Houston Texans (9-1) at Detroit Lions (5-5)
Every year the Lions have a Thanksgiving home game and every year they struggle. They’ve covered just once in their last 9 Thanksgiving home games. Even last year when they were good and made the playoffs for the first time in a decade, they didn’t play well on Thanksgiving, losing 27-15 against the Green Bay Packers. Most of these losses haven’t even been close: 20-12 in 2002, 41-9 in 2004 (2003 was the year they won), 27-7 in 2005, 27-10 in 2006, 37-26 in 2007, 47-10 in 2008, 34-12 in 2009, 45-24 in 2010, and then of course the game last year.
However, this year they are in a good spot on Thanksgiving. Teams are 96-53 ATS as dogs before being favorites since 2011, including 15-4 ATS as home dogs before being home favorites (the Lions host the Colts next week), though when you go back to 2008 to get a larger sample size, teams are just 21-15 ATS as home dogs before being home favorites. Still, it’s a good spot for the Lions.
We’re also getting some line value with the Lions. The rate of sustaining drives differential method of calculating line value (which Houston leads the league in), says this line should be Houston -4.5, but the yards per play differential method says that Detroit should actually be favored by 2.5 points. Average those out and you get that this line should be around Houston -1. This line was closer to that earlier this week, but heavy action on the Texans has driven it all the way up to Houston -3.5. Given that the odds makers have lost a lot of money over the past 3 weeks and they’re bound to make it up, it’s not a smart idea to take heavy public leans this week, though I guess it’s good to see the line moving in the correct direction. There’s no opposite line movement here.
The Texans are in a good spot too though. Teams are 10-3 ATS off an overtime win as double digit favorites since 1989. It seems that almost suffering a major upset has the same impact as actually suffering a major upset (teams do really well after suffering a major upset as well). It’s a big wakeup call and I expect the Texans to be 100% this week. Remember the Patriots after their overtime win against the Jets (45-7) and even the 49ers last week after their tie with the Rams? The Texans are that caliber of a team. The Lions, meanwhile, are just 7-12 ATS since 2001 after playing the Packers, which is something that could have an impact on this game.
There’s a lot of conflicting stuff going on in this one and it would be a zero unit pick if I did them, but gun to my head, I’d take Houston in this one, though it’d be low in any confidence pools. The reason is that, almost every year one team goes from in the playoffs to 5 wins or fewer. Detroit is at 4-6 right now, while the rest of last year’s playoff teams are all 5-5 or better.
I’m probably going to bet against all 3 of last year’s playoff teams with 5 wins or fewer this week, especially Detroit because they look like the favorite to do so (their remaining schedule is brutal: vs. Houston, vs. Indianapolis, @ Green Bay, @ Arizona, vs. Atlanta, and vs. Chicago). With a 3.5 point spread, it’s conceivable the Lions could cover and not win (about 25% of the time when 3.5 point dogs lose, they still cover), which is why I would have preferred this line at -2, where it was earlier this week, but I don’t think Detroit wins this one, especially considering their history on Thanksgiving. It’s a very small play on Houston. I also like the under as the under is 72-53 on Thursday Night since 1989.
Houston Texans 24 Detroit Lions 20
Pick against spread: Houston -3.5 (-110) 1 unit
Total: Under 50.5 (-110) 1 unit