field, but he can’t close the deal. A big part of the issue is that the Lions are third in the NFC with 18 giveaways, and they have a -7 differential. It’s hard to be a good team when you can’t keep the ball — and you put your defense in a rough spot.

The Detroit defense will be tested by Houston, and their ability to deliver is as uncertain as the offense. They are Top 10 in terms of total yards allowed, and even better against the pass, but they are just 23rd in points allowed, giving up almost 25 per game. Those two things shouldn’t go together, but the big problem is that the offense and their turnovers often give up good field position so the defense doesn’t get a chance to do its job. Against a well-balanced offense that is third in the NFL in points scored with 29.3 per game, it’s hard to be too optimistic about the Lions when they don’t have the ball.

Detroit could easily fall into the trap of looking beyond this game. At just 4-6 their playoff hopes aren’t dead yet, but they likely need to win out to make the postseason. The rest of the schedule is mostly brutal — home games against Indianapolis, Atlanta and Chicago and a trip to Green Bay — so it would be easy for the team to get overwhelmed and to perform at less than full effectiveness as a result.

One oddity here could be the potential absence of Jeff Backus, who is struggling with a hamstring injury. The brilliant left tackle has played 186 straight games, so you can be sure that the Texans would be looking to exploit the position if he isn’t ready to go.

Texans at Lions NFL Odds and Betting Trends

The game opened with the Texans favored by a field goal, and it has stayed at that level. A very large majority of bets have been on Houston, though, so there is a good chance that the line will take a jump up before kickoff. If you like the Texans, then, there may be no better time to bet than the present. The total opened at 48.5 and has been moving up since — it now sits at 50.5. It could easily go higher.

The Lions have covered both meetings between these teams, but since they only happen every four years, with the last happening in 2008, that doesn’t mean much. Detroit has lost their last eight Thanksgiving games and is 0-8 ATS in their last eight Thursday games.

NFL Picks: Texans at Lions Betting Predictions

I’m not that worried by the problems Houston’s defense had last week. Chad Henne is a very underrated quarterback, and the Texans hadn’t prepared to face him. They got caught off guard, and that won’t happen again here. They will find ways to confound Stafford and company, and they will be able to score points by the bucketfull. The Texans will cover a game that is going over the total.

Doc’s Sports is offering $60 worth of member’s NFL picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any NFL handicapper on Doc’s Sports Advisory Board list of expert football handicappers. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.

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