As we struggle against our Tryptophan comas, one of the most comforting scenes on Thanksgiving is slouching in the 2nd best recliner in the living room (your dad in the best one) as the smells of Aunt ___’s desserts fill the air along with the noise pollution of your uncles arguing about football. This year’s nooner will likely be the only game there is no argument about as a Houston Texans team that has hit the ground running this year (though they slipped last week against the Jags) takes on one of the two traditional Thanksgiving opponents in the Detroit Lions.
As a youngster I got to see the Lions win 8-11 Turkey Day games, as a high schooler and up until the present I’ve seen them win once in the last 12 years and get routed almost every time. Granted, these are Ross, Moeller, Morningweig, Mooch, Jauron, and Marinelli Lions teams getting routed in a decade long era where the Lions posted an overall record of 61-99. Since Schwartz took over in 2009, the Lions have a bit of their swagger back, and are hitting harder, looking crisper, and are kings of the come-from-behind upset in recent years.
This year the Lions have played the season like they inserted Madden 13 into their Xbox and took on their opponents with a controller. Stafford is close to 3000 yards through 10 games, and Johnson eclipsed 1000 yards with just one catch last week. Titus Young (SR) has looked clean on his route running and though he still has butterfingers on occasion, he is eating up yards with his short routes while secondaries swarm around Megatron like fruit flies and are just about as effective as gnats. On paper, so long as you just look at the passing game, the Lions look like a scary team. The one thing that people aren’t factoring in is that they are almost always trailing late. The Lions do have some semblance of a running game this year as Mikel Leshoure has taken on the brunt of the carries being spelled by a spunky Joique Bell (Lions sure like their backs named Bell don’t they?). Nonetheless, much like a little kid playing his Xbox the Lions will throw on every down and play lax defense.
On the other hand there have been a couple of games this year where they have looked like real contenders. In fact, last week against a Packers team that is shaking off the rust, Detroit looked like they had the game in hand up 20-14 late in the 4th. Any Lions fan should know though, that unless they are down by two scores late in the 4th, they are just not going to win. Being a Lions fan is a painful rollercoaster. Not much is expected most of the time, but these cardiac Gridiron Heroes tend to drudge up sparks of hope and optimism, especially when they can string a few barn-burner wins together. Lions fans seem to be finally looking forward instead of dwelling on the past, and a sense of positivity is still abuzz as Thanksgiving approaches. I asked Raina K., a metro-Detroiter what she expects from Lions team that is making a habit of losing on Thanksgiving.
“I've learned to not expect anything over the years that I've been a fan because more than likely it will be a disappointment. After going 10-6 last year and making it to the playoffs, they have all this pressure to surpass themselves and everyone is expecting them to improve, even me. But the Thanksgiving Classic does give a little glimmer of hope amidst the string of losses because if there's anything else I've learned about the Lions it’s that they like to be the underdog. When they do rise above adversity it's a sight to see.”
The Lions could be 8-2 or 2-8 and either way I’d call them inconsistent. They have the talent on offense, and a turnover-happy defense that can show up or not show up every time they take the field. At times they look well-coached and disciplined, and other times look like a bunch of kids throwing temper tantrums from being lost out on the field. If the Lions could mature, and get Leshoure and Stafford an offensive line, Schwartz definitely has the skills to make them a winning team.
The Texans squeaked out a shamefully close game against a woeful Jaguars team that looks much like the perfect season Lions of old. It’s the first real slip up that a stellar Texans team has had all year. Kubiak will likely be training his Houston team to not lose focus with extra time and pain here and there in a short week. The Texans did show a weakness for the long ball last week, which is the Lions forte, but it may have been simply because they don’t draw deep coverage for one Chad Henne. The Texans continue to swallow rushing offenses, and have some seriously speedy defensive backs that can make up distance in a heartbeat and keep teams out of sync. Stafford cannon will be a tough matchup, but the luxury of simply not having to defend the run, or rush more than three or four on the line and still get pressure, should leave an extra man or two in coverage.
How close this game will be will come down to turnovers, the Lions literally handed a Packers team that couldn’t do anything last week a win with a pick six and predictable late game offense. The only way I can see this game being close is if Suh and Co. get to Schaub early and often, Detroit gets a few turnovers, and long pass plays. That’s a lot of things that have to go right so I say the Texans keep on keepin’ on with a 31-20 road win and a 10-1 record as the Lions stay in their Turkey Day rut.
At least CBS is covering the game…It’ll be Simms All-iron skillet, and not Joe Buck’s Galloping Gobbler…God I hate Joe Buck.