Thanksgiving kicks off string of key NFL games

Nov 24, 2009 5:02 PM
Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

The holiday season officially arrives this week with Thanksgiving Day’s NFL triple header of games over the course of a day of feasting on which we annually give thanks for all of the good things in our lives. It’s a day of family, friendship and football that ushers in the winding down of the year with many an attractive and important matchup.

A good many of these matchups go far in determining the Playoff chase with Division titles, opening week byes and Wild Card berths on the line.

Only six games remain in the regular season and each win and loss takes on greater importance down the stretch.

Unbeaten New Orleans hosts New England, the only team to author a perfect 16-0 season back in 2007 and the team that nearly derailed the Colts just two Sunday nights ago.

In the AFC only Indianapolis has a lead of more than two games while New England has a two game lead in the AFC East. Cincinnati and San Diego each lead their Divisions by just a single game.

Over/Under results have been perfectly balanced with 78 OVERs, 78 UNDERs and 3 PUSHes through Sunday.

Here’s a look at this week’s full slate of 16 games.

THURSDAY

Green Bay (-9½) at Detroit (Over/Under 49): Detroit QB Matthew Stafford was injured at the end of last week’s game against Cleveland and is questionable for their traditional Turkey Day contest. The Lions will be about 10 point underdogs against the Packers who possess one of the league’s most potent offenses despite an offensive line that has allowed QB Aaron Rodgers to be sacked 43 times. After all, the Lions allowed Cleveland to tally 37 points last week. GREEN BAY.

Oakland (+13½) at Dallas (40½): Dallas’ defense has played well the past two weeks while the offense has struggled. Oakland is last in the league in total offense at 227 yards per game. Oakland is off of their upset win over Cincinnati, catching the Bengals in a bad situation and needing all 60 minutes to capitalize on it. The Raiders are third worst at stopping the run which should allow the Cowboys to display a well balanced offense. DALLAS.

N. Y. Giants (-6½) at Denver (42): This is a tough spot for the Giants who have three straight Divisional games on deck and this is their only road game in a six game stretch. But they catch a Denver team spiraling downward with 4 losses in a row following their 6-0 start. The Giants ended their own 4 game losing streak last week in OT against Atlanta but their defense continues to have problems in getting to the opposing QB. OVER the Total.

SUNDAY

Indianapolis (- 3) at Houston (49): These teams met 3 weeks ago in Indy and the game was statistically even as Houston missed a game tying FG in the game’s final moments. Houston is off of Monday night’s game against Tennessee and this is the Texans’ third of four straight Divisional games. The Colts remain unbeaten despite several close calls. INDIANAPOLIS.

Cleveland (+14) at Cincinnati (39): Cleveland scored a half season’s worth of points last week in losing 38-37 at Detroit. Their 439 total yards was their highest output of the season. Their second best output came in their 23-20 home loss to Cincinnati earlier this season. The 375 yards gained against the Bengals were the second most yards Cincy has allowed. CLEVELAND.

Chicago (+11) at Minnesota (47): This would normally be a good spot to play a Divisional underdog getting double digits but it’s hard to find many positives with the Bears and any negatives with the Vikings. The elite teams have generally been winning by huge margins this season and Minny is certainly in that class. Chicago has been limited offensively with the lack of a running game which has forced QB Jay Cutler into too many mistakes. No such problems for the Vikes and QB Brett Favre who is supported by a the running of Adrian Peterson and a defense that puts relentless pressure on opposing QBs. MINNESOTA.

Washington (+9½) at Philadelphia (41): Washington has been more competitive in recent weeks but still has trouble finding the end zone. Philadelphia returns from a pair of road games with two more on deck making this their only home game in a five week span. PHILADELPHIA.

Miami (-3) at Buffalo (39½): Miami is rested while Buffalo finally made a coaching change last week. The Bills nearly upset Jacksonville before surrendering a late TD. The matchups would seemingly favor Miami with their strong running game facing a porous Buffalo rush defense, a fact evidenced in Miami’s 38-10 win earlier this season when the Fish ran for 250 yards. But they do host New England next week and the Bills put forth a big effort last week for their interim coach. That effort plus revenge for the earlier embarrassing loss sets the stage for an upset. BUFFALO.

Arizona (Pick’em) at Tennessee (46½): Tennessee is off of Monday night’s game in Houston and a win would have been their fourth in a row. The run often sets up big pass plays so this should be an entertaining game. OVER the Total.

Seattle (-2½) at St. Louis (43): The situation is extremely favorable for the hosts as the Rams play a third straight home game while Seattle plays their third straight on the road. This is a very winnable game for the Rams and Seattle is 0-5 on the road this season. ST. LOUIS.

Tampa Bay (+12) at Atlanta (46): Atlanta returns home following a pair of road losses and needs a win here if they are to remain serious contenders for a Wild Card. Tampa Bay is still a team in transition with vulnerabilities on both sides of the football. ATLANTA.

Carolina (+3) at N. Y. Jets (41½): Both teams are 4-6 but headed in opposite directions. Jets’ rookie QB Mark Sanchez has regressed greatly since a strong September despite having the support of one of the league’s best rushing attacks. Carolina also has a strong running game and these teams are very similar statistically which supports the FG pointspread. The Panthers have several extra days of rest following last Thursday’s home loss to Miami. The Jets have lost their last three home games and may prepare with a greater sense of urgency N. Y. JETS.

Jacksonville (+3) at San Francisco (41 ½): At 6-4 Jacksonville is a player in the AFC Wild Card chase. They have a strong running game and a capable QB which gives them significant edges on offense over the 49ers. San Francisco has not made much progress since they started 3-1, losing 5 of their last 6 and being outgained by over 100 yards in 4 of the 6. This game handicaps as a toss up with the Jags having the better current form and getting points. JACKSONVILLE.

Kansas City (+13½) at San Diego (45): This could be a flat spot for the Chargers after last week’s win at Denver that gave them sold possession of first place in the AFC West. Kansas City is playing better and last week’s OT win over defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh should be a confidence booster. San Diego handily defeated the Chiefs 37-7 a month ago and might take them lightly. They should win straight up but the points may well come into play. KANSAS CITY.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (No Line): This should be a physical war much as were the three meetings last season. Both teams are playing with urgency as they trail Cincy in the standings with the Steelers a game up on the Ravens for second place. The Steelers do have some QB concerns with starter Ben Roethlisberger banged up in their OT loss at Kansas City last week and backup Charlie Batch also injured. But this game should be all about hard hitting defense with sustained drives and points likely to be at a premium. UNDER the Total.

MONDAY

New England (+3) at New Orleans (55½): This game will be hard pressed to match the game two weeks ago when New England nearly ended Indianapolis’ perfect season but this game should be equally as entertaining. And likely just as high scoring as both teams have potent offenses capable of big plays from any point on the field. For the Saints this game is sandwiched between a pair of two game road trips. For the Patriots this game is sandwiched between Divisional foes Miami and the Jets. It’s hard to pass up taking points with the Patriots but even with a Total in the mid fifties the Total is the more attractive option. OVER the Total.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe