- Houston is second in the NFL in passing success rate for the season, and first over the past eight weeks. Detroit’s defensive success rate against the pass ranks 26th
Deshaun Watson doesn’t get enough credit. Houston has been a poorly run franchise for quite a while now, and Watson has been on the outside looking in at the elite quarterback conversation more often than not. But he was PFF’s top-graded passer this past week, and has been playing incredibly good football, particularly since Houston fired Bill O’Brien.
O’Brien was shown the door after the Texans started 0-4, and since then Watson has completed 71% of his passes for 8.5 yards per attempt. He’s averaging 299 passing yards per game with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions over the six-game stretch. Oh yeah, and he’s chipped in another 35 yards per game with his legs.
With David Johnson out and Duke Johnson struggling, Houston’s offense is as dependent as ever on Watson to create. And he continues to deliver. Now he heads to Detroit to face a Lions defense ranked 26th in success rate against the pass, fresh off a shutout loss against the Panthers. The Lions technically only gave up 20 points in that one, but first-time starter P.J. Walker threw two interceptions in the end zone for Carolina, so that 20-0 scoreline could have easily been something like 30-0.
Detroit will have to try to turn things around in three days' time. Kenny Golladay is expected to be out again for Detroit, after he was downgraded to a nonparticipant in Tuesday's practice. It’s possible D’Andre Swift will return, as he got in a limited session, and that could be a big boost to Detroit’s offense given Houston is perhaps the worst run defense in the league. But while Swift has been a playmaker and a very fun player to watch so far this season, Detroit’s passing game has been punchless. Golladay's been hurt, Marvin Jones has looked like he’s lost a step, and second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson hasn’t taken quite the leap Detroit might have hoped for. Danny Amendola has become a key part of this passing game in his age-35 season, but he missed Week 10, too, and isn't certain to return.
Randall Cobb is also likely to be out for the Texans, but Watson has his top two wide receivers healthy, and he’s been peppering Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks all season. Those two, plus underneath options like Jordan Akins and Keke Coutee, should be enough for the Texans to put up a big number. The question is whether their lackluster defense will stifle the Lions, but it’s hard to envision this Lions offense rebounding from such a poor performance in Carolina in time to keep up with one of the game’s top quarterbacks. Their path to doing it is probably Swift having a field day on the ground, but even then your money is on one of the best clutch quarterbacks in the game. That’s a bet I’m happy to make, and I’m on the Texans to cover on the road.
NFL Expert Picks
Texans -3 @ -105
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Week 12 is finally upon us. As is tradition we have 3 Thanksgiving games, the highlight of which is the third and final game, which sees the Ravens facing the unbeaten Steelers. On Sunday Night Football we see football's oldest rivalry as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers meet and on Monday we see the Seahawks at the Eagles. The biggest game of the week for neutrals is probably the Chiefs at Buccaneers, which will pit Tom Brady against Patrick Mahomes.
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