The Detroit Lions don’t realistically have any postseason hopes to play for in the remaining six games of their 2020 season, but Thursday is an opportunity to avoid national embarrassment. It will be Detroit’s only opportunity to play to a national audience this year, and so pride will be on the line.
Luckily for Detroit, they will be facing off against a Houston Texans team that is in just about as much despair as the Lions are. Their abrasive head coach similarly drove away talented players, and they’re left with a team that has little resemblance to the team that saw some minor success a few years ago.
The only difference between the two teams is that the Texans have already turned the page on Bill O’Brien. The Lions have yet to make a decision on their future.
But before we get into any of that, let’s take a closer look at where the Texans are now, and how the Lions match up against them.
Key free agent additions: WR Randall Cobb, WR Brandin Cooks, RB David Johnson
Key losses: WR DeAndre Hopkins, DT D.J. Reader, CB Johnathan Joseph
2020 NFL draft picks:
Round 2: DT Ross Blacklock
Round 3: LG Jonathan Greenard
Round 4: OT Charlie Heck
Round 4: CB John Reid
Round 5: WR Isaiah Coulter
Itt was a tumultuous offseason for the Texans, as DeAndre Hopkins demanded his way out of Houston, and the Texans were widely panned for their return for the All Pro receiver. To help mitigate the damage, the Texans handed 30-year-old Randall Cobb a three-year, $27 million contract and traded for Brandin Cooks.
Meanwhile, the Texans lost a couple key defensive pieces, further depleting the talent on that side of the ball that had created so much success over the past few years. Gone are the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, D.J. Reader, Jonathan Joseph, A.J. Bouye, and Brian Cushing. Seemingly all that remains from those dangerous defenses of the past is J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
2020 season thus far (3-7)
Week 1: Lost to Chiefs, 20-34
Week 2: Lost to Ravens, 16-33
Week 3: Lost to Steelers, 21-28
Week 4: Lost to Vikings, 23-31
Week 5: Defeated Jaguars, 30-14
Week 6: Lost to Titans, 36-24 (OT)
Week 7: Lost to Packers, 20-35
Week 9: Defeated Jaguars, 27-25
Week 10: Lost to Browns, 7-10
Week 11: Defeated Patriots, 27-20
- 22nd in points scored, 23rd in points allowed
- 22nd in DVOA: 15th on offense, 28th on defense, 17th on special teams (DVOA numbers don’t include Week 11 yet)
The Texans weren’t handed any favors by the schedule makers, facing four tough teams to start the year. But Houston barely competed with any of them, and by the time the first month of the season was over, head coach and acting general manager Bill O’Brien was fired.
The Texans have gone 3-3 since, but it’s hard to take even that seriously. Two of those wins came against a 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars team, and last week’s win was against a Patriots team in a huge funk this year.
Defense is the biggest issue for this team right now, and it starts with the running game. The Texans are allowing a league-high 159.3 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. If PFF is your thing, you should probably know that among the Texans’ starting front seven, just a single player has a grade above 60: J.J. Watt.
On offense, it’s the same problems it has always been with Houston. They’ve got the skill position players, they’ve got a franchise quarterback, but their offensive line is downright terrible. The Texans have no run game to speak of (3.8 YPC) and Deshaun Watson has been sacked 26 times this season (seventh most).
IR: CB Gareon Conley, LB Benardrick McKinney, LB Brennan Scarlett, DT P.J. Hall
Current injuries: WR Randall Cobb (toe), LT Laremy Tunsil (illness)
The Texans haven’t exactly been ravished by injuries. However, they could be missing some key players on Thursday. Randall Cobb’s toe injury is considered serious, so he won’t play. Meanwhile, left tackle Laremy Tunsil has been dealing with an illness for the past week or so. He did not play Sunday and was listed as no practice on Monday’s estimated injury report.
Meanwhile, the Texans just ended P.J. Hall’s season, but he hadn’t been playing particularly well anyways.
Biggest strength: Quarterback/Wide receivers
Even after trading Hopkins, the Texans are left with a solid receiving corps. Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks form a pretty solid one-two punch for Houston. And with DeShaun Watson throwing them the ball (108.6 passer rating this year), the Texans offense can still put the hurt on teams.
Biggest weakness: Defensive front
As mentioned above, the Texans can’t stop the run this year, and they aren’t very good at rushing the passer, either. Only one Texans player has 4.0 or more sacks (again, J.J. Watt). He also, coincidentally, leads the team with seven pass breakups.
Vegas line for Sunday: Texans by 2.5