Redskins-Cowboys, Lions-Vikings featured as rivalry Thanksgiving games

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It’s long been thought the drive for the Playoffs begins in earnest when the season reaches Thanksgiving. All teams have played 10 games with two teams, Cleveland and Tennessee, having played 11. All teams are in action over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with the Browns and Titans enjoying the final byes of the season the following week.

One of the major stories this past weekend was the record number of extra points that were misses. Introduced last season to combat what had been virtually an automatic event, the moving back of the spot for the extra point try has introduced even more uncertainty than was anticipated. And with the volatile weather that occurs in the late fall and early winter we may see even more missed extra points.

And those misses introduce more decisions into the question of when to go for the two-point conversion. There is a chart that suggests the best mathematical situations but that chart was devised when the extra point success rate was in excess of 98 percent. The mathematics are essentially still in play but with a decline in success rate the percentages may change slightly. There is still too little data to draw definitive conclusions but it is clear the nearly automatic extra point of the past is anything but with the change in the spot of the try.

It will be interesting to monitor how coaches approach the point (or points) after touchdown over the balance of the season and how many of those decisions will cost or earn teams trips to the Playoffs. And also how many of those decisions will result in bad beats or lucky wins for bettors.

Another major story from last week was the results for Totals bettors.

Through the first 10 weeks of the season there had been 81 OVERs and just 66 UNDERs for a net of 15 more OVERs than UNDERs, using closing numbers from the Westgate SuperBook.

That excess of 11 OVERs was cut by more than half with last week producing just 2 OVERs and 11 UNDERs heading into Monday night. Those missed extra points and subsequent two-point tries are only part of the explanation but six of the 11 UNDERs stayed UNDER by more than a touchdown with five of them staying UNDER by more than 10 points.

Of those five games weather was only a major factor in Cleveland and a much smaller factor in Cincinnati.

The game in Indianapolis between the Colts and Titans stayed UNDER by 13 points and the game between the Dolphins and Rams in Los Angeles stayed UNDER by 15 points. The conditions in Carolina Thursday night when the Panthers hosted the Saints was also not impacted by weather.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend; here is a preview of the full slate of 16 games that comprise the Week 12 schedule.

Thursday

Minnesota (+2.5) at Detroit (Over/Under 43): This game is for first place in the NFC North and a Detroit win would give the Lions a sweep of their season series. Minnesota defeated Arizona last week with its defense as the offense remains a major concern. These offenses have two of the three worst running games in the NFL, which will allow both defenses to concentrate on taking away the passing games. As such, the opportunities for big plays will likely be at a minimum and we should see more field goals than touchdowns. UNDER

Washington (+6.5) at Dallas (49.5): Dallas started its run of 9 straight wins and covers with a Week 2 win in Washington. The Redskins have gone 6-1-1 following their 0-2 start and are 7-3 ATS with all 7 covers in their last 8 games. At a combined 16-4 ATS these are both “go with” teams, which suggests we may find the more confident play by looking at the Total. Both teams have strong running games with Dallas averaging 157 yards per game for the season and Washington averaging 149 ypg over its last 5 games. Both teams have gotten excellent QB play and both offenses are averaging over 410 total yards per game and over 6.0 yards per play. Both defenses rank in the bottom third of the league. OVER

Pittsburgh (-3) at Indianapolis (53.5): Pittsburgh has not played like an elite team for most of this season. After an opening week win at Washington the Steelers lost three in a row on the road prior to Sunday’s win at Cleveland. Indianapolis is off wins at Green Bay and over Tennessee. Both teams are averaging just 96 rushing yards per game and both defenses are in the bottom quartile on a yards-per-play basis. The teams’ respective reputations have the Steelers as a FG favorite but it can be argued the gap between these teams is very narrow with Colts QB Andrew Luck capable of keeping pace with the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. INDIANAPOLIS

Sunday

San Diego at Houston (No Line): This game will come close to pick ‘em despite the Texans having the better record and playing at home. Despite a 4-6 record San Diego has been in every game this season with no loss by more than 8 points. The Chargers have a potent pass attack with QB Philip Rivers. Their defense has been vulnerable to the pass but has excelled against the run. Houston has gotten below average QB play from Brock Osweiler. Their average of 8.9 yards per pass completion is last in the league and by the huge margin of 0.6 yards! San Diego had been a strong late season team for much of the past decade and although six straight wins would be unlikely, such a run could result in a Wild Card. The Chargers have not quit on the season. SAN DIEGO

Tennessee (-2) at Chicago (44.5): Tennessee’s chances for an AFC South Title were dealt a major blow with their loss at Indianapolis. At 2-8 Chicago is out of the Playoff picture and continues to lose players to injury or suspension. The Titans have the third best rushing offense and QB Marcus Mariota continues to develop. Weather is always a factor late in the season, especially in Chicago. But the fundamentals and situations are conducive for a high scoring contest. OVER

Jacksonville (+7) at Buffalo (45.5): At 5-5 the Bills are on the fringe of Wild Card contention but overall have played better than that record might suggest. Jacksonville continues to be competitive but has not shown the ability to make the big plays in late game situations. Their last three losses have been by 5, 3 and 7 points and two other losses have been by 2 and 4 points. The Jaguars play solid defense, allowing just 5.0 yards per play, ranking sixth in the NFL. That should somewhat contain a Buffalo offense that rushes for a league best 158 yards per game. The Bills’ passing game ranks last at just 186 ypg. The Jags actually have the better yards per play differential, which is an attractive characteristic for a bit underdog. JACKSONVILLE.

Cincinnati (+4) at Baltimore (41.5): After five straight seasons of making the Playoffs the Bengals will miss the Playoffs this season. At 3-6-1 any chances for a late season surge were all but extinguished with injuries to WR A.J. Green and RB Giovani Bernard last week. Baltimore is tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North at 5-5. These teams will end the season in Cincinnati so the Ravens are well positioned to pick up a pair of Divisional wins down the stretch. Baltimore held Dallas to its lowest rushing total since Week 2 and still plays solid overall defense, ranking fourth in allowing just 4.9 yards per play. BALTIMORE

Arizona (+4) at Atlanta (50.5): At 4-5-1 Arizona is likely to miss the Playoffs after two straight seasons of post season play. Atlanta is on pace to return to the Playoffs for the first time since 2012, holding a one game lead over Tampa Bay in the NFC South. It may well be decided by how Atlanta’s defense fares against the Cardinals’ offense. Arizona is playing a second straight road game. Atlanta is off its bye week that followed a pair of road games. The extra prep time allows Atlanta’s defense to better prepare to attack QB Carson Palmer and that unit has played better since the first four games of the season when the defense allowed their four highest defensive yards per play. ATLANTA

San Francisco (+7.5) at Miami (45.5): Miami has won five in a row and continues to show improvement under first year coach Adam Gase. That is important as it takes time for a new coach to become familiar with his personnel’s strengths and weaknesses and often it takes half a season for positive adjustments to be made. Their ground game has flourished and will face the NFL’s worst rush defense that has allowed an average of 212 ypg over their last five games. The 49ers lack talent on both sides of the football and that leaky defense puts too much pressure on the offense. At the same time the Miami defense has also shown steady improvement over the past month and a half. MIAMI

Los Angeles (+7) at New Orleans (45.5): Last week’s performance against Miami showed why the Rams showed reluctance in playing top draft choice QB Jared Goff any sooner. At best he can be labeled a project. Fortunately the Rams have a top tier defense that is fifth in the league in scoring defense at 18.7 points per game. That defense will be tested by QB Drew Brees and the Saints, who have extra rest after losing last Thursday at Carolina. But New Orleans’ defense is a major weakness and the Saints have won only four games with only their win at San Francisco by more than 5 points. LOS ANGELES

NY Giants (-7) at Cleveland (44.5): At 7-3 the Giants control the top NFC Wild Card and will host Division leading Dallas in two weeks. Much of their recent success has been due to a favorable schedule. They’ve won five in a row but four have been at home and the fifth was in London. This is their first true road game since a Week 5 loss at Green Bay. All 7 of their wins have been by 7 points or less. Cleveland continues to play hard as it seeks its first win of the season. It’s hard to lay a big number with the Giants but it is just as tough to take less than double digits with the Browns who continue to have trouble generating offense. UNDER

Seattle (-5) at Tampa Bay (44.5): Seattle is looking more and more like the team that will challenge Dallas for the NFC Title. Three straight wins and their big play defense have the Seahawks with a three game lead in the NFC West with six games left. The Buccs have won two straight and 4 of 6 but continue to struggle at home. Their win over Chicago two weeks ago was their first home win in five games this season. They lead the NFL in allowing just 17.3 points per game and their defense is capable of forcing a mistake-prone Tampa offense into mistakes. SEATTLE

Carolina at Oakland (No Line): Oakland is on a short week following Monday’s game in Mexico City against Houston. Carolina has extra rest after defeating New Orleans at home last Thursday. At 4-6 there is no margin for error for the Panthers if they are to make a fourth straight trip to the Playoffs. Carolina does have an edge on defense although they could be without one of their key defenders. And even a healthy Carolina defense has performed well below their level of last season. OVER

Kansas City (+3) at Denver (39.5): This game has been flexed to Sunday night. This is their first meeting as the teams will meet again in Kansas City in Week 16. The teams are tied at 7-3 behind Oakland (7-2) in the AFC West pending Oakland’s result Monday night. This is a key spot for the Broncos who played their last 2 games on the road and also their next 2 on the road. Denver still has an outstanding defense and despite winning last season’s Super Bowl are an impressive 7-3 ATS, indicative of being underrated by the betting markets. DENVER

New England (-7.5) at N Y Jets (47): Based on their play thus far there is little evidence to suggest the 3-7 Jets will pose a threat to the 8-2 Patriots, even off their bye. But the Jets have battled the Pats in recent seasons and have covered the last 6 encounters, winning twice, both as underdogs. The Pats may be without TE Rob Gronkowski whose lung issues sidelined him last week. The Jets are expected to start Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB who let the Jets to a 26-20 win here late last season. There is little for the Jets to play for down the stretch but they should give their best effort here against their long time nemesis. The familiarity factor generally benefits the underdog. This line likely rises during the week. NY JETS

Monday

Green Bay (+3) at Philadelphia (47): The Eagles are 4-0 both SU and ATS at home this season with wins over Atlanta, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Green Bay has lost 4 in a row and their lackluster play continues on both sides of the football. The defense has allowed 162 and 151 rushing yards the past two weeks and are playing a third straight road game. Pedigree and reputation suggest this is a good spot for the Packers. But that was the same situation the past two weeks at Tennessee and Washington and the Pack lost those games by 22 and 18 points. PHILADELPHIA

Last week: 7-6-0

Season: 75-79-3

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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