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Thursday's NFL Action

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Sportsbook.ag NFL Thanksgiving

HOUSTON TEXANS (9-1) at DETROIT LIONS (4-6)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Houston -3.5 & 49.5
Opening Line & Total: Texans -3 & 49

The Texans try to remain perfect on the road when they visit slumping Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

The Lions haven't had a happy Thanksgiving in a while, as they've lost eight Thanksgiving Classics in a row, SU and ATS, and they haven't come within 11 points in any of those games. This season, Detroit has been victimized by slow starts and its own conservative play-calling. They Lions are just 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS at home. Houston's previously dominant defense was a dud last week, allowing 458 yards and 37 points to the lowly Jaguars at home. But they did prove they could win a shootout, racking up 640 yards of offense in the 43-37 win. QB Matt Schaub threw for 527 yards (T-2nd in NFL history) and 5 TD, and could feast on Detroit's banged up secondary. The Lions failed to cover in any of the six games they played last season after October against teams with a winning record. They're experiencing similar struggles so far in the second half of this season, coming off back-to-back games in which they failed to cover against the Vikings and Packers. Detroit also tends to struggle against efficient passing teams, going 0-8 ATS since the start of the 2011 season against opponents that complete at least 64% of their passes.

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The Texans have been outstanding on the road this season, going 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) with the defense allowing a mere 13.7 PPG and 257 total YPG to the host teams. But Houston's defense has a lot of work to do after surrendering a season-high 458 yards to Jacksonville last week, including 354 passing yards to second-string QB Chad Henne. Detroit's passing offense leads the NFL (302 YPG), so the Texans certainly have their work cut out for them. On the offensive side of the ball, Schaub will continue to rely on his top receiver, Andre Johnson, who is coming off a 14-catch, 273-yard performance in the wild 43-37 win over Jacksonville. The 273 yards is the most in the NFL since 2000. But the Texans remain a run-heavy offense, ranking eighth in the NFL with 137 rushing YPG. Arian Foster leads the league with 10 rushing touchdowns and has 37 more carries than anybody else in the NFL (24.9 per game). Houston's offense has been careless over the past two weeks, turning the football over five times.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford ranks fourth in the NFL in passing yards (2,988), but is just 21st in passer rating with a paltry 12 TD and 10 INT in his 10 games. He's also been sacked 22 times and the Texans are tied for eighth in the NFL with 27 sacks, led by DL J.J. Watt who has 11.5 sacks for the season. Stafford and top WR Calvin Johnson are starting to get on the same page, as Johnson has racked up three straight 100-yard receiving games and now leads the NFL with 1,117 receiving yards. He has been battling knee and thumb injuries, but he is expected to start on Thursday. Detroit's rushing offense has been nothing to write home about, ranking 23rd in the NFL with 99.9 yards per game. With Houston ranking second in the NFL in run defense (86 YPG), the game plan for Detroit will be a heavy passing attack. With the Lions committing four turnovers last week, they are now tied for third in the NFC in most giveaways (18).

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (4-6) at DALLAS COWBOYS (5-5)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Dallas -3 (-120) & 48
Opening Line & Total: Cowboys -4 & 47

A classic NFL rivalry resumes on Thanksgiving Day when the Redskins visit the Cowboys.

Dallas has yet to cover at home this year (2-2 SU, 0-4 ATS), but it has covered in five of its past six games as a Thanksgiving Day favorite. They Cowboys will be dealing with a rising rookie superstar in Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, who bounced back from a mini-slump to throw four TDs against the Eagles last week. He's posted a 100.3 passer rating in five road games this year. Dallas needed to come back and force overtime against the Browns at home last week, but has managed back-to-back SU wins for the first time since Weeks 9-12 last season. The Cowboys are 0-4 ATS on their home turf this season, but have allowed just 282.5 total YPG to those visitors. They have also dominated the Redskins at home, winning 17 of the past 20 meetings SU in Dallas. And Washington's blowout win last week could work against the club, as road teams where the line is +3 to -3, after beating the spread by more than 21 points in their previous game, after the first month of the season, are just 10-30 ATS (25%) in the past 10 seasons. Also, Mike Shanahan is 5-18 ATS (22%) in road games vs. excellent passing teams with a completion pct. of 64% or better in all games he has coached since 1995.

Griffin III was outstanding in last week's 31-6 trouncing of Philadelphia, completing 14-of-15 passes for 4 TD. He also added 84 yards on 12 carries, improving his league-leading total among quarterbacks to 613 rushing yards. He hopes to be the difference maker that his team has lacked in the past three meetings, which the Cowboys have won by a combined eight points. Partly because the Cowboys are the sixth-best passing defense in the NFL (211 YPG), Washington will likely try to control the game by rushing the football. The Redskins rank second in the NFL with 165 rushing YPG led by another exciting rookie, Alfred Morris, who has 869 rushing yards on 4.7 YPC with five touchdowns. Griffin has six rushing TD. The Redskins have rushed for at least 150 yards in four of their past five road games. This ground game has also been a key reason why Washington has zero turnovers in its past three games combined.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo was able to bring his team back from a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit against the Browns last week, winning 23-20 in overtime. Although he's had a subpar season (7.4 YPA, 13 TD, 13 INT), Romo expects to throw ball all over the weak Washington secondary. The Redskins are allowing 289 passing YPG, which ranks fourth-to-last in the NFL. Romo has a pair of talented receivers in Miles Austin (727 rec. yds) and Dez Bryant (735 rec. yds), who is coming off a 12-catch, 145-yard performance against Cleveland. TE Jason Witten leads the team in both receptions (73) and targets (99). The running game is a big problem though, as both of Dallas' top running backs, DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), are expected to miss Thursday's contest. That leaves rookie Lance Dunbar as the main running back. Dunbar has just 20 carries this season, gaining just 67 yards (3.4 YPC) with zero touchdowns. Washington's rushing defense ranks seventh in the league at 95 YPG allowed, so the game plan for the Cowboys figures to be one heavily favoring the pass.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-3) at NEW YORK JETS (4-6)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: New England -7 (-115) & 48.5
Opening Line & Total: Patriots -7 & 50.5

One of the most bitter NFL rivalries continues on Thursday night when the red-hot Patriots make the short trip to New Jersey to battle the Jets.

In Week 7, the Jets played arguably their best game of the season in New England, but blew a late lead and eventually lost 29-26 in overtime. They outgained the Patriots 403-281 and Mark Sanchez threw for 328 yards. Tom Brady led field goal drives at the end of regulation and in OT. Brady has had a couple of duds in New Jersey since Rex Ryan took over in New York. He has a 79.7 passer rating over three games against Ryan's Jets, but he picked them apart last November, throwing for 329 yards and 3 TD in a 37-16 Patriots blowout. He'll be without TE Rob Gronkowski (broken arm), but should get TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle) back on the field. The Patriots have dominated this series since 2003, going 16-5 SU (13-7-1 ATS). They are also 9-2 (SU and ATS) at MetLife Stadium. New England's offense has also had no trouble clicking on the road in 2012, scoring 36.8 PPG with 463 total YPG, in posting a 4-1 ATS mark away from home. And since nearly upsetting the Patriots in Foxboro, the Jets offense has gained a paltry 279 total YPG in scoring 14.3 PPG over this three-game stretch.

New England is riding a four-game win streak (2-2 ATS) thanks to an offense averaging 42.5 PPG during this stretch. Brady has a 111.3 passer rating during this string, throwing 11 TD and 0 INT. Brady is 17-5 as a starter in his career against the Jets, throwing for 5,314 yards (242 YPG), 32 TD and just 11 INT. In the Week 7 overtime victory, he connected on 26-of-42 throws for 259 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. Brady and his talented receiving corps, led by Wes Welker (73 rec, 890 yds), is the main reason this offense is so efficient, but the rushing attack has also been strong in 2012 (143 YPG), piling up at least 115 rushing yards in four straight games. Defensively, the Patriots have also been great in stopping the run, with just 99 rushing YPG allowed. A big reason New England hasn't lost in four games is that the club has turned the ball over just once during the win streak, posting three straight turnover-free games.

The Jets have dropped five of their past seven games, including three of four on their home turf. Although they beat St. Louis handily last week, 27-13, they generated only 289 total yards including 3.0 yards per carry. Starting with the New England game, New York is averaging a subpar 105 rushing YPG on 3.6 YPC over the past four games. Sanchez played well the last time he faced New England, but is just 2-5 in seven regular-season starts versus the Pats, throwing for only 212 YPG on 7.0 YPA with 9 TD and 10 INT. For the season, Sanchez has thrown for a mere 6.5 YPA, 11 TD and 9 INT, as he ranks 29th in passer rating. But after committing 13 turnovers in his first nine games, Sanchez (and the entire Jets team) had a turnover-free game last week. Ball protection is of the upmost importance, as New England leads the AFC with 27 takeaways, returning two interceptions for touchdowns last week.

  
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