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Scouting Report - Texans v Lions (ESPN/Scouts Inc.)
After watching film of both teams, Scouts Inc. breaks down key elements of the Week 12 Texans-Lions matchup.
Gash the Lions' D-line: The biggest mismatch in this game could be Houston's Arian Foster-led zone-rushing attack against the Lions' porous and undisciplined run defense. Detroit's front is far too aggressive overall, often just attacking upfield with reckless abandon. That allows for some huge openings, and Foster is fantastic at cutting back to daylight in such instances. Also, Houston's O-line is among the most disciplined and coordinated in the NFL. Detroit LB Stephen Tulloch is often left to clean up his line's mess, but he missed a lot of tackles last week.
Create big plays with pressure: Speaking of the Lions' defensive line, Detroit is not getting enough of a pass rush from its ends. Kyle Vanden Bosch in particular has been a liability. Nick Fairley has come on huge in his second season, especially as a pass-rusher. Detroit likes to move Fairley and Ndamukong Suh all over the defensive line, but when both are aligned at defensive tackle, they make up one of the best interior pass rushes in the NFL. Suh and Fairley had great games in Week 11. Duane Brown is quite possibly the best tackle in the league and Chris Myers is an exceptional center, but the right side of Houston's line has been problematic.
Keep Houston's defense in base personnel: We will almost never see the Lions in 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) and they love having three wideouts on the field, which will often lend itself to Houston going to dime. But the Texans are far less frightening in their regular base 3-4 personnel, so Detroit might be wise to change its approach and utilizes more 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) for this matchup. When the Texans get into their sub packages, that is when they get exotic with blitzes. But Lions QB Matthew Stafford has done a great job vs. the blitz this year. Houston's edge pass rush has been a problem, but there isn't a player dominating like J.J. Watt, whom the Texans will move all over their defensive front. Stafford was sacked five times by a Packers defense last week that was without Clay Matthews.
Home QB: Stafford was very up and down last week and missed throws that he should have made. That has been a recurring theme for this ultra-talented passer this season, as his mechanics are too unpredictable. The Texans do feature one of the top secondaries in the league and Johnathan Joseph should often draw the assignment of shadowing Calvin Johnson, Stafford's top option by a wide margin. But Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon torched this group for 236 yards last week. Houston allowed the downtrodden Jacksonville offense to throw for 372 yards with several coverage breakdowns to blame.
Away QB: It took overtime, but Houston did rack up 43 points last week in a winning effort last week. Matt Schaub threw for an amazing 527 yards in that game with five touchdowns and two interceptions on 55 attempts. He was remarkably accurate. This is not the formula Houston wants on offense, though. The play-action game is a staple of Houston's run-first offense and Schaub sells it very well. Chris Houston has played well for the Lions, but the rest of their secondary has been very beatable, especially if Louis Delmas is out of the lineup again, as he was last week.
Key positional battle -- Lions' RBs vs. Texans' run defense: Joique Bell is the back to whom Detroit likes to throw and he has been a heck of a find, but this team doesn't have much big-play ability at running back. Houston is among the most difficult teams in the league to run against and running backs are posting paltry numbers against the Texans. It could be a long day for Mikel Leshoure and Bell.
Featured player: No team plays more multiple-tight end sets than the Texans and Owen Daniels is quietly having an exceptional season as Houston's second option in the passing game. Daniels is fighting a hip issue, though. This offense rarely brings an extra wideout on the field, but it may do so this week to challenge a very thin Lions secondary. Andre Johnson might not be quite the same as he was in his prime, but he was simply amazing last week en route to racking up 273 receiving yards on 14 catches. Detroit doesn't have an answer for Johnson.
Film room nuggets: Dropped passes have been a huge problem for the Lions' receivers this year, including Calvin Johnson. TE Brandon Pettigrew has been troubled by drops but gets plenty of targets in Detroit's offense. He often gets favorable matchups due to the attention Johnson receives from opposing secondaries. A former first round pick, Pettigrew is a solid two-way tight end, but he needs to take a step forward. ... The Lions' offensive line rarely gets a lot of credit, but collectively, it is having an excellent season, especially in the passing game. The Lions also really like Riley Reiff and will get him on the field as a sixth lineman quite a bit. Reiff could be the starting left tackle Thursday if Jeff Backus' hamstring doesn't heal on a very short week.
Lions favored WR/QB.
Texans 27, Lions 23
Get there by kickoff.
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