After a dramatic last-second win over the Washington Football Team on Nov. 15, the Detroit Lions followed it up with a listless performance.
Injuries to Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Christian McCaffery swung the pregame spread in the Lions’ favor at -3. But the lack of Carolina’s key playmakers made no difference with Detroit’s stumbling offense.
Detroit recorded just 185 yards of total offense as it was shut out in the 20-0 loss to the Panthers on Sunday. Defensively, it was not much better. The Lions were beaten by former XFL quarterback P.J. Walker, who was making his first career start. Walker was decent, completing 24 of 34 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
But Detroit simply could not move the ball against a defense that came in surrendering an average of 27.2 points per game. The Lions recorded just 10 first downs to Carolina’s 20. Carolina sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford five times while Detroit only managed to get Walker down for a loss on one occasion.
The Lions were without wide receivers Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay, and it was apparent the team’s rushing attack missed running back D’Andre Swift. Detroit gained just 40 yards rushing on 17 attempts (2.4).
Considering Detroit’s recent struggles and the unknown injury status of key offensive pieces, it comes as no surprise sportsbooks have the Lions as 3-point underdogs for Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup with the Houston Texans. Michigan bettors can get plus-odds on the Lions’ moneyline at +128, while the Texans are -148. The total is currently 51.
The Lions will kick off the NFL’s Thanksgiving game day with a 12:30 p.m. start. Detroit has played on every Thanksgiving since 1934 with the tradition only pausing between 1939-44 because of World War II.
All-time, the Lions are 37-41-2 on Thanksgiving. Over the last five years, Detroit is 3-2 against the spread and won straight up in 2015 and 2016.
Houston features one of the best passing attacks in the league, averaging 274.3 yards passing per game — eighth-best in the NFL.
The Texans are coming off their best win of the season, a 27-20 victory over the New England Patriots where Deshaun Watson completed 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns.
Houston relied on its passing attack against New England and ran the ball just 13 times with its running backs. The Texans’ backfield depth took a hit when the team placed starting running back David Johnson on injured reserve on Nov. 14. Johnson’s absence makes Watson the team’s most lethal runner. Against the Patriots, he led the team with 36 yards and a score on six carries. For the season, Watson has 269 yards rushing and 19 first downs while averaging 5 yards per carry this season.
After the pitiful offensive performance on the ground against Carolina, Detroit’s rushing attack could bounce back versus a porous Houston defense.
The Texans are the worst team in the NFL at stopping the run, allowing a league-worst 159.3 yards per game and 5.1 yards per attempt.
Much of Detroit’s success rushing the ball could depend on Swift’s status. Swift (concussion) did not practice on Monday after thriving in recent games as one of the Lions’ primary backs. In the loss to Minnesota on Nov. 8, Swift recorded 64 yards on 13 carries (4.9 per attempt), and in the following week, he recorded 81 yards, averaging 5 yards per carry and scored a touchdown.
If Swift can’t go, it’ll be on Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson to lead Detroit’s rushing attack.