NFL Odds & Picks For Texans vs. Lions: The Live Dog To Bet This Thanksgiving
Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Deshaun Watson
NFL Odds: Texans vs. Lions
Thanksgiving Day is synonymous with the Detroit Lions.
In one of the longest running traditions in sports, the Lions have hosted a Thanksgiving football game every season since 1934 — with the exception of 1939-1944 due to World War II. Despite the tradition, they haven’t fared well on the holiday as they hold a 37-41-2 record, losing their last three games.
This season, the Lions host on the 3-7 Texans, who are coming off a 27-20 victory over the Patriots. The Lions hope to rebound after being shut out in a 20-0 road loss to the Panthers who saw former XFL quarterback P.J. Walker complete 24-of-34 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown in the absence of Teddy Bridgewater.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they face a more daunting task in Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup to see where the betting value lies.
The Texans started the season 1-6 straight up and against the spread, but since firing former head coach Bill O’Brien, it appears they’ve turned the corner. They’ve settled in under interim head coach Romeo Crennel and come into Thursday’s matchup winning and covering two of their past three games.
Despite the 3-7 record, ranking 22nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and possessing the NFL’s 28th-ranked rushing offense (3.8 yards per carry), Watson’s presence under center means you can’t completely count the Texans out of any game: He ranks third in DVOA, sixth in quarterback rating (106.7) and completion percentage (68.9%) despite having an average depth of target of 8.5 yards.
Watson has also thrown for 288.3 yards per game and 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions while rushing for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
With Watson at the helm, the Texans have scored 25 or more points in four of their past six games, including a 10-7 loss to the Browns in a game featuring heavy winds. Nonetheless, it’s no coincidence the Texans are 11th in offensive efficiency, second in passing success rate and third in explosive pass play rate with 11% of drop backs going for 20 or more yards.
Watson does have the tendency to hold the ball too long and has been sacked 26 times behind an offensive line that ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate (per Football Outsiders). But that shouldn’t be an issue against a Lions defense that has the seventh-fewest sacks (14th) and ranks 28th in pressure rate (19%).
The Texans will be without Randall Cobb, who will miss time with a toe injury. In his absence, we should see more action from Keke Coutee, who played 35-of-61 snaps, catching two targets for 10 yards and a touchdown after Cobb left last Sunday’s game.
Kenny Stills, who also suffered a quad injury and was limited in practice this week, looks to be on track to play. Add in the fact that wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller as well as tight end Jordan Atkins are good to go, and I don’t see this offense taking a step back without Cobb.
Crennel has been known for defense throughout his career, but this Texans defense is still among the worst in the NFL by nearly every metric. They rank 29th in defensive efficiency, but they particularly struggle against the run as they’re 31st in defensive rushing efficiency while giving up a league-worst 159.3 yards rushing per game on 5.1 yards per carry.
Here’s how opposing rushers have performed against the Texans:
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 25 carries, 138 yards, 1 TD
- Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram, Lamar Jackson & J.K Dobbins: 37 carries, 230 yards, 1 TD
- James Conner: 18 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD
- Dalvin Cook: 27 carries, 130 yards, 2 TDs
- Derrick Henry: 22 carries, 212 yards, 2 TDs
- Nick Chubb: 19 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD
- Kareem Hunt: 19 Carries, 104 yards
The Texans’ pass defense isn’t much better — they’re 24th in defensive passing efficiency. Cam Newton and Jake Luton rank toward the bottom of the league in ESPN’s Total QBR metric and still passed for more than 300 yards and a touchdown with completion percentages higher than their season averages.
The Texans’ defense also has the fourth-worst success rate (49.0%) and the fifth-highest third down conversion percentage (46%). With the injuries to the Lions’ offensive skill players, it remains to be seen if they can capitalize on those mismatches.
Matthew Stafford carved up the Washington Football Team for 276 yards and three touchdowns but came into last week’s loss to the Panthers with a torn ligament in his throwing hand.
It’s difficult to quantify the true impact of his injury, but Stafford had his worst game of the season, completing 18-of-33 passes for 178 yards with zero touchdowns. The Lions were subsequently shutout by a Panthers defense that is just 19th in defensive efficiency. It also marked the first time the Lions were scoreless with Stafford at quarterback.
If the injury made any impact, Stafford will be playing through it on just four days rest.
Detroit’s injury woes don’t stop there, as wide receiver Kenny Golladay will miss his fourth straight game with a hip injury that he suffered in Week 8. His absence had the biggest impact on Stafford, who has seen a decline in his passing statistics:
- Stafford with Golladay (first seven games): 273.7 yards per game, 1.9 touchdowns, 94.8 Rating, 7.79 Y/A
- Stafford without Golladay (last three games): 221.7 yards per game, 1.3 touchdowns, 90.7 Rating, 6.79 Y/A
Both running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Danny Amendola missed last week’s game and didn’t practice Monday. However, both progressed to limited participation on Tuesday and would be a boost to the Lions’ offense if they end up playing.
Swift is particularly important as the Lions face a Texans defense that is the worst in the league at stopping the run. Without Swift, the corpse of Adrian Peterson will get the bulk of the carries, and Peterson is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry compared to Swift’s 4.7 yards.
To make matters worse, Peterson isn’t a threat in the passing game like Swift, so Peterson’s presence tips off the defense to what the Lions might be running offensively.
Still, it’s worth noting that the Texans have had such a tough time stopping opposing running backs this season, that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Peterson turn back the clock if Swift misses this game.
Even without Golladay, the Lions have a solid trio of pass catchers with wide receivers Marvin Jones and Amendola as well as tight end T.J. Hockenson with Swift coming out of the backfield.
After being shut out against the Panthers, you have to expect a bounce back performance for a Lions offense that ranks 15th in offensive efficiency against the Texans defense that is 29th in defensive efficiency. The Lions scored at will against a Washington defense with one of the league’s best front sevens, so we can expect a normal offensive performance from them in this matchup.
The Lions will need a better defensive performance than the one they delivered in Week 11 as they allowed nearly 400 yards to a Panthers offense missing its starting quarterback, running back and left tackle. The Panthers also scored below expectation considering Walker threw two red-zone interceptions as they were threatening to score.
Similar to Crennel, Lions head coach Matt Patricia is a defensive minded head coach, and yet the Lions are still giving up the fourth-most points per game (28.7) and are 25th in defensive efficiency, 23rd against the pass and 24th against the run.
The outlook isn’t particularly look optimistic for Patricia and the Lions after last week’s shutout loss to the Panthers. With a 13-28 record over his three seasons in Detroit, Patricia appears to be on his way out. That aside, the value still lies on the Lions here as there’s a number of trends working against the Texans.
If you’re looking for a telltale sign that a team is being overvalued, look at ones that were a road favorite the week after being a home underdog. The Texans meet that criteria this week as they closed as 2.5-point underdogs against the Patriots last week and are now 3-point road favorites against the Lions.
According to our Bet Labs database, teams in this spot are an abysmal 79-96-6 (45.1%) against the spread (ATS) since 2003.
On the Lions’ side, teams that have been shutout in their previous game typically have a favorable response. Since the 2015 season, there have been 27 instances of teams being shutout. And in games following a shutout loss, those teams are 20-5-2 (80%) ATS.
You never want to blindly play trends, however there is strong evidence that the Texans are being overvalued at the current number. The lookahead line for this game was Lions -1.5 and now we’ve crossed the zero and hit the key number of +3. Are the Texans now 4.5 points better?
I’m not seeing it and this feels like recency bias rearing it’s ugly head.
I’m going to fade that as this is still a bad Texans team with just three wins on the season, two of them coming against the 1-9 Jaguars who have a point differential of -96.
I would recommend waiting for definitive injury news for Danny Amendola and D’Andre Swift before placing a wager, however if they’re in the lineup, this is an automatic value play on the Lions at +3 or better.
I would also recommend placing the Lions in 6-point teasers — crossing out key numbers of 6, 7 and 9 — as the Texans have yet to beat a team by more than seven points the entire season. You can tease the Lions with the Titans from +3.5 up to +9.5 (shop real-time lines here).