When the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Rock, I doubt they ever planned on the Macy's Day Parade or Nickelback rocking Ford Field. The Pilgrims were a savvy bunch though, so I bet they definitely expected the Detroit backlash to the
awful Canadian rock band.
Sure, the technical reason for Thanksgiving calls for giving thanks for family, friends and an incredibly excessive amount of food. But let's not forget, in 2011, we can be thankful for three football games in the middle of the week where otherwise we would be at work. And, oh yeah, these games should be good. Let's gamble.
All lines from SB Nation NFL Odds.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+6): A lot to consider here. Green Bay is the best team in the league and undefeated, and surely they will lose a game or two before the season ends. Detroit has a high-powered offense capable of putting up points in bunches. Last week, both teams allowed lesser competition to make close games, so perhaps each team was looking ahead to the Thanksgiving showdown.
In the end, this comes down to defense. Color me green and gold, but I like the Pack D better than the Lions. Both teams will score, but Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Charles Woodson and Desmond Bishop will make plays to slow the Lions. I know the Detroit crowd will be fired up for their first meaningful Thanksgiving game in a decade (maybe longer?), but I will take Aaron Rodgers and friends. Besides, you don't think the Pack has been listening to calls around the country for the big Lions upset? Roll with the champs. Pick: Packers.
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5): Last week, the Cowboys did all they could to lose to the Washington Redskins. The Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan refused to take advantage of the Cowboys' generosity, but there is a lesson to be learned: the Cowboys cannot be trusted. On the other side of the field will be a hot Miami team, with quarterback Matt Moore playing well and a reinvigorated defense. For whatever reason, maybe Tony Romo will eat too much turkey before the game, but I think the Cowboys will come out flat and allow Miami to build an early lead. The Cowboys will come back because they have a lot of weapons offensively with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, but the final score will be close. I'm taking the points. Pick: Dolphins.
San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-3): Everyone is going to take the Ravens. Everyone. Except me. I think San Francisco is the better team. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are the two best defensive players on the field, regardless of whether Ray Lewis plays. The Ravens like to be the bully, and bullies don't like getting punched in the mouth. Jim Harbaugh will have his guys ready to take the fight to Baltimore, and they will return to the West Coast with a win. Pick: Niners.
Moving on to the Sunday games, which look a little boring considering the quality of the Thanksgiving Day games.
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5): This is going to be tough. Last week, the Redskins gave it all they got and came up a little bit short. This week will be the opposite. They are going to fly across the country, play in a super loud environment and lose by a touchdown or more. Seattle is a tough place to play, and historically the Redskins have not performed well there. Cover your eyes, fellow Redskins fans. Pick: Seahawks.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-9.5): I know times are tough if you're a Vikings fan, but there are encouraging signs. Christian Ponder looks like he can be a player, and the team didn't roll over when most thought it would. That said, this week will not be pretty. Atlanta is coming together, getting good running from Michael Turner at good quarterback play from Matt Ryan. The Vikings, without Adrian Peterson, will be short-handed. Pick: Falcons.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5): I hate this line. The Bengals are the better team, by a lot, coming off two grueling division losses. A good team in this situation should roll a bad team like the Browns. But are we sure we trust Andy Dalton and the Bengals? Can we? It is possible they lay an egg in this one right, especially in a rivalry game? Cleveland could come out fired up, Cincinnati could come out flat. I don't think it will happen, but I'm not super confident. I would tease this or take the under, but since I must make a pick, I'll lay the points. Pick: Bengals.
Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts (+3.5): This is it. This is the week. The Colts must win a game, because history says they will, and the Panthers present the best chance. Colts players must know this, and I hope, Panthers players do not. Cam Newton will put up gaudy fantasy numbers, but the Panthers defense is awful. A lot of Donald Brown and a few passes to Pierre Garcon will get the Colts the win. Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice. Pick: Colts.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5): Last time we saw Matt Leinart, he was giving a science lesson on gravity to a group of what looked like college students. You can trust him if you want, but I don't. Sure, the Texans posses one of the strongest running games in the league, but the Jags play great run defense. Upsets happen, and this will be one. Pick: Jaguars.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-9): Two teams in a free fall, once thought to be contenders to knock off the New England Patriots in the AFC East. Well, clearly the Patriots will win the division again, but I'm not calling it quits on the Jets quite yet. I know they got Tebowed their last time out, but I think the Jets rebound at home. I think the Bills, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, are regressing to the mean, especially behind a decimated offensive line. Mark Sanchez will play better, and Joe McKnight will provide an offensive spark. Pick: Jets.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (No Line): This game currently has no line, probably because both teams suck. I don't care about this game at all, and you shouldn't either. If you must, take the home team and then call Gamblers Anonymous for help. Pick: Your nose.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans (-3.5): The Bucs showed some pride last week, giving Green Bay all it could handle at home. LeGarrette Blount looked like the player I expected with my third-round fantasy pick (talk about too little too late) and Josh Freeman kept the turnovers in check. Maybe Vegas is sucking us in by the Bucs getting points, but I am going to take them. Pick: Bucs.
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders (-5): This line opened with the Bears favored, then the news of Jay Cutler and the broken thumb leaked and the line did a back flip. I remember Caleb Hanie playing in the NFC Championship Game last year, and I remember he looked damn good. The guys at Hogs Haven even said the Redskins should sign Hanie, and I agreed. This Bears team is good. They play solid defense, they run the ball well and Oakland inexplicably plays better on the road than they do at home. Carson Palmer will contribute an interception or two in this Bears victory. Pick: Bears.
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles (+3): The Eagles showed us something by beating the Giants last week. When everyone counted the Eagles out, they rallied, with Vince Yong at quarterback no less. I think this game matches up well for the Eagles. They have the corners to shut down Wes Welker and the defensive line to pressure Tom Brady. Call me crazy, but the Eagles win again. LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin (if he plays) are significantly better than any New England defender. Even Andy Reid can't screw that up. Gulp. Pick: Eagles.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (-7.5): As we watch the last days of Norv Turner? In the spirit of the season let's look back over his long career and give thanks. Wait, what? Nothing to thank Norv for? Oh yeah, he is, at best, mediocre. Did I mention: TEBOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Pick: Broncos.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5): Chiefs fans deserve better. Everyone is hurt, the coach is a lunatic and they have to play two of the NFL's best teams in primetime games. Sorry, Arrowhead Stadium. Enjoy the bbq. Pick: Steelers.
New York Giants at New Orleans Saints (-7.5): This should be fun. Eli Manning back at home in New Orleans against Drew Brees in a possible NFC playoff preview. The Giants looked awful last week against the Eagles and still had a chance to tie it in the end. I don't see it happening again. This game will be close, Eli escapes New Orleans with more than beads around his neck and the Giants win outright. Pick: Giants.