NFL's annual Turkey Day tripleheader features key battle in NFC North
November 23, 2017 3:00 AM
by Bob Christ
The NFL's annual Turkey Day tripleheader features a key battle in the NFC North between Minnesota and host Detroit, to be followed by a couple teams trying to keep their heads above water in the playoff race – the LA Chargers and host Dallas.Cowboys.
At night, the all-but-dead NY Giants are at Washington for an NFC East battle against the banged-up Redskins.
As for weather, it's a non-issue in Detroit and Dallas, since they'll be in domes. In D.C., however, the temp is forecast to be in the high 30s with little wind or rain. Now for a closer look at the games. The odds are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas. All times PST:
Minnesota Vikings (8-2) at Detroit Lions (6-4)
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Line: Vikings by 3 (44.5)
Facts: These teams meet in Detroit for the second straight Thanksgiving, The Lions won last year, 16-13, as a 2.5-point pick. Before that, Minnesota hadn't played on this day in 16 years... This is the best Turkey Day matchup record-wise in Detroit since 2011 when the Lions were 7-3 and Green Bay 10-0. The Pack won, 27-15. In 1962, another unbeaten GB team (10-0) showed up and was blitzed by the 8-2 Lions, 26-14, with QB Bart Starr going down 11 times... The biggest turkey of a game occurred in 1968 when the Lions (3-6-2) lost to a 0-11 Eagles team, 12-0, in a quagmire at old Tiger Stadium... In Week 4 this year, Detroit gave Minnesota its only home loss of the season, 14-7, thanks in large part to a +3 turnover edge... Detroit has won four straight on this holiday (4-0 ATS). Before this winning stretch, the Lions had lost nine in a row.
Analysis: The Vikings drew high praise for foiling the high-scoring Rams in Minnesota last week, 24-7, with Case Keenum not getting sacked for the fifth straight game while pitching to the standout WR tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. RB Latavius Murray (91 yards, 15 carries last week) is also improving after recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Detroit, meanwhile, could be vulnerable to the run game, giving up 4.4 yards a carry. Chicago had 222 yards on 30 rushes last week. Another edge the Vikes have is pass protection, tied for the NFL low with sacks 10 yielded. Detroit has given up 33, third most. And not to be ignored, Detroit is playing on short rest for the second time in three weeks en route to playing four games in 18 days. The pounding surely adds up.
Forecast: Vikings 30, Lions 21
Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Line: Chargers by 1 (48)
Facts: Last Sunday, the Cowboys were 37-9 losers at home to Philadelphia, their most one-sided defeat in the past four years. The Chargers, meanwhile, are coming off a 54-24 home victory over Buffalo, their most lopsided triumph in the past three seasons... LA got five INTs against Bills rookie QB Nathan Peterman, who was making his starting debut. His passer rating of 17.9 was the worst against a Chargers defense since ex-Jet Geno Smith had an abominable 7.3 in a shutout loss in 2014... Cowboys infirmary report: LB Sean Lee remains out (hamstring), but OLT Tyron Smith (back) and PK Dan Bailey (groin), who both sat out last week, are questionable. In addition, RB Zeke Elliott, who's missed two games and still is the league's sixth-leading rusher, will sit out for the third time in his six-game suspension... Dallas has gone 0-6 ATS in its home Turkey Day games since 2011.
Analysis: Without Elliott and Smith, Dallas has lost ugly to Atlanta and Philly the past two weeks scoring only one TD – on a 21-yard drive – and have gone 21 straight possessions without one. Against the Eagles, QB Dak Prescott had the worst game of his career with three INTs. He's been sacked 12 times his past two outings. Rushing the passer, meanwhile, is a Chargers specialty. For LA on offense, Philip Rivers showed no signs of his concussion from the week before. He played pitch and catch with Keenan Allen 12 times for 159 yards and two TDs. But with all that said, is all the travel catching up to the Chargers? In the past seven weeks, they've made three separate trips to East Coast, and now this one halfway across the map on very short rest against an unfamiliar foe. It's almost not fair.
Forecast: Cowboys 27, Chargers 17
New York Giants (2-8) at Washington Redskins (4-6)
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Line: Redskins by 7.5 (45)
Facts: Washington's starting center and OLG were put on IR this week, in addition to RB Chris Thompson, who's tied for the team lead in receptions and is second in rushing yards (but tops with a 4.6 norm per carry)... Both of the Giants' wins were against AFC West teams coming off a bye – Kansas City last week, 12-9 in OT, and in Denver, 23-10... Washington blew a 31-16 lead in the Superdome last week in the final three minutes and then lost in OT, 34-31. It's the biggest fourth-quarter collapse by any team this year... The past two games, NYG has saved the best for last with its longest drive of the game. Against KC, it was a 10-play, 77-yard march to a winning FG... Only Washington and KC do not have any winning teams on their remaining schedule.
Analysis: The Giants have been giant killers this season, twice winning outright as a double-digit underdog, at 12.5 at Denver and 10.5 against KC. All other league teams that are that big a dog have gone 1-24 the past two seasons. Even in last season's finale in Washington, as an 8.5-point underdog, the Giants won 19-10, holding Washington to 38 rushing yards. Since the Redskins have to be as demoralized as any team in the league after their last loss -- maybe except for the Bills – it's going to be tough getting motivated to play a team buried at the bottom of the division. Washington might still win behind QB Kirk Cousins' heroics, but probably not pull away.
Forecast: Redskins 21, Giants 17
Redskins 21, Giants 17