Just in case you haven't realized what a weird time this is in the NFL...
Tim Tebow is 4-1 as a starter, just this year. Vince Young is 32-17 as a starting quarterback, and the only Eagle QB to throw a TD in the fourth quarter in 2011. (OK, I made that last stat up. But it's probably true anyway.) The Thanksgiving games, all three of them, may be compelling for the first time ever. I went 10-3-1 ATS, and led my fantasy league in points... but only after giving up on the latter and trading away my best player for keepers, and not getting to the casino to make parlay bets. And since I'm not making any bets again this weekend, they will crush. Take it to the bank, and pay off your bills for the best holiday of the year that isn't Fall Back Daylight Savings Time. (Oh, how I love that holiday -- no cash, no relatives, no cleaning, all benefit.) And with that... on to the picks!
* * * * *
Green Bay at DETROIT (+7)
The Lions come into this one with pinball game back online, a freshly rejuvenated Kevin Smith, and a Packer team that just got dragged through the mud by the Bucs' power running game. The 10-0 team will still win, because it's a national game and the Lions aren't going to have the horses to protect the lead late. But they'll have to come from behind to do it, which means a Lions cover. And maybe, just maybe, something more.
Packers 38, Lions 34
Miami at DALLAS (-7)
The Dolphins come in hot, and the Cowboys looked downright mortal in their could have easily been a loss to the moribund Redskins last week in DC. But home games on Thanksgiving are the Cowboys' annual gift from the league, and RB Reggie Bush and QB Matt Moore were freely available talent for a reason. It's time for DeMarco Murray to become overrated, and for the Cowboys to waltz home with the NFC East crown (and first round wild card loss).
Cowboys 31, Dolphins 20
SAN FRANCISCO at Baltimore (-3)
Every other week blues for the hometown Ravens? Partly, and the other part is that they really could have lost last week's game to the not quite ready for prime time Bengals. The Niner defense is for real, and the Ravens just aren't as stout defensively as you might expect. Besides, any team that gets away from its best weapon as easily as the Ravens do has some confidence problems.
Niners 24, Ravens 20
Minnesota at ATLANTA (-9.5)
Last week, WR Roddy White finally broke out of his season-long funk, and the Falcons looked like the team we expected. This week at home against a Vikings team that won't have RB Adrian Peterson, they'll cruise. I still don't like them to go deep in the playoffs, but rest assured, they are going there.
Falcons 31, Vikings 16
Cleveland at CINCINNATI (-7.5)
A big number, but the Bengals have a QB and the Browns have a Detmer. I also like the tabby defense, especially at home, against a team that's been punchless in every year of their existence where Derek Anderson didn't go to the Pro Bowl. Woof.
Bengals 28, Browns 13
TAMPA BAY at Tennessee (-3.5)
It's amazing to me how the Bucs can get away from their running game and look horrible, then look good running the ball... and then just get right the hell away from it again. Against a Titans defense that has been hurt on the ground, the road game helps them by pushing them towards profitable conservatism. Also, RB Chris Johnson has gone back to sucking, which isn't helping the Titans much at all, and they might have QB health issues.
Bucs 30, TItans 12.
CAROLINA at Indianapolis (+3.5)
I want to take the Colts here, I really do; they probably aren't going winless this year, and the Panthers run defense offers less defense than a never drank before girl at Prom. But QB Cam Newton to WR Steve Smith can end this by their own selves, and the Colts have well and truly quit.
Panthers 31, Colts 24.
Arizona at ST. LOUIS (Pick 'em)
The Cards come in with QB uncertainty, a historically weak road record (Eagle game notwithstanding), and a defense that was looking good before the Niners worked them. The Rams come in with the seeds of a decent attack, but no OL, and a home crowd that doesn't exactly intimidate anyone. In a flush bowl, I'll take the home toilet.
Rams 23, Cardinals 16.
Buffalo at NY JETS (-9)
Nobody circles the drain like the Buffalo Bills. And on the road against an angry Jets team that spent 55 minutes putting boots to Bronco butt, only to prevent defense their way to another Tebow Miracle, it's going to get ugly. Actually, it'll start ugly, too: the Bills have been blown out in every first half of this tailspin. Sadly, this is their true level.
Jets 30, Bills 9
HOUSTON at Jacksonville (+3.5)
Are you ready for the Matt Leinart Renaissance? It's coming, folks, because our favorite trustafarian QB is walking into the hammock job of all NFL QB jobs. He's got a feisty defense, outstanding running game, good weapons and cushy division; so long as he doesn't throw picks or turtle up in the occasional long down and distance, he'll be receiving long media mouth jobs for his new found dedication to the game. That is, until he actually faces a good team. It'll be a while before that happens. Oh, and the Jaguars offense is so bad, Jag Fan actually misses David Garrard. No, seriously.
Texans 24, Jaguars 10
CHICAGO at Oakland (-4)
Having seen a mobile QB (Tebow) demolish this team at home just a month ago, I'm having a hard time seeing how a Raiders team that will still be missing RB Darren McFadden is a sure bet against an opportunistic defense and best in the game special teams. I think QB Caleb Hanie can make some plays here, and also wouldn't be surprised if the Bears can get QB Kyle Orton in with a quickness for some utility. Besides, the Raiders are a terrible favorite, and K Sebastian Janikowski still isn't healthy. I think he hits one at the buzzer to win it, which is still a road cover.
Raiders 24, Bears 21
Washington at SEATTLE (-4)
I *like* this Seahawk team, especially at home; they run the ball, defend, and move the sticks, especially when QB Tarvaris Jackson can operate out of the hurry up and don't think. The Redskins are back to deluding themselves with QB Rex Grossman, which is to say they are back to being a more entertaining joke. Don't be surprised if they don't win another game this year.
Seahawks 27, Redskins 17
NEW ENGLAND at Philadelphia (+3)
Bill Belichick has had Andy Reid's number for years, and while the games are usually close heartbreakers, they still go for the Hoodie. The Eagles actually showed heart in a road win last week in New York, but heart doesn't count for much against a QB with touch, and QB Tom Brady is the best they have faced so far this year. It'll be close, but you don't bet the 2011 Eagles to win when it's close, and this offense hasn't been very good for a while now.
Patriots 26, Eagles 20
DENVER at San Diego (-7)
Regardless of the Tebowisty here, what exactly have the Chargers done this year to merit being a 7-point home favorite against anyone, let alone a blessed Bronco team that has strong special teams, running game and defense? QB Philip Rivers showed some good signs last week in Chicago amidst all of the unforgivable turnovers, and the home team should win. But they won't make it easy. The wide talent gap that used to exist between the Chargers and the rest of the division is gone now.
Chargers 24, Broncos 20
PITTSBURGH at Kansas City (+10.5)
Wow, Tyler Palko isn't good, and the Steelers with a bye at this point in their football lives is a very, very good thing. Look for the road team to have more fans and an easy time of it in this one.
Steelers 31, Chiefs 10
New York at NEW ORLEANS (-7)
As much as I'd like to take the Giants for the bounce-back game after what the NY Times not so kindly called "football emasculation" at the hands of the Eagles, there's just nothing good about a MNF game in the Bayou, especially against a rested Saints team that still might be the second-best team in the NFC this year, simply because they are more experienced in playoff games than the Niners. And when Blue can't run for 30 yards against the Eagles, that's not an indictment of Brandon Jacobs and the line; it's a verdict. Guilty, guilty, gone.
Saints 30, Giants 21
Last week: 10-3-1
Year to date: 81-72-5
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Just in case you haven't realized what a weird time this is in the NFL...