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5 things to watch: Lions vs. Texans

The Lions are playing for the 81st time on Thanksgiving today in what's become an annual tradition in Detroit.

The Lions are hosting AFC foe Houston at Ford Field this year. The Texans' only other Thanksgiving Day game was a 34-31 overtime win over Detroit in 2012.

Here are five things to look out for in today's matchup:


16 players were on Detroit's injury report this week with varying degrees of practice availability.

The big news from Wednesday's report is that Detroit will once again be without the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver Kenny Golladay. He'll miss his fourth straight contest with a hip injury. Detroit also won't have wide receiver Danny Amendola for a second straight game, also due to a hip injury.

The news is slightly better for rookie running back D’Andre Swift as he continues to work through the concussion protocol. He's listed as questionable.

Other players already ruled out are: Cornerback Jeff Okudah (shoulder), defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand (groin), defensive end Austin Bryant (thigh) and cornerback Mike Ford (concussion).

Linebacker Reggie Ragland (ankle) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (back) are both questionable. Inactives will be released 90 minutes before kickoff.


Detroit was shut out last week in Carolina (20-0) for the first time since 2009. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said last Sunday's performance on offense was unacceptable, and he and his teammates are pretty eager to get back on the field today and attempt to wash that bad taste out of their mouths.

Houston ranks 23rd in points allowed (27.2), 31st in total defense (411.7), 32nd against the run (159.3) and 22nd against the pass (252.4) coming into today's contest.

Stafford will be without two key skill-position weapons at receiver with Golladay and Amendola ruled out. If Swift is able to return, that would be a big boost. He's Detroit's best runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. He had 149 scrimmage yards in his last game. 

Detroit will once again need a couple pass catchers to step up and fill the void left by Golladay and Amendola.


Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 121.9 rating with a rushing touchdown in a 27-20 victory over New England last Sunday. He is the fifth quarterback to record three games with at least 300 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown in his first four seasons. He has at least two touchdown passes and a rating of 100-or-higher in seven of his past eight games.

What makes Watson and the Texans' offense so dangerous is Watson's ability to extend plays and get the ball down the field to speedy receivers Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. Detroit has to be good trying to keep Watson in the pocket as much as possible today. He's at his most dangerous outside the pocket because he's still looking to throw down the field, and he's extremely accurate throwing on the run.


J.J. Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive MVP who leads the Texans in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (7.0). He's big, physical, has short-area quickness, and is overall a menacing figure on the edge for the Texans' defense. He plays the run better than most edge defenders in the game, and when he doesn't get home on the sack, he's great at getting his hands on passes, as evidenced by his career-high four batted balls last week vs. New England.

The Lions got behind on the scoreboard in Carolina last week, and that allowed Brian Burns and the Panthers other pass rushers to tee off on Stafford to tune of five sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Detroit can't get behind on the scoreboard and let Watt, Whitney Mercilus and the other Texans pass rushers pin their ears back and get after the quarterback this week. Detroit's got to be able to establish the run against the worst run defense in the NFL and be somewhat balanced on offense.


This is the Lions' only game this year in front of a national audience. The Lions have had more lows than highs up to this point, but this is an opportunity at home to play good football in a key contest to keep pace in the NFC playoff picture.

Can the offense play to its potential against a Houston defense that's allowed five 30-plus scoring games to opponents this season? Can the Lions' defense be disruptive upfront and make some of the game-changing plays we haven't seen enough of this season? Can the special teams unit continue to play well and be a spark plug with a big return or turnover?

And most importantly, can Detroit play a consistent football game for 60 minutes and give their fans something to cheer about on this holiday?

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