Today is Thanksgiving Day, and that means it’s time to chow down on your uncle’s smoked turkey recipe he won’t shut up about. It might not taste quite as good as he says it does, but at least your cousin brought Bojangles gravy to top it off.
In addition to spending time with loved ones, it’s also time to watch America’s favorite sport. The ultimate question is, who will hoist the Turkey Leg Award?
Legends of the past have paved the way for the league’s current stars, demonstrating the proper way to enjoy turkey before millions of fans stuffed to the brim and sitting on their couches. Americans are eager to see who will be the champion.
The NFL was unpredictable last week, like much of this season. Buffalo got rocked by the Colts, the Browns barely took out backup Tim Boyle and the winless Lions, and most shocking of all, the Titans had their six-game win streak snapped by the Texans. On top of this, Joe Burrow and the Bengals beat the Raiders 32 – 13 in a game that had a spread of -1. (So much for my roommate’s Venmo).
As the playoff picture continues to shape up, week 12 is critical to the fate of several teams. Here are my picks from Turkey Day to Tuesday night.
Chicago Bears (3-7) @ Detroit Lions (0-9-1)
The Lions kept it close with the Browns last week, 10 – 13. In the past two weeks, Lions running back D’Andre Swift has run for 266 yards and a touchdown, and he will be facing a Chicago defense that has given up 1,228 rushing yards this season (14th worst). Chicago also ranks 25th in opponent yards per rush attempt.
Both of these offenses are a joke. The Bears are 31st in yards per play and the Lions are 28th. This is only worsened by the fact that Bears QB Justin Fields is dealing with a rib injury that kept him out against the Ravens last week.
The Lions are due for a win. I like them to win in a close one that is bound to disappoint compared to other legendary Thanksgiving games.
Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
Both the Raiders and Cowboys are coming off tough losses last week. Dallas will miss star wideout Amari Cooper and it is a home game against a Raiders defense that gives up 25.6 points per game. Dallas ranks 10th in the league in the fewest points given up, at 21.7.
This should be a high-scoring game. The Cowboys have the most offensive yards in the NFL and the Raiders come in at no. 10, just behind the high-powered Cardinals offense backed by Kyler Murray.
I’ll take Dallas (favored -6.5) to extend its record at home to 5-1.
Buffalo Bills (6-4) @ New Orleans Saints (5-5)
Buffalo proved to be disappointing last week and the Saints could not take care of business in Philadelphia. This is a crucial game for both teams, as they seek to get over the midseason hump and into playoff territory.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara will not be suiting up. The Bills could be in for deep trouble nonetheless given they let up five touchdowns to Colts back Jonathan Taylor last week. The Saints have lost three in a row and were desperate to get Kamara into shape against a defense that nevertheless ranks near the top of the league.
Bills QB Josh Allen chowed down on a turkey leg on Thanksgiving 2019 when Buffalo beat the Cowboys 26 to 15. I envision Allen will get the glory again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
The Colts are on a three-game win streak and it will be a weighty challenge to face a Buccaneers team with the fourth-most total offensive yards this season. It is bound to be a high-scoring affair, as both teams combined have averaged 59 points per game.
Indianapolis opened as +3.5 underdogs but will look to clamp down its defense which has allowed the seventh-most passing yards this season (2,715). I like Brady here.
New York Jets (2-8) @ Houston Texans (2-8)
In surely one of the worst games of the season, the Jets will head to Houston after the Texans pulled off a nice win against Buffalo. QB Zach Wilson should be active for the Jets and rookie wideout Elijah Moore should as well—which could prove problematic for the ailing Texans’ defense.
The Jets have lost their past three games to the Texans, but I see this streak ending against a team with the second to lowest passing yards in the NFL, and the lowest in rushing. Houston is hoping cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc and defensive end Jonathan Greenard can suit up in time.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) @ New York Giants (3-7)
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts looked money against New Orleans last week, rushing for three touchdowns in a 40 to 29 dub. In the past two weeks, the Birds have outscored their opponents 70 to 42. This comes after starting the year 2-5.
New York continued to struggle offensively, even with the multitude of injuries. While the Giants got receivers Kenny Golladay and Darius Slay back from injury last week—as well as running back Saquan Barkley—it made no use against the Bucs. They put up 10 points, seven of which were after an interception from the Bucs’ in the red zone.
There is too much going for the Eagles here. I’ll take Philly.
Carolina Panthers (5-6) @ Miami Dolphins (4-7)
Cam Newton is back in Carolina, and it is all the hype. Still, Carolina narrowly lost to Washington last week. The Dolphins earned an unimpressive win last week by only a touchdown against the Jets.
Miami is on a three-game win streak, having beaten the Texans and Ravens prior. It will be a test for both teams, as they seek to keep wildcard playoff hopes alive. With the second-best defense in the NFL in terms of yards per play given up, this will be a stark contrast to Miami, which clocks in with the worst offense in yards. I like the Panthers narrowly.
Tennessee Titans (8-3) @ New England Patriots (7-4)
The Titans are coming off a brutal loss to the 2-8 Texans at home, which snapped a six-game win streak. The game between the two AFC heavyweights comes as the Patriots seek to extend their own win streak to six.
Tennessee has officially lost star halfback Derrick Henry for the year, dampening morale. Through the first eight games, Henry accounted for the vast majority of yards from the offense: 10 touchdowns and 1,091 yards.
Patriots QB Mac Jones is playing solid football right now and I like him against a Titans defense that has given up the seventh-most yards total in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
The Bengals will kick off a three-game home stretch this week against the Steelers. After a 32 – 13 victory against the Raiders, QB Joe Burrow must be feeling confident. For good measure too: the sophomore has the ninth most yards this season (2,645) and the fifth most touchdowns (21). Pittsburgh is coming off a nail-biter against the Chargers on Monday night. The high-powered offensive eliminated a 17-point deficit but fell short 37 to 41.
It should be a tight one. I’m going with the Bengals narrowly.
Atlanta Falcons (4-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
Atlanta got blown out 25 to 0 against the Patriots last week. The Jaguars suffered a 30 to 10 loss against the San Francisco 49ers at home. The Jags have yet to put up more than 19 points in a home game, but they won’t necessarily need to do so against a Falcons offense ranked fourth last in yards total.
In what should prove to be a rough watch, I’ll take the Jaguars. 17 to 14.
Los Angeles Chargers (6-4) @ Denver Broncos (5-5)
Chargers QB Justin Herbert is coming off a three-touchdown, 382-yard game. The versatile sophomore has 22 touchdowns this season (4th) and 2,927 yards (5th).
It will be interesting to see how Herbert stacks up against the Broncos defense. The unit has given up the fifth-fewest total yards and fifth-fewest passing yards. A defensive battle is probable here, given the Chargers have likewise been tough defensively this season.
Coming off an impressive victory last week, I like the Chargers.
Los Angeles Rams (7-3) @ Green Bay Packers (8-3)
The Rams will head to Lambeau Field in one of the most exciting games of the season. The two NFC heavyweights are neck-and-neck in the playoff picture, trailing behind the Arizona Cardinals (currently the one seed).
Both offenses have been killing it this year. Since going to the Rams, Matthew Stafford has re-cemented himself as one of the most valuable QB’s in football. He has thrown 24 touchdowns this year (3rd) and has the highest QBR in the NFL (67.9).
The Packers are favored by -1 but I like the Rams here. Expect a showdown.
Minnesota Vikings (5-5) @ San Francisco 49ers (5-5)
Neither the Vikings nor the 49ers can afford a loss if they wish to sneak into the playoff picture. The 49ers defense has proved to be menacing through 11 weeks — giving up the third-fewest yards — and the Vikings’ offense has been a machine (12th yards).
Minnesota is coming off a huge 34 to 31 dub against the Packers last week but I think the 49ers will take care of business. At home at Levi’s Stadium, I expect George Kittle and Deebo Samuel to combine for double-digit receptions.
Cleveland Browns (6-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
In an exciting game, the Browns head to Baltimore. Both teams need a win, but the Browns more so to remain in the playoff picture.
It is unclear as of now whether Ravens QB Lamar Jackson will start and the Vegas line shows this. It opened at just -3.5 for Baltimore — who has put on an offensive show this year. The last time these two teams met it was a shootout, the Ravens winning 47 to 42 last year.
Another point of interest to watch: Browns running back Kareem Hunt aims to return Monday after suffering a calf injury in October against the Cardinals. The Browns will need a run game, as their passing attack under Baker Mayfield has fallen to 25th in the league (205.6 yards per game). Halfback Nick Chubb will be a major piece of the puzzle, then.
I find it difficult to pick against Lamar at home given how things have shaped up this year. I’ll take the Ravens, assuming Lamar plays, and think the -3.5 spread is worth it.
Seattle Seahawks (3-7) @ Washington Football Team (4-6)
It has been a disappointing year for Seattle, after opening the season as ostensible NFC contenders. The team sits in last place in the NFC West and only the Giants and Lions have worse records in the conference. Management is on the hot seat, with talk of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr potentially being ousted.
Washington is still figuring things out offensively. Still, in the past two games, QB Taylor Heinicke has made responsible decisions and been strikingly efficient. In the past two games, the 28-year-old has thrown for 462 yards on a combined 42-of-54 passes. He has also thrown four touchdowns and had the highest QBR rating of his career last week, at 91.1
In some ways, it feels like Seattle is due for a win. It’s hard to picture Russell Wilson leading them to 3-8. But my gut says to take Washington.