This year’s Thanksgiving Day slate is it.
It’s the snowball’s chance in hell.
It’s the 99-1 shot coming through at the track.
It’s the one turkey at the slaughterhouse (sorry for the imagery) that gets pardoned by the President and gets to live another day.
For the first time in 81 years, all six teams playing on Thanksgiving Day are over .500 and for the first time in as long as I can remember, we’re going to have three great games to watch on Thursday (I know, I just jinxed it).
Each one of these games carries with it major playoff implications in both conferences, affecting almost every single team that’s still in playoff contention around the league.
So come Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ET… we’re in business.
The only thing standing between us and our look ahead to Thursday’s slate is last week’s wrap up, which I’m pleased to say, was my best week in quite a while.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 9-5 (Season Record – 76-82-4)
Straight Up – 10-4 (Season Record – 89-70-2)
Locks of the Week – 3-2 (Season Record – 32-26-1)
As much as I’d like to dwell on the past week’s excellence, I’m really looking forward to Thursday and beyond, so let’s dive right in like it’s a nice hot bowl of grandma’s chicken noodle soup.
As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS
(6-4) Minnesota Vikings @ (6-4) Detroit Lions (-2.5) – Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
Level of confidence – Feeling pretty… pretty good
The best football game of the long weekend may actually get underway before many of us arrive at our final destination for the holiday. Heck, it might even start before many of us finish our own early morning football games.
My own Turkey Bowl crowd (shout out to the John St. Turkey Bowl crew) was engaged in a rancorous debate this week as to whether our game should start at 9, 10, or 11 a.m. ET, and even that 9 a.m. ET start time would put us right up against it to get home in time for kickoff of this game, which is a must for any real football fan if I do say so myself.
Seriously, this game could very well end up deciding the NFC North, especially if the Lions win as they’ll own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.
This one seems destined to be a tight, low-scoring affair with the Vikings’ offensive struggles being masked by their defensive dominance as per usual.
At the end of the day though, I think the Lions find a way to win it at home.
Minnesota’s offense is too out of whack right now and this time they likely won’t have a 100-yard defensive TD and a 104-yard kickoff return TD to help them get the victory against a stingy Lions team.
(6-3-1) Washington Redskins @ (9-1) Dallas Cowboys (-7) – Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Redskins
Of course you’re still hungry after the Vikings-Lions game; as great a game as it will be, it’s just the appetizer portion of the Thanksgiving Day slate for most. The next game up, Redskins and Cowboys, is the main course.
The Cowboys and Redskins are both on fire. Dak Prescott is making his case for MVP and Rookie of the Year, but, uh, so is his running back, Ezekiel Elliott. Personally, I think it should just go to all five men on their offensive line, but I’ll save that argument for another day.
The Redskins have not been stellar against the run this year and rank 22nd in the league in yards allowed on the ground per game with 112.1.
That does not bode well against a team that can run with the best of them and can use the run to make life easy for Prescott and the passing game.
But, don’t be fooled into thinking the Redskins’ offense won’t pose some issues for the Cowboys’ defense. The Redskins can move the ball through the air with the best of them as the Green Bay Packers learned on Sunday night and the Cowboys haven’t been great against he pass, ranking 21st in the league in passing yards allowed per game with 263.5
I think this will be a back and forth affair similar to the last time these two teams met on Thanksgiving back in 2012. That day, the Redskins, led by Robert Griffin III’s four touchdown’s (what could’ve been), won 38-31.
I think the Redskins pull it out again this year.
Level of confidence – Heads or Tails
(5-5) Pittsburgh Steelers @ (5-5) Indianapolis Colts (+3) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Steelers
Level of confidence – No way we can lose – lock of the week
As good of a game as this might be, it’s definitely the weakest of the slate, which is why it’s the “what are you still doing here?” game of the night.
By “what are you still doing here?” I obviously mean, what are you doing still watching football after seven hours, and what are you still doing at your uncle’s house? Everyone else left after dessert, but you’re still there watching football and you’re not even helping with the dishes?!
It’s time to go.
Not until the end of the first half? Fine, because personally, I think this one will be over by halftime. I just don’t see how the Colts can keep up with the Steelers, especially without Andrew Luck if he’s forced to sit this one out.
Plus, the Colts’ o-line might give Cleveland’s a run for its money in the porousness department, so Luck/Tolzien/whoever could have a long day if the Steelers from this past weekend show up.
No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week
(7-3) New York Giants @ (0-11) Cleveland Browns (+7) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Giants
The Giants keep playing really, really close games and, ostensibly, the Browns have to break their 14-game skid at some point, right?
Sure, but it won’t be this week.
Giants overpower the Browns and keep Cleveland winless.
(1-10) San Francisco 49ers @ (6-4) Miami Dolphins (-7.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Dolphins
Say what you will about the 49ers, but they’re playing hard week in and week out for Chip Kelly. They fought tooth and nail against a Patriots team that they were badly over-matched against from a skill standpoint and actually kept the game uncomfortably close for quite a while.
And granted, the Dolphins are NOT the Patriots, even though they’re on fire of late, but I still think this one gets ugly.
Why? Jay Ajayi. Ajayi’s numbers have dipped of late, but his YPC (yards per carry) haven’t. The 49ers are the worst team against the run in the NFL by a WIDE margin and the ‘Fins will exploit it all day long.
Dolphins roll and Ajayi racks up some serious yardage in this one.
(5-6) Tennessee Titans @ (2-8) Chicago Bears (+3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
I’m hoping for the best for Matt Barkley, but am expecting the worst for the Bears on Sunday against the Titans. The Bears have an above average run defense and they’ll need to play even better than that to stop the Titans’ rushing attack, led by a reinvigorated DeMarco Murray.
If they can stop the run and run the ball effectively with a banged up Jordan Howard to take the pressure off of Barkley, they’ll have a shot, but they’ll have to run it against eight men in the box most of the day from the Titans.
I think it ends up being a long day for the Bears and the Titans roll back to .500.
(4-6) Los Angeles Rams @ (4-6) New Orleans Saints (-7) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Saints
Call me crazy, but I don’t really see this one being all that close. Sure, the Rams have kept games tight even in losing efforts, but they haven’t faced a passing attack anything like what the Saints will throw their way.
Drew Brees is going to air it out early and often, and in the friendly confines of the Superdome I expect him to connect more often than not and torch the Rams in this one.
Can Jared Goff take advantage of a weak Saints defense? That’s the only way this one stays close and my gut (and my eyes) tells me he’s not ready to go toe-to-toe with a guy like Brees just yet. Saints win big at home.
(8-2) New England Patriots @ (3-7) New York Jets (+7.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Patriots
If you’re truly wondering what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s that the Jets can’t ruin my turkey day. I’m still haunted by the memory of walking into MetLife Stadium with my dad four years ago after a lovely Thanksgiving feast, thinking — delusionally of course — that the 4-6 Jets could actually beat the 7-3 Patriots and get their season back on track.
So, thanks to my feet being planted firmly in reality this time around, I know that the Jets have no chance in this game.
Their secondary will get torched. Bill Belichick will out-coach Todd Bowles in every way imaginable. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be — well, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Jets will get blown out again at home.
Thankfully, I don’t have tickets to this year’s game and won’t have to witness this debacle in person.
(4-6) Green Bay Packers @ (5-5) Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Eagles
I said it last week and I’ll say it again: I think the hard truth that we all have to acknowledge is that the Packers aren’t underachieving. This is just who the Packers are this year. They’re a mediocre team.
The Eagles have been nothing short of dominant at home this year and sport a perfect 4-0 record. Their defense has been particularly menacing at home and I see no reason that they won’t be once again in Week 12.
It’ll be another long day for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Eagles roll.
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(3-6-1) Cincinnati Bengals @ (5-5) Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Bengals
Straight Up – Ravens
I see the scoreboard at the end of this one looking very similar to the final of the Bills-Bengals game this past weekend. Low-scoring, boring, and ultimately, a hard-fought loss for the Bengals.
Without A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard and facing one of the NFL’s best defenses, it seems like the deck is stacked against Marvin Lewis and his crew here.
(4-6) Carolina Panthers @ (8-2) Oakland Raiders (-3.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Panthers
The Raiders are one of the best stories in the NFL this year and they deserve all of the effusive praise being thrown their way, but, I think they’re destined for a fall this week.
The Raiders have gotten away with some sloppy play over the last few weeks and they’ll be facing a Panthers team that’s playing much better of late and needs to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
I think desperation powers the Panthers past the Raiders here and I think Oakland takes a step back in Week 12.
(2-8) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (5-5) Buffalo Bills (-7.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Jaguars
Straight Up – Bills
The Jaguars find ways to lose games, but they do so in agonizingly close fashion with stunning regularity of late. Unfortunately for Gus Bradley’s crew, particularly Jalen Ramsey, who I feel for, that doesn’t seem destined to change this week.
Jags keep it close, but Bills get the job done and continue their march towards a potential playoff berth.
Heads or Tails
(4-5-1) Arizona Cardinals @ (6-4) Atlanta Falcons (-5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
The Cardinals have been maddeningly inconsistent all season long and as a result their postseason hopes are on the ropes. The Falcons, meanwhile, struggled in an ugly loss to the Eagles their last time out in Week 10 and need a victory to keep their lead over the rest of the NFC South.
Based on recent history, this should be a high-scoring affair. According to Bleacher Report, the team that’s won six of the last seven times these two have met scored at least 27 points en route to a victory.
I’m expecting more of the same, but I’m expecting the Cardinals to be on the winning side this time around.
(7-2-1) Seattle Seahawks @ (5-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5.5) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Seahawks
The Bucs have been a pleasant surprise this year, but the Seahawks are on an absolute tear these past few weeks. They’ve beaten three quality teams in the last three weeks and shouldn’t have much trouble handling the Bucs and Jameis Winston provided they can shut down Mike Evans.
The Bucs’ win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead was impressive and if they can somehow follow that up by beating one of this year’s Super Bowl favorites I’ll be forced to look at them in a whole new light.
I just don’t think they’re ready to handle a team like Seattle, especially the way the Seahawks are playing right now.
(7-3) Kansas City Chiefs @ (7-3) Denver Broncos (-3.5) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Chiefs
Straight Up – Broncos
There’s a reason this game was flexed into Sunday night and the aforementioned Jets game was flexed out. This is going to be a dogfight of a football game from beginning to end between two bitter division rivals.
If my predictions hold true and the Raiders lose to the Panthers, the winner of this game will be able to put themselves into a virtual tie (depending on tiebreakers) with Oakland AND will have the opportunity to play the Raiders later in the year (Denver, Week 17; Kansas City, Week 14).
Both teams are cut from a similar cloth: tough defensively, mediocre offensively and well coached. This one has all the makings of being decided by a field goal one way or the other. I’m giving the nod to the Broncos, but don’t see them getting it done by much.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.