Happy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone enjoys the day of food, family and football! But hey, if you are here, you’re looking for football. Last week resulted in a 12-3 finish for me. I missed on Oakland, Seattle and Baltimore.
– I told you Oakland had a good chance to pull off the upset! I didn’t pick Oakland, but who honestly did? Put down your hands… you’re lying.
– Seattle looked like the Seattle we expected to see this season when playing at home. I don’t think they are “back”, but it was a big win for them. Arizona will get another shot at them.
– New Orleans, evidently, won’t be “flipping the switch” and playing like we thought they might this season. Maybe they are just… bad? On the other hand, very nice win for Baltimore, further complicating the AFC North.
There are no more bye weeks this NFL season. The gif this week is none other than Odell Beckham Jr.’s catch. If you define a “catch” as an attempt to catch the ball, it is the greatest catch in NFL history. Sure, there are others that have made huge catches in huge moments, but as far as pure athletic ability, it is hard to match. Even more impressive? There was a defensive pass interference on the Dallas defender, Brandon Carr, for essentially making Beckham’s feat even more impressive.
Thursday, 11/27 – 12:30 pm ET
Chicago Bears 5-6 @ Detroit Lions 7-4
Prediction: Detroit Lions
We expected a lot from Chicago this season, but they have failed to impress. On paper, they remain stacked offensively, but their defense is a hinderance and I expect that to remain a theme early Thanksgiving day against Detroit. The Lions have one of the top defenses in the league and they should be capable of disrupting the Chicago offense enough to force Jay Cutler into interceptions. On the other side, Detroit is still working star Calvin Johnson back into the offense, but this is likely the week we see him come back in full-form. Detroit is looking to keep pace with Green Bay in the NFC North and this is a win they should be able to get at home. I expect them to play good football, force Cutler into bad throws and move the ball with relative ease.
Thursday, 11/27 – 4:30 pm ET
Philadelphia Eagles 8-3 @ Dallas Cowboys 8-3
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
This is a toss-up in many ways, but I’m taking Dallas. The Eagles field Mark Sanchez, who doesn’t provide a significant drop-off from injured starter Nick Foles, but isn’t to be confused with Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. The Philly offensive scheme is what makes them almost impossible to stop with playmakers at every position, making Sanchez’s job much simpler. The Dallas defense is good for a couple stops, but don’t expect them to suddenly shut down the Eagles. The key here for Dallas, I believe, is their ability to run the ball. I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to work DeMarco Murray with ease and control the clock through his work. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are formidable in their own right and will allow Dallas to put up points with Philly, but if Dallas controls the clock and plays the way they have all season, I expect them to limit the time the Eagles see the ball offensively. Offense can’t score without the ball. I think Dallas wins a close one at home.
Thursday, 11/27 – 8:30 pm ET
Seattle Seahawks 7-4 @ San Francisco 49ers 7-4
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
The NFL scheduled this matchup as the first showdown of the season between two rivals in what figured to be a fight for the number one overall seed in the playoffs. However, this season has taken a slightly different turn and now the loser of this game likely faces elimination from the entire playoff race with Arizona owning a two game lead in the division and the other top NFC playoff contenders vying for Wild Card spots. As for this game, I should have expected Seattle to go out and win last week, at home, against Arizona. Still, I can’t get behind them. They haven’t been particularly impressive all season and I think playing at home makes them look better than they really are. The 49ers have been equally as head-scratching with the talent to play like they have in recent years, yet they are also “off”. In this one, I expect San Francisco to play the better game. The return of Aldon Smith is huge and playing in California helps the 49ers avoid the terrors of CenturyLink Field until their second round bout. I’m taking San Francisco behind a huge game from Smith and a power run game that continues to expose Seattle’s defense a little more than what we saw last season.
Sunday, 11/30 – 1:00 pm ET
Washington Redskins 3-8 @ Indianapolis Colts 7-4
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
I’m a Robert Griffin III fan from the perspective that he is an incredible talent and a great individual, from what I have seen, but you have to agree that the switch to Colt McCoy is a necessary change right now. Frankly, I was surprised they returned to “RGIII” so quickly with McCoy’s play earlier this season. All that said, Washington is a media circus with their quarterback situation while the Colts get to play at home, led by Andrew Luck. Yeah… I’m taking the Colts.
Tennessee Titans 2-9 @ Houston Texans 5-6
Prediction: Houston Texans
Trust me, Zach Mettenberger is going to be good for Tennessee, but this week, he will be just trying to avoid J.J. Watt. Houston is the better team in this matchup, will be able to run the ball at will and will be able to take advantage of rookie mistakes made by Mettenberger.
Cleveland Browns 7-4 @ Buffalo Bills 6-5
Prediction: Buffalo Bills
I think will be a game where we begin to see the true limitations of what Brian Hoyer brings to the table as a quarterback for the Browns. He has been solid and has done what has been asked of him, but his ceiling just isn’t enough to overcome the Bills defense this week, at home. Buffalo gets to play in front of their home fans after the snow forced them to play in Detroit on Monday. They will be pumped up and that defense is nasty. Cleveland will be in this one, like most every game this season, but I don’t think Hoyer has the magic this time around. With Cleveland still in the thick of things, I wouldn’t be surprised if Manziel-talks pick up after this one.
San Diego Chargers 7-4 @ Baltimore Ravens 7-4
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
San Diego has fallen from grace with their offense struggling to piece together drives and their defense still lacking the ability to force game-changing turnovers. Philip Rivers is struggling and he is one of the most important players in the NFL in terms of impacting his team’s play based on his play. Baltimore is fighting for the AFC North still and their defense is formidable. Throw in the long road trip for San Diego and the Ravens ability to throw and run the ball offensively, and I think this is one of the easier picks, despite their identical records.
New York Giants 3-8 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-10
Prediction: New York Giants
I’m going to throw the Giants a bone here. They should have beaten the 49ers two weeks ago and then last week, despite Odell Beckham Jr.’s best efforts, they fell late to Dallas. Jacksonville isn’t either of those teams in talent or postseason aspirations. I think the Giants run the ball well, get the ball to Beckham whenever they can and the New York defense finds a way to force rookie Blake Bortles into more mistakes.
Cincinnati Bengals 7-3-1 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-9
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
Back-to-back wins on the road in New Orleans and Houston are huge for the Bengals moving forward. It could be a sign they have turned a corner, or it could be setup for a heart-breaking loss to a team they should beat. Here come the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay isn’t a cakewalk and have been playing better in the past couple weeks, but the Bengals have the defense to terrorize the Tampa Bay offense and Cincinnati’s offense is hot right now with A.J. Green back and healthy. I don’t think the Buccaneers can stop him this week. I’m taking Cincinnati.
Oakland Raiders 1-10 @ St. Louis Rams 4-7
Prediction: St. Louis Rams
I told you the Raiders could beat Kansas City! Sure, I didn’t make the pick, technically, but couldn’t trust picking the Raiders after all. This week, Oakland hits the road to play the Rams. You have to love how the Rams are playing right now. I’m taking the Rams. Even at 4-7, they have some of the most raw talent in the entire league and they are playing motivated and determined. St. Louis should win this week.
New Orleans Saints 4-7 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
I told you last week, that was the last time I was going to assume the Saints would figure it out when making my picks. The Saints aren’t nearly as explosive offensively as they were in the past and we are watching the on-going saga of how Rob Ryan’s defenses peak in his first season with the team and then bottom-out thereafter. Sure, the Steelers are impossible to predict, but they are playing at home, in the cold, where the Saints traditionally struggle. That’s a sure thing, right? Right?
Carolina Panthers 3-7-1 @ Minnesota Vikings 4-7
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
My how the NFC South has fallen. The Panthers don’t have enough weapons offensively and Cam Newton is clearly having trouble with that lack of weapons or injuries or, most likely, some combination of both. The Panthers defense is a shell of the top-five unit from a year ago and now they are traveling to the frigid tundra of… Minnesota. Okay, it doesn’t have the same mystique, but nonetheless, Minnesota will be ready to run the ball and take pressure off Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings defense is actually underrated, pressuring the passer well and playing solid defense overall, even against top-competition.
Sunday, 11/30 – 4:05 pm ET
Arizona Cardinals 9-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 4-7
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
I’m not buying any of this “the Falcons are the top team in the NFC South”. Atlanta is talented offensively, but their defense can’t stop anyone and even that offense can be quickly derailed by a pass rush or talented corners. Arizona has the corners to shut down the Falcons offensively and I have no concerns over if the Cardinals will move the ball against the Atlanta defense. Now, if the Cardinals do lose here, then we will need to have a talk. Arizona would most likely be facing some serious concerns heading down the home-stretch if they lose this one.
Sunday, 11/30 – 4:25 pm ET
New England Patriots 9-2 @ Green Bay Packers 8-3
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
The Patriots are ridiculously hot right now (yes, that is expert commentary), but I’m taking the Packers. The key here is Lambeau Field. The same field that made the Eagles offense look awful and the same field that has led to back-to-back 50+ point games for the Green Bay offense. Will that impact Tom Brady and company and suddenly freeze the Patriots impressive defense? Who knows. I’m just saying that crazy things happen in Lambeau and most turn up in favor of the Pack. This should be high-scoring and I expect the Patriots to work the game clock with a run game, trying to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. I still think Rodgers will do enough to win this one. If the Patriots do manage to go into Lambeau and beat the hottest NFC team at this point, you might as well gift the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots. Point is, it would be a mighty impressive win.
Sunday, 11/30 – 8:30 pm ET
Denver Broncos 8-3 @ Kansas City Chiefs 7-4
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City wasn’t so far off from upending Denver in their first matchup earlier this season and now Denver is showing more weaknesses than we have seen from them in awhile. While Denver’s defense is stacked with talented players, they have underperformed as a unit, which should allow the Chiefs to run the ball and control the clock. The Denver offense, while still mighty in their own right, doesn’t look as unstoppable either. Is their a blueprint? Maybe? Now I’m not expecting the Chiefs to just run away with this, but I’ll take Kansas City. The deciding factor could be the home-field advantage that playing at Arrowhead creates. In primetime, a stadium and fan base like that could be a difference-maker.
Monday, 12/1 – 8:30 pm ET
Miami Dolphins 6-5 @ New York Jets 2-9
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
Let’s not waste too much time here. The Dolphins should win. Their defense is incredible and their offense is actually very good in it’s own right. The Jets have neither of these things and have now turned back to Geno Smith at quarterback. I still think there is something there with Smith, but not against the Dolphins as they push for a playoff berth.