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Previewing the Texans: Can the Lions stop the worst offense in the league?

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Can the Lions defense finally put together a full performance against the worst offense in the league?

NFL: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive three-game home stand, the Detroit Lions will take their high-octane offense on the road to Houston this week. The Texans are on a short week after taking a beating by the Denver Broncos on “Monday Night Football.” However, both teams sit at 4-3 and are in good positions to make a playoff run. Even though this matchup is an AFC vs. NFC game, it could be crucial in deciding each team’s playoff hopes. Let’s take a closer look at the Texans.

Houston Texans (4-3)

Schedule so far:

Week 1 - vs. Bears - Won, 23-14

Week 2 - vs. Chiefs - Won, 19-12

Week 3 - at Patriots - Lost, 0-27

Week 4 - vs. Titans - Won, 27-20

Week 5 - at Vikings - Lost, 13-31

Week 6 - vs. Colts - Won, 26-23

Week 7 - at Broncos - Lost, 9-27

Reasons the Lions should be optimistic:

I believe I said the same thing when the Lions played the Rams, but if there is ever a week for the Lions defense to break out of its funk, it’s this week. The Texans now rank dead last in offensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders. Brock Osweiler has been a mess of a quarterback in his new home. He’s completing less than 59 percent of his passes and his 71.9 passer rating ranks him 30th out of 32 NFL quarterbacks.

And their running game isn’t much better. Lamar Miller’s stats are respectable with 581 rushing yards at 4.3 a carry, but Houston is gaining first downs on just 21.9 percent of carries, which puts them at 23rd in the league. Football Outsiders ranks the Houston running game even worse, at 27th overall.

Houston’s defense is far more respectable, but they are vulnerable against the run. The Lions weren’t able to take advantage of that last week against the 31st ranked run defense, but they may have reinforcements coming this week. Dwayne Washington seems likely to play this week, while Theo Riddick could also potentially return.

Reasons the Lions should be pessimistic:

If you noticed above, the Texans are 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. While some of that has to do with strength of opponent in each venue, the Texans have proven to be a tough team to beat at NRG Stadium. Going back to 2014, the Texans are 14-6 in their last 20 home games.

All three of the Texans’ losses have been by two-scores or more. However, those losses came against three very good teams: the Patriots (6-1), the Broncos (5-2) and the Vikings (5-1). They’ve taken care of their business at home and against poorer opponents.

Additionally, the Texans play strongest against the pass. The Lions have won each game this year on the back of their passing game. If the Texans can somehow neutralize Matthew Stafford, the Lions don’t have an extra dimension to rely upon.

Overall:

This is an interesting matchup. It’s a classic weakness vs. weakness and strength vs. strength. The Lions defense is the worst in the league and they’ll have to stop the worst offense in the league. The Lions have the seventh-best passing offense in the league, but they’ll be facing the seventh-best pass defense.

These teams are basically the exact inverse of each other and when combined they make the perfect team. However, individually the teams are deeply flawed on one side of the ball. As a result, Football Outsiders actually has both teams ranked in the bottom five overall, despite both teams having a winning record.

Sunday will simply come down to which team has the stronger strength and lesser weakness.