The Detroit Lions defense has been coming around a little the last two weeks. The offense, though, is performing at a high level. And Sunday, facing a beat-up Houston Texans team on a short week, could be a chance for the Lions to pick up a critical road win and their fourth straight victory.
To do that, though, they'll have to find a way to get pressure on Brock Osweiler and contain Houston's wide receivers with a banged-up back seven of their own.
To get the scoop on some of Houston's top players, NFL Nation Texans writer Sarah Barshop offers this scouting report.
QB Brock Osweiler: Osweiler did not play well in his return to Denver, averaging 3.2 yards per attempt, which is the worst in the NFL this season. He is ranked 26th in the league in total QBR, but this week he faces a defense he needs to play well against, as the Lions are ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense, allowing an average of 273 yards per game. Osweiler said after the game that one of the issues with the Texans’ passing game is simply “just not getting enough completions.”
WR: Will Fuller: Fuller played 94 percent of the Texans’ offensive snaps against Denver, a week after missing Week 6 with a hamstring injury. Osweiler tried to get the ball to him, targeting him seven times on Monday night, but he finished with four catches for just 22 yards and a drop. Fuller started the year with two games with more than 100 receiving yards, but he has cooled down as the season has progressed. A meeting with the Lions defense could be just what the doctor ordered heading into the bye week.
T Chris Clark: With Derek Newton’s injury, the veteran tackle will once again be asked to step up in an injury situation. Clark filled in at left tackle for Duane Brown when he missed the first five games of the season with a quad injury and played 83 percent of the Texans’ offensive snaps after Newton left Monday night’s game. The Texans’ offensive line allowed just one sack against Denver – on Osweiler’s fumble -- despite the Broncos coming into the game ranked first in sacks.
OLB Whitney Mercilus: The Lions enter the game tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks allowed this season, so it could be a big game for the Texans’ front seven. Mercilus has 4.5 sacks this season and will need to pose a threat to quarterback Matthew Stafford. Even without star defensive end J.J. Watt, the Texans’ pass rush has been playing well so far this year.
CB Johnathan Joseph: Joseph will have a tough matchup on Sunday against Lions receiver Marvin Jones, who is fifth in the league in receiving. The Texans’ secondary has been a little banged up due to injuries, including the loss of cornerback Kevin Johnson to injured reserve, but Houston still ranks second in receiving yards allowed, allowing an average of 198.1.
CB A.J. Bouye: The Lions' offense, especially without running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, will be pass-heavy on Sunday. Bouye has played well this season, especially on Monday night when he had 11 tackles and two passes defended. The Broncos tested him early, but he was successful.