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Peyton stands above ‘turkey’ matchups

Nov 23, 2004 6:25 AM

Gobble. Gobble. Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.

Not all of the turkeys this Thursday will be on your dinner table. Three of the four teams in action Thanksgiving have losing records, but traditional hosts Detroit and Dallas might just raise their level of play enough to provide great entertainment as we get ready to carve our own turkeys.

The highlight of Thursday’s football festivities will be Indianapolis and QB Peyton Manning, who is on a record setting pace as the Colts march to the playoffs. The very short work week might mean sloppy play, which often is what separates the good teams from the bad. Still, the start of the six-week long holiday season begins with a weekend of games filled with playoff and seeding implications.

The players did very well last weekend as the house took a beating. But, as we have seen throughout the years, the setback is only temporary. The 11-to-10 is the best friend of the house as is the general unpredictability and semi-randomness of NFL games. Although this past weekend featured several lopsided games, historical results show that nearly 70 percent fall within a touchdown of the point spread.

The AFC clearly remains the superior conference and last week’s results showed why. Of the five interconference games, the AFC won four. Buffalo, Baltimore, Denver and Indianapolis each won by 20 points or more.

Pittsburgh and New England are atop the AFC with one loss apiece prior to New England’s Monday night game in Kansas City. Denver and San Diego are tied atop the AFC West with 7-3 records, the same record AFC South leader Indianapolis carries into the holiday weekend. Two other teams (Baltimore, NY Jets) are at 7-3. Jacksonville is 6-4.

Philadelphia (9-1) is the class of the NFC, with Atlanta very close at 8-2. No other NFC team is within two games of the Falcons, with Green Bay, Minnesota and Seattle each at 6-4. If the playoffs started now, the second NFC wild card (either the Giants or St. Louis) would be in with a 5-5 record. The Rams currently have the edge with a better conference mark than New York.

Home Underdogs reverted back to their early season ways with a horrible week, going 0-5 in the five games that had clear cut decisions. Cincinnati might have pushed against Pittsburgh as a five-point home dog, although much of the week the Bengals were catching just 4½.

Some bettors won with Houston on Sunday night at +3½, after being just a three-point puppy much of the week. Buffalo was a one-point home dog much of the week, but furious Sunday morning action moved the Bills to a two-point favorite.

Here’s a look at all 16 games this weekend.

Thursday, Nov. 25

Indianapolis (-7½) at Lions (53): The Lions normally would make for an attractive home underdog. However, the Colts are on a roll and it may be only a matter of time before they sprint past the Lions. Detroit has shown little on offense all season. COLTS.

Bears (+3 ½) at Cowboys (36): The Bears are having internal problems with questions about which running back (Thomas Jones or Anthony Thomas) deserves to play. Chicago’s lack of a passing game will fail to take advantage of a vulnerable Dallas secondary. COWBOYS.

Sunday, Nov. 28

Ravens (+6) at Patriots: On the surface, this shapes up as a classic defensive chess match with field position key. New England does have the edge on offense in the passing game. The Ravens strength is running the football. Barring turnovers this may be a 13-10 classic. UNDER.

Eagles (-7½) at Giants (37½): Rookie QB Eli Manning fared decently in his Giants debut last week against Atlanta. The Giants have played well on defense, but did lose 31-17 in Philly in the opening week. The Giants are capable of staying close for a while. UNDER.

Redskins (+11) at Steelers (36½): Pittsburgh at 9-1 controls its own fate for the top seed in the AFC. These teams have the league’s top two defenses and Pittsburgh’s strength on offense is the running game. UNDER.

Browns (+5½) at Bengals (39): Both teams suffered close home losses last week in low scoring games. In the first meeting, Cleveland broke open a tight game and won 34-17. The Bengals are allowing under 14 per game at home. Cleveland’s offense has struggled. BENGALS.

Jaguars (+6) at Vikings (47): If Minnesota WR Randy Moss plays, he will be less than 100 percent. The Vikes have not been as dominant moving the ball as they were earlier this season. Jacksonville’s strength is its defense. History shows a good defense stops a good offense. UNDER.

Bucs (-2½) at Panthers (40): Tampa’s edge in this game comes from a much better defense, especially against the pass. Carolina will be forced to find a running game. But neither offense has had consistency all season. UNDER.

Chargers (NL) at Chiefs: A San Diego victory would double its four-win total of a season ago. Kansas City is amongst the league’s biggest busts. Both these offenses have big play capability and are solid rushing the football. OVER.

Titans (-1) at Texans (44): This is the second of three straight divisional road games for Tennessee which got a hard earned victory last week in Jacksonville. Houston played well in a 16-13 loss to Green Bay. Houston has brighter prospects and is the overall healthier team. TEXANS.

Saints (+9½) at Falcons (46): The Saints players may have quit on the season. Haslet is almost certain to be replaced at season’s end. Atlanta continues to impress and has a grip on the NFC’s second seed. FALCONS.

Jets (-3) at Cards: (36): Coach Dennis Green has clearly turned around the negative culture in Arizona. Don’t be surprised if the Cards make the Playoffs in another season or two. The Jets are the more talented team with the better running game and defense. JETS.

Bills (NL) at Seahawks: Seattle struggled more than expected against Miami last week. Buffalo has shown that it play well even when trailing. An upset here would not be a shock. BILLS.

Dolphins (NL) at 49ers: Twenty years ago these teams played in the Super Bowl. Now both are 1-9. This game could determine the top draft choice in next April’s draft. Miami is in a difficult scheduling spot, crossing the country a second straight week. Hold your nose. 49ERS.

Raiders (+11) at Broncos (46): The bitter blood between Denver coach Mike Shanahan and Oakland owner Al Davis has been chronicled. With rare exception, Denver comes away with the solid win. Earlier this season Denver routed the Raiders in Oakland, 31-3. BRONCOS

Monday, Nov. 29

Rams (+5½) at Packers (52): The Rams continue to be poorly prepared and continually out coached. Green Bay moved the ball well in the comeback win at Houston but was unable to make enough big plays to put touchdowns on the board. The friendly home environs and possible bad weather and cold temperatures help. PACKERS.

Last week: 8-7

(not including Patriots-Chiefs game on Monday night.)

Season: 79-76-4