Thanksgiving is here, which for most of us means spending quality time with family and friends, all the while gorging on large quantities of food, drink and – last but not least – football.
This Thanksgiving, the NFL schedule does not disappoint, with a three-game slate that likely will prevent most of us from falling into any tryptophan comas. Why? Well, for one, because the Lions are relevant again – and damn good, too. That, plus Detroit hosts the undefeated Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. But that’s not all, as the Cowboys face off against the suddenly hot Miami Dolphins, while the 49ers and Ravens face off in the nightcap.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, I managed to hit my own personal tryptophan coma a week early, posting a painfully subpar performance during Week 11. But here’s hoping Thanksgiving week pushes me back in a positive direction.
Last Week: 6-8
This Season: 83-77
Last Season: 144-112
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 12’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2011 NFL Week 12 Picks Against the Spread
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+6.5)
This is the most relevant the Lions have been on Thanksgiving in years. Consider that along with the fact that Detroit quite often plays better football on “Turkey Day”. Kevin Smith also broke out with more than 200 total yards last week, firmly placing himself as a legitimate replacement for the injured Jahvid Best. On the other side, the Packers continue to steamroll through the NFL, which leaves this game a difficult one to predict. A shootout is to be expected, but will each team exchange touchdowns throughout? My gut keeps trying to push me towards taking the Lions, and what may finally sway me is the fact that Detroit sports the NFL’s fifth best pass defense, and one that has managed 15 INT’s on the season. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t make many mistakes, but maybe – just maybe – he’ll make a few on Thanksgiving. My crazy gut still wants to take Detroit and the points. Oh, what the hell…why not? I’ll have plenty of food around me to eat away my sorrows if Green Bay cruises.
KP’s Pick: Detroit
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5)
Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have won three straight. This week, Miami faces a talented Dallas squad on Thanksgiving, which will be a major challenge, with Romo playing his best football on the season, and DeMarco Murray continuing to provide balance to the offense. Matt Moore has played better in recent weeks, but could struggle with guys like DeMarcus Ware putting pressure on him. Miami doesn’t have the offensive firepower to be able to keep up with the Dallas offense, especially during the traditional home game in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, where the ‘Boys will be extra juiced and ready to go. Cowboys cover.
KP’s Pick: Dallas
San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
The Ravens have been a much better team at home, but the Niners have proven they can win in any stadium – and have won eight straight games. Frank Gore is battling some injuries, but was still pretty effective in last week’s win over Arizona. Still, in a short week, Gore didn’t have much time to rest. The Ravens have been wildly inconsistent lately, and it’s hard to predict just which team will show on a given day. San Francisco’s defense has been rock solid (especially against the run), and could also give Flacco and the pass game fits. With the spread the way it is, it’s hard to pick against a team like the one-loss Niners. Assume a low-scoring game that could come down to a game-winning field goal. Therefore, take San Francisco and the points.
KP’s Pick: San Francisco
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-8.5)
Star running back Adrian Peterson is doubtful and unlikely to play for the Vikings this week. That leaves Toby Gerhart to likely get the majority of the carries for the Vikings. Starting a rookie quarterback and a second-year running back on the road against a playoff contender doesn’t bode well for Minnesota. The Falcons rank 20th in sacks allowed, and should be able to keep Minnesota’s front line (31 sacks – most in NFL) at bay just enough for Matt Ryan and the offense to flourish at home. With the Vikings missing major pieces, the Falcons cover.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5)
A.J. Green missed last week’s game, but the Bengals still managed to push the Ravens to the final buzzer. This week, Cincinnati faces an anemic Browns offense at home. The Browns currently have the league’s top pass defense, but Cincinnati’s defense is top ten quality, too. This likely will wind up a low-scoring game, but with A.J. Green back, the Bengals have the extra firepower to pull away, especially at home and fighting in a playoff chase. Bengals cover.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts (+3.5)
The Colts lead the “Suck for Luck” campaign by two games, and remain a team that is unable to establish a consistent offensive attack, while also struggling on the defensive side of the ball, too. Carolina’s defense has been horrible, as shown last week against the Lions. If there’s any week that the Colts could make some noise on offense, it would be this one. But that goes double for Carolina’s top ten passing offense, which should also be able to move the ball effectively on the Colts defense. Even though Indy is due for a decent performance, it’s hard to keep getting burned by picking them. Carolina is the safe bet to cover.
KP’s Pick: Carolina
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5)
With Matt Schaub out for the season, Matt Leinart will get another opportunity to prove himself in the NFL. This time around, he gets a solid core of offensive players to work with, including one of the more consistent and potent rushing attacks, headlined by Arian Foster. Andre Johnson is also healthy, and will give Leinart a big target to throw to. Jacksonville’s pass defense has played well, and could keep Leinart in check, but the Jags’ offense hasn’t had the pop to be able to keep up with a team like the Texans. Take Houston to cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-7.5)
The Bills continue to struggle, and took another major hit this week when they had to place talented running back Fred Jackson on the IR. C.J. Spiller will start in his place. Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled over the last month, and the Jets are angry after last week’s stunning loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos. New York is battling some injuries in the run game, but it’s hard to imagine Rex Ryan not having his Jets prepared for this divisional matchup, and borderline must win situation. Expect the Jets to cover at home against the hapless Bills.
KP’s Pick: New York Jets
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (-2.5)
Kevin Kolb likely will make a return to the starting lineup this week, which could mean an increase in offensive production for the Cardinals. The Rams have been an inconsistent bunch, as shown last week in a loss to the Seahawks. Each team has had its struggles on offense, with the Cardinals being ranked 25th overall and the Rams 30th in the NFL. One major reason for that is the 70 combined sacks that these two teams have allowed. It could be a messy game, and likely will come down to a fourth quarter performance by one key player. My bet is on Larry Fitzgerald this week, so I’m going with the Cardinals to cover on the road – barely.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)
The Bucs played one of their better games as a team last week against the Packers, yet still lost. This week, Tampa Bay travels to Tennessee to take on the Titans. Clearly, with LaGarrette Blount back and healthy, the Bucs feature a much more balanced and potent offensive attack. As for Tennessee, QB Matt Hasselbeck was injured last week, and Chris Johnson has been very inconsistent throughout most of the season. I’m banking on the Bucs building off last week’s momentum, and knocking off the Titans on the road this week.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders (-4.5)
Jay Cutler is out for the season and Caleb Haney will make his first start for the Bears. Oakland will be at home, but appear likely to remain without Darren McFadden heading into the weekend. Michael Bush has filled in nicely, but the Oakland offense has still not been nearly as explosive. The Bears will continue to attempt to control the game with Matt Forte running the ball, as well as on special teams. Haney may be rusty, but was plenty effective in last year’s NFC Championship game, and if he can put up a serviceable performance on Sunday, the Bears should be able to keep this game inside four points (or win outright). Take Chicago and the points.
KP’s Pick: Chicago
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
The Redskins showed some improvement offensively with Rex Grossman last week, nearly upsetting the Cowboys. This week, Washington gets a Seattle team that is much weaker offensively. Seattle plays much better at home, and handles the run quite well. The Redskins have tossed a number of various offensive looks at teams in the run game, and likely will do so again. Santana Moss also will likely be returning from injury, and with him back, Washington should have enough to keep this game close throughout. Take the ‘Skins and the points.
KP’s Pick: Washington
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles (+4.5)
The Eagles arguably played their best game last week, dismantling the Giants offense, especially its run game. This week, Philadelphia hosts Tom Brady and the Patriots, which is yet another tall order for a team needing wins to stay in contention. The biggest key will be Philly’s injuries, specifically Michael Vick, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, who all appear on the injury report. Last week, the Philly injuries didn’t matter – but what about this week, when taking on Belichick, Brady and the boys? I’m sticking to my guns, even though they failed me last week. Philly’s defense has improved, but with all the offensive injuries, it’s a tall order for the Eagles to be able to handle the New England offense all game long. Pats cover.
KP’s Pick: New England
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (-6.5)
One thing I’m learning is to stop doubting Tim Tebow, especially after witnessing last week’s late heroics against the Jets. It’s never pretty, but the Broncos are playing inspired football with Tebow under center. He can run and pass, plus the defense has been playing much better, too. San Diego continues to have injury challenges, as well as finding struggles with moving the ball. All this adds up to a divisional matchup that will likely be settled in the fourth quarter. Besides, the Chargers are not blowing anyone out this year. Take Tebow, Denver, and the points.
KP’s Pick: Denver
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (+9.5)
The Chiefs claimed Kyle Orton off the Broncos this week, but it’s not clear if he’ll wind up in the starting lineup come Sunday. Even if he does, Orton will likely not be set on the team’s offense, and could either be rusty or have a limited playbook to work with. Tyler Palko could get another start, but he had trouble moving the ball against the Patriots last week. Either way, facing off against a tough Pittsburgh pass defense is a tall order, even when playing at home. And with just 12 sacks on the season, KC’s defense may allow Roethlisberger and the offense too much time to throw. Expect a rested Steelers team to cruise to a double-digit road victory on Sunday night.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh
New York Giants at New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
The Eagles dominated the New York offense through three quarters last weekend, but the Giants have too much talent to assume that will happen two weeks in a row. This matchup features two of the top five passing offenses in the NFL, so a shootout is a heavy possibility. The Saints had an extra week of rest to heal up and plan for the Giants. That could be the difference in the game, but it’s hard to count out Eli and his fourth quarter heroics this season. That’s why I see the Giants keeping this game inside a touchdown, even on the road.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants