1. Chris Myers
The Bears defensive line gets a lot more publicity but the Lions front four is one of the few that measure up to Chicago’s stature when it comes to the league’s best 4-3 defensive fronts. Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Kyle Vanden Bosch will be a load for the Texans offensive line to handle. Suh may have the reputation but Fairley is the rising star of this bunch. Myers will need to bring his lunch pail Thursday if the Texans are going to open holes for Arian Foster and Justin Forsett.
2. Kareem Jackson
With all due respect to future hall-of-famer Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the NFL. And if Johnathan Joseph is out for this game, then Jackson draws the unenviable job of covering him one-on-one. While Jackson has made great strides since his awful rookie season, this is not a good matchup for him. The Texans will have to help him out with Glover Quin or Danieal Manning providing deep support. But that’s still no guarantee the Texans will be able to contain Johnson. And if he goes off Sunday, it could be another long day for the Texans secondary.
3. Connor Barwin
Paging No. 98. Please report to the Texans defense. Barwin hasn’t been as bad as the stats suggest this season. But he also hasn’t been the disruptive pass rushing force that rocked opposing quarterbacks in 2011. This could be a good matchup for his return to the spotlight. Jeff Backus, who’s started every Lions game at left tackle for the last 12 years, is injured and appears likely to miss this game. Rookie tackle Riley Reiff will be filling in for Backus. Reiff is a promising young player but you can bet Wade Phillips will put him to the test Thursday. As much as the Lions like to pass the ball, Barwin needs to show up and make his presence felt on Matt Stafford’s blind side.