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Know Your Foe: Detroit Lions

The Texans face the Detroit Lions for the first time in four years. Consequently, if it's anything like the last time these two teams played, get ready for a crazy afternoon. A 34-31 Texans win on Thanksgiving day 2012 had enough ups and downs for an entire season. Four years later, the teams are significantly different with only a handful of players on either roster that suited up in that matchup.

The Lions are coming off of a scintillating late fourth quarter comeback win over the Washington Redskins. Quarterback Matt Stafford is getting some midseason attention as a possible MVP candidate. Without future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson for the first time in his career, Stafford is playing perhaps the best football in his career. The additions of Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin have bolstered Stafford's passing game options in a massive way.

My Know Your Foe series continues with the 4-3 Detroit Lions.

2016 Record (4-3, Tied for 1st in the AFC West)
W, @ Indianapolis 39-35
L, Tennessee 16-15
L, @ Green Bay 34-27
L, @ Chicago 17-14
W, Philadelphia 24-23
W, Los Angeles 31-28
W, Washington 20-17

2016 Unit Profile
Rush Offense - 89.4 ypg (24th in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 259.1 ypg (12th)
Total Offense - 348.6 ypg (18th)
Scoring Offense - 24.3 ppg (11th)

Here's what the Lions offense looked like last Sunday against the Washington Redskins
WR - Golden Tate
LT - Taylor Decker
LG - Graham Glasgow
C - Travis Swanson
RG - Larry Warford
RT - Riley Reiff
TE - Clay Harbor
WR - Marvin Jones
WR - Anquan Boldin
QB - Matt Stafford
RB - Zach Zenner

Most significant improvement on the offense? The receiving corps needed a makeover, given the retirement in the offseason of Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron. It got one and it's worked out well. Very well. Jones and Boldin are the team leaders in receptions with 33 and 32, respectively. With the struggles of the running game, due in large part to the injury of Ameer Abdullah, the Lions signed Justin Forsett recently. Ironically, it was Forsett's controversial touchdown as a Texan that was a huge swing play in the 2012 Thanksgiving day win over Detroit. He carried it nine times for 29 yards against Washington.

Most impactful players that teams didn't face in 2015? Jones and Boldin have brought out the absolute best in Stafford, no question. Other than that, rookies start on the left side - Graham Glasgow at guard and Taylor Decker at tackle. Glasgow started in front of former first round selection Laken Tomlinson and may continue to do so.

What will worry Texans fans the most? Stafford. Stud. It's that simple. Let him get hot and rolling and it's major trouble. Disrupt him early and force a few bad throws and there's a chance.

What worries Lions fans the most? The running game doesn't give the Lions a chance to be multiple on offense. If the running game gets shelved early, then it's ALL on Stafford and the passing game. If the Texans defensive front can pin its ears back and rush, there's a chance it could force Stafford into a tough day in the pocket.

2016 Unit Profile
Rush Defense - 112.0 ypg (19th in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 273.0 ypg (23rd)
Total Defense - 385.0 ypg (25th)
Scoring Defense - 24.3 ppg (21st)

Here's what the Lions offense looked like last Sunday against the Washington Redskins
DE - Devin Taylor
DT - Tyrunn Walker
DT - Khyri Thornton (Haloti Ngata suffered shoulder injury, should be back for Texans)
DE - Ziggy Ansah
LB - Tahir Whitehead
LB - Kyle Van Noy (just traded to the New England Patriots)
CB - Quandre Diggs
CB - Darius Slay
CB - Nevin Lawson
SS - Tavon Wilson
FS - Glover Quin

Most significant improvement on the defense?  The Lions didn't make a significant investment in the defense in 2016, outside of drafting A'Shawn Robinson in the second round. With Haloti Ngata out the past few weeks, Robinson has seen a little more time on the field. That said, the defense doesn't have much in the way of "new and improved", if you will.

Most impactful players that teams didn't see in 2015? Robinson is probably the one guy that can make an impact in 2016 that wasn't around in 2015.

What will worry Texans fans the most? If Ngata's healthy, he can be a huge (figuratively and literally) issue for the Texans offensive front. Ziggy Ansah is an edge wrecker and could present similar problems that Denver's edge guys provided. Slay is a tremendous cornerback and could track DeAndre Hopkins all over the field on Sunday afternoon.

What worries Lions fans the most? Injuries, honestly. Pro Bowl linebacker DeAndre Levy and Haloti Ngata both missed the game against Washington last weekend. That's a pair the Detroit Lions need on the field consistently.

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