A Turkey Day trifecta greets us to open Week 12, but only two of the matchups are good enough to make this week’s Top 10.
Fortunately, it’s the early game, which means you can sleep in if you want to on Thanksgiving Day. Sadly, the Eagles and Lions have been two of the NFL’s biggest disappointments. Worse yet, the Week 12 Monday-niter carries two other candidates, the Ravens and Browns. That game doesn’t make the list below either:
Pro Football – Thursday
Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo is 1-for-1 in must-win situations and will feel the love as he returns to AT&T Stadium for this duel with Cam Newton and the undefeated Panthers. Although there was some early miscommunication with Dez Bryant, the duo combined to help put away the Dolphins late and will take aim at one of the NFL’s best secondaries, led by breakout star Josh Norman.
One key injury situation to monitor regards corner Peanut Tillman, who missed Sunday’s win over Washington with a knee injury. Newton’s QBR has topped 100 each of the last three weeks (9 TDs, 1 INT), highlighted by the 5-TD game against the ‘Skins.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers looked like himself again in beating Minnesota, helping snap the Packers’ three-game losing streak. After seeing the team’s 12-game winning streak at Lambeau Field end last time out against Detroit, Green Bay will be out to start a new streak against a Bears team that they’ve defeated in six of the last seven at home.
While there will be a lot made of Rodgers’ receiving corps looking improved due to James Jones’ reemergence and Jeff Janis stepping up, the Packers would be even more imposing if Ty Montgomery is able to make it back from a nagging ankle injury. The Bears are hoping to have Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal back for a Thanksgiving night upset bid, but won’t know their status until later in the week.
Pro Football – Sunday
New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans: This Gulf Coast showcase game features the first-place Texans looking to stay hot by notching a fourth straight win that would get them up over .500 for the first time this season. For all intents and purposes, this is also an elimination game for the Saints, who come off a bye with a new defensive coordinator as Dennis Allen replaces Rob Ryan.
J.J. Watt should get plenty of opportunities to get after Drew Brees, who drops back to fire more than nearly anyone in the league. He’s thrown for over 300 yards in six of his nine starts this season, including a 505-yard game to open November against the Giants and has amassed over 1,100 passing yards over his three appearances this month.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have imploded in each of the last three games, losing one-possession games due to self-inflicted wounds. The amount of careless turnovers Atlanta has suffered through over the past five games has been astounding, costing backers in six consecutive games where it has failed to cover the spread after opening with four victories SU and ATS.
The Vikings won’t make life easy on Matt Ryan, looking to rebound from their worst loss of the season after surrendering 30 points to Green Bay at home last week. The Vikings haven’t lost consecutive games since last December.
St. Louis Rams at Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton audibled and cost his team a chance to pull off a stunning comeback win in Arizona on Sunday night but played confidently after a brutal effort in the Bengals’ first loss to Houston. They’ll look to avoid a third consecutive loss against a Rams defense that has been unable to prevent three consecutive losses despite injuring two of the starting quarterbacks they’ve faced.
St. Louis’ lack of consistent QB play has been a glaring detriment and remains a question mark with Case Keenum stuck in concussion protocol and former starter Nick Foles looking like the next option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts: Jameis Winston became the third rookie ever to throw for five scores in a single game when he took advantage of the Eagles defense mailing it in on Sunday, so he’s continuing to excel after a rocky start. Winston has now thrown for 15 TDs and nine interceptions and hasn’t been picked off in five of his last six starts.
With Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins back to ease the burden on Mike Evans and RB Doug Martin, the Bucs look loaded offensively. Matt Hasselbeck has won all three of his starts, but it should be noted that the defense forced critical turnovers in all of those wins, so they’ll have to step up here.
NY Giants at Washington Redskins: Despite quite the rollercoaster ride, New York has an opportunity to take a commanding grip on the NFC East if it can pull off a road victory here. The Giants beat the ‘Skins at home in Week 3 and have defeated Washington in six of the last seven meetings between the rivals.
Jay Gruden has never beaten Tom Coughlin, but can hang his hat on WR DeSean Jackson being back in the lineup, not to mention how much better Kirk Cousins has been at home than on the road. Although he’s winless in five road starts with eight interceptions and just five TDs, Cousins is 4-1 in Landover with 10 TDs and just two picks. The Giants secondary is certainly vulnerable.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs: The Bills follow up their Monday night trip to New England with a visit to Arrowhead off a short week of preparation, so the schedule-makers will get no Thanksgiving Day cards from Rex Ryan. Kansas City has won and covered its last four contests after a 33-3 win in San Diego and is back at .500 and firmly entrenched in the AFC playoff picture.
RB Charcandrick West, who has done a terrific job in helping the team rebound from the loss of Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL, is day-to-day with a hamstring injury. Spencer Ware would get the carries if West is unavailable and comes off a monster fourth quarter against the Chargers.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks: Ben Roethlisberger vs. the Legion of Boom doesn’t need much of a write-up, although it should be mentioned that Cary Williams, who has failed miserably attempting to replace the departed Byron Maxwell, was benched late in Sunday’s win against San Francisco.
Although farfetched, this could still wind up being a Super Bowl preview.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: We won’t get Tom Brady against Peyton Manning, but Brock Osweiler did look effective running the Broncos offense in Sunday’s win at Chicago. He’ll likely have top target Emmanuel Sanders to work with here, but the key to success will again lie in the run game continuing to drive the bus offensively. If Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson continue to move the chains, opportunities in play-action will be there to be had.
Brady will look to shine against a Broncos defense that swallowed Rodgers whole when Green Bay came to town and has gotten the better of former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco too. The Broncos lost to Kansas City at home without top corner Aqib Talib, who is healthy and excited about terrorizing his former Patriot teammates.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].