After a great slate of games in Week 11 where we saw a number of exciting finishes, we are going to need that same luck to find some exciting games this week. With no games being played between teams with winning records this week and both the Chiefs and Rams on bye this week, we will see teams battling each other for Wild Card spots as well as draft order. Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and to show my gratefulness, here are the winners for this Thanksgiving week.
15. San Francisco 49ers (2-8) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) – 1 PM Sunday on FOX
Vegas Odds: Bucs -3.5, O/U 54.5
The 49ers are currently sitting with the top pick in the 2018 Draft- a sentence that most people did not expect to read this late into the season. Coming off a bye week, the 49ers and Nick Mullens are going to try and right the ship and start playing like they were expected to. At this point in the season, the 49ers should just be trying to avoid another devastating injury to one of their star players (watch out, George Kittle). Obviously no team is playing to lose, but imagine coupling the top pick in the draft with returning players Jerrick McKinnon and Jimmy Garoppolo next season? That’s next year, though, and this year’s team just can’t seem to catch a break. The Bucs have been just as bad as the 49ers, but they don’t have the injury crutch to lean on. The Bucs have made 4 quarterback changes this season already and we are barely over the halfway point. This past week, Jameis Winston made his return to the lineup, replacing Fitzmagic mid-game against the Giants and provided a little of his own magic. Of course, it was too little to late and Winston has re-earned the starting quarterback job. This is the most backwards, ridiculous, and pathetic quarterback carousel this season. Does it even matter who starts for Tampa Bay? They’ve lost 6 of their last 7 games and even despite all of their quarterback problems, the defense is struggling to stop anyone and I doubt they could stop a college offense at this point. The difference in this game will be one team has played with heart and the other hasn’t. The Bucs are verging on Raider-esque levels of incompetence and pathetic play. The 49ers win this game and give Tampa a better shot at the top pick, which they so desperately need.
49ers 30 – Bucs 24
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) @ Buffalo Bills (3-7) – 1 PM Sunday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Jaguars -3, O/U 37
A Wild Card rematch! It’s hard to believe that these two teams last met in the Wild Card round of last year’s playoffs. The Jaguars had sky high expectations this season and they have fallen flat on their face. The Jaguars haven’t won since Week 4 when Doug Marrone decided to be petty and go for two while up by 20 on the Jets with less than a minute to go because “the book said so.” Karma? Well, the Jaguars are coming off a devastating loss at home against Pittsburgh. The defense, the supposed strong unit of the team, completely folded in the 4th quarter and gift wrapped the Steelers a game they had no right winning. The offense went back to its roots, feeding Leonard Fournette all day and it will leave Jags fans wondering what could have been had Fournette been available all season. The Bills are coming off their most dominating performance all season, making the Jets look like a high school football team. Matt Barkley played his first game in 2 years and looked light years better than the great Nathan Peterman, who got the unfortunate boot during the bye week. God speed, Mr. Peterman, you will be missed. The Bills have boasted a very good defense all year and with LeSean McCoy finally playing like the running back he was expected to for this team. This game will have a lot of similarities to their Wild Card game, where the Jaguars won 10-3. Expect another low scoring, run heavy defensive battle between these teams, especially playing up in Buffalo. The Jaguars have the more skilled players, so I think they get the very slight edge here.
Jaguars 13 – Bills 10
13. New England Patriots (7-3) @ New York Jets (3-7) – 1 PM Sunday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Patriots -9.5, O/U 46
Somehow, the Patriots only opened this week as 7.5 point favorites this week. If you were able to get money on that line early, congratulations on the free pay day. It’s simple: the Patriots are the class of the AFC. They have struggled a bit this year, but they are still 7-3 and control their own destiny to get another first round bye. The last time the Patriots did not get a first round playoff bye was in 2009! The Jets are the complete opposite as they are just a joke at this point. Todd Bowles has lost the locker room and the team as a whole just flat out stinks. The Jets need a complete overhaul and a top pick will help them out greatly. There is no doubt they lose this game, despite typically playing the Patriots tough at home. Each of the games in this series that have been played in MetLife Stadium have been decided by 7 points or fewer in each game since Thanksgiving 2012 (I’ll leave the jokes about that game to Dick Cimini, who will no doubt remind everyone what happened that night every single day leading up to this game). This game won’t be close as Bill Belichick’s defense will have a field day with Sam Darnold.
Patriots 34 – Jets 14
12. Oakland Raiders (2-8) @ Baltimore Ravens (5-5) – 1 PM Sunday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Ravens -10.5, O/U 43
You know it’s a terrible week of games when the Raiders aren’t involved in one of the 3 worst games of the week. Jon Gruden may have turned the season around, however, as the Raiders won a thriller in Arizona last week (it actually was a very exciting finish). The Raiders by no means played a great game, but a win is a win. Unfortunately for them, they are no longer the owners of the first pick in the draft. Oakland just can’t do anything right this season. For the Ravens, Lamar Jackson made his first start last week and ran wild on Cincinnati, rushing 27 times for 119 yards while adding in another 150 yards in the air. The Ravens finally got back to their winning ways and are right back in front of the AFC Wild Card race. Jackson provided a spark to a meddling offense and it will be interesting to see if John Harbaugh goes back to Joe Flacco if he’s healthy. It won’t matter for this game, but I want to see what Jackson can do against this Oakland team this week. The Raiders get back to their losing ways and the Ravens have a winning streak going.
Ravens 24 – Raiders 13
11. Arizona Cardinals (2-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (7-3) – 4:05 PM Sunday on FOX
Vegas Odds: Chargers -12.5, O/U 44.5
The Cardinals lost to the Raiders. At home. With a healthy team. The Cardinals are wasting David Johnson and ruining the end of Larry Fitzgerald’s Hall of Fame career by playing this way. It’s sad to see, but the Cardinals have done it to themselves with the hiring of Steve Wilks, who has shown to be an incompetent coach. How he continues to run David Johnson right up the middle every single play is mind boggling. Not only is the offense a problem, but the defense, which is led by Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson, hasn’t come up with the big play they’ve needed week in and week out. For a team that has an all-time great wide receiver and a top-five pass rusher, cornerback, and running back, there is no reason for them to be 2-8. The Chargers, on the other hand, have been impressive all year- until last week. L.A. dropped a heart breaker against Denver at “home” and although they are sitting comfortably in the first AFC Wild Card spot, they have shown that they are just behind the Chiefs, Steelers, and Patriots. I put home in quotes because the NFL has done such a disservice to the Chargers by allowing them to move to Los Angeles. L.A. has no interest in the Chargers and every week the Chargers play there, it’s essentially a home game for their opponents. The NFL has diluted the football market in L.A. by trying to make it like New York and putting two teams there. The Chargers win this with ease and the most intriguing aspect of this game will be which team has more fans in the crowd.
Chargers 31 – Cardinals 10
10. New York Giants (3-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) – 1 PM Sunday on FOX
Vegas Odds: Eagles -6, O/U 46
It looks like the Eagles won’t even get the chance to defend their Super Bowl title in the playoffs this year after last week’s atrocious performance. The Eagles did not show up at all and looked lifeless out there. Whether that has more to do with the fact that they faced the Saints or the fact that they just aren’t good is a toss up, but it looks like it has more to do with the latter. Carson Wentz couldn’t get anything going, not even in garbage time down 41 with a minute to play. You know that the Philly fans are not going to be welcoming their team home with open arms on Sunday. The Giants are coming off a shootout victory over the Bucs. Saquon Barkley had a career high 3 touchdowns and the game really wasn’t as close as the final score makes it seem. Could the Giants have turned a corner? They have won 2 in a row but those wins have come against the 49ers and Bucs, two of the worst teams in the league. This will be a good test to see if the Giants still have any life left in them or if they are just the product of facing terrible teams. The Eagles haven’t proven to be anything special, but they are more talented than San Francisco and Tampa Bay. The Giants looked hapless when these teams met earlier in the season, but now they are trending in opposite directions. The Giants are hot and I’m sticking with the hot hand. The Giants officially end the Eagles season and Philly fans will not be happy during this one.
Giants 31 – Eagles 27
9. Cleveland Browns (3-6-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) – 1 PM Sunday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Bengals -3, O/U 47.5
The Bengals are on a downward spiral and there is no clear answer to fixing their problems. The defense played better last week with Marvin Lewis now in charge, but they had no answer to Lamar Jackson and his running abilities. You can chalk that up to facing a rookie quarterback and not know how to game plan for him, but they had to know that he would predominantly run with the ball, right? Yes, Jackson only averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but he carried it 27 times. The offense looked useless once again without A.J. Green, with Joe Mixon getting shut down and Andy Dalton only averaging 5.3 yards per attempt. Hue Jackson was no savior last week, but now he goes against his former team. The Browns are looking to beat the Bengals for the first time since 2014 and are looking to get Gregg Williams back over .500 in Cleveland. Nick Chubb exploded last game, going for 176 yards against the Falcons. Baker Mayfield is also coming off a career game against Atlanta, going for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and completing 85% of his passes in the win. The Browns have been playing much better since Hue Jackson was let go, but this game is going to come down to the health of A.J. Green. A.J. Green makes this offense click and with him looking likely to play this week, expect the Bengals to get back to their winning ways.
Bengals 24 – Browns 20
8. Atlanta Falcons (4-6) @ New Orleans Saints (9-1) – 8:20 PM Thursday on NBC
Vegas Odds: Saints -13, O/U 60.5
It’s actually kind of funny thinking back to the Saints first 2 games of this season. In Week 1, they got completely demolished by the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bucs and in Week 2, they need Zane Gonzales to miss kick after kick after kick in order to escape another home loss to the Browns. Since then, the Saints have been unstoppable. Drew Brees is one of the top MVP candidates this season and what he has done to some of the top teams in the league this year has been phenomenal. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were essentially shut down for their standards last week and the Saints still managed to put up 48 points. The Falcons have hit rock bottom it appears after coming up just short in their comeback bid at home against the Cowboys. The Falcons cannot get anything going on offense anymore. Julio Jones leads the league in receiving, but he is the only option to go to. Calvin Ridley has disappeared, the rushing attack is non-existent, and Austin Hooper is the epitome of inconsistency. Games between the Saints and Falcons are usually shootouts and I think the Falcons will keep it somewhat close. The Saints are just clicking on all cylinders at this time and having this game in the Superdome on Thanksgiving night gives the Saints all they need to pull away late in this one.
Saints 45 – Falcons 24
7. Chicago Bears (7-3) @ Detroit Lions (4-6) – 12:30 PM Thursday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Bears -3, O/U 43.5
This game will likely still be a great game, but injuries have really put a big damper on it. The Lions lost star running back Kerryon Johnson to a sprained knee while Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is unlikely to play as he is dealing with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. These injuries are really going to hurt both offenses. The Lions hadn’t had a running back run for over 100 yards for 70 consecutive games until Johnson ran for over 100 against the Patriots in Week 3. The Bears on the other hand have finally had a competent quarterback who was a threat with both his arm and his legs. Now, we get to see Chase Daniel make his 3rd career start and the Lions rushing attack will be led by plodder LeGarrette Blount. With no rushing attack to speak of, the Lions will be forced to throw the ball a lot against this Bears defense. Matt Stafford could really use Marvin Jones on the outside, but he will be out again this week. The Bears defense continues their dominance and all but eliminates the Lions from NFC North contention.
Bears 20 – Lions 16
6. Miami Dolphins (5-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-5) – 4:25 PM Sunday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Colts -7.5, O/U 51
Coming off the bye week, the Dolphins will finally get Ryan Tannehill back. Brock Osweiler did a good job filling in while Tannehill was out, keeping the Dolphins right in the middle of the race for the 6th seed in the AFC. Frank Gore gets a “revenge” game this week, as he spent 3 wildly ineffective seasons with the Colts before signing in Miami this offseason. The Colts have been playing their best football lately, having won their last 4 games including back-to-back wins over divisional opponents. After starting the season 1-5, Andrew Luck has helped turn this Colts season around, playing some of the best football of his career without having to do too much. He has thrown for 13 touchdowns during this 4 game winning streak against only 1 interception. Luck has also only thrown the ball over 30 times once during this streak, something he had been doing on a weekly basis prior to this winning streak. Thanks to the emergence of a rushing attack led by Marlon Mack, the Colts are playing balanced football and it has resulted in wins. The Colts will win this one with ease as their offensive line, who haven’t given up a sack in 5 straight games, will dominate this Dolphins front seven.
Colts 34 – Dolphins 24
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1) @ Denver Broncos (4-6) – 4:25 PM Sunday on CBS
Vegas Odds: Steelers -3, O/U 46.5
Each of these teams are coming off of improbable wins last week. The Steelers overcame a 16 point deficit on the road, with Ben Roethlisberger rushing in the game winning touchdown with only 3 seconds remaining. The Broncos, on the other hand, pulled off a comeback win of their own in Los Angeles, winning the game on a 34 yard field goal as time expired following a 76 yard drive led by Case Keenum with no timeouts and starting on their own 8 yard line. One of these teams will come back to Earth, unfortunately, as both teams are desperate for a win. The Steelers need to win in order to stay ahead of the Patriots in the race for a bye in the playoffs while the Broncos need a win to remain in the playoff hunt. Phillip Lindsay and James Connor will be the focal points of their respective offenses, which is something nobody expected to say at the start of the season. The Steelers have the advantage here, however, as they also have much better talent on the outside and Big Ben will continue to win late in the season.
Steelers 27 – Broncos 24
4. Tennessee Titans (5-5) @ Houston Texans (7-3) – 8:15 PM Monday on ESPN
Vegas Odds: Texans -4.5, O/U 41.5
The Texans are the hottest team in the AFC, winning 7 in a row and taking a fairly comfortable lead in the AFC South. After surviving a tough battle in Washington last week, the Texans return home to play in primetime against a division rival. This is a season defining game for the Texans, as a win here can finally put the spotlight on them in the AFC. The Texans have been overshadowed by the Chiefs, Steelers, and Patriots thus far and a dominating performance here will put them right in the conversation with these teams. The Titans suffered an embarrassing loss last week in Indianapolis and put them 2 games behind the Texans. Marcus Mariota is dealing with another injury and the quarterback situation is up in the air for this week. The Titans have been playing tough football this season (aside from last week) and like to keep games low scoring and close. The Titans just have too many question marks on their team this week and everything is playing into the Texans hands this week. The Texans keep on rolling, winning their 8th in a row.
Texans 23 – Titans 14
3. Green Bay Packers (4-5-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) – 8:20 PM Sunday on NBC
Vegas Odds: Vikings -3.5, O/U 47.5
We get a rematch of one of the crazier games of the season, one that resulted in a tie between these two teams. Neither of these teams have played up to their expectations this season and they are both desperate for a win. The Packers had 10 days to digest their disappointing loss in Seattle, while the Vikings get their second straight game on Sunday Night Football this week. Aaron Jones has emerged as the lead back for the Packers and he has been a pleasant surprise for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have played up to expectations, but the rest of this Packers offense have been a disaster. The Vikings have been very disappointing, especially in their past 3 games. Dalvin Cook has been such an inconsistent threat for the Vikings since his return from injury and it is extremely tough to rely on him. Adam Thielen, while still playing great football, has come crashing back down to Earth as he has not gone over 100 yards in his last 2 games. Expect another classic between these two teams as they are both desperate for a win. Aaron Rodgers is getting to the end of the season where he always plays his best football. Although the Vikings are the better team, Rodgers is the best player and I think he begins his end of the season run towards the playoffs.
Packers 28 – Vikings 27
2. Seattle Seahawks (5-5) @ Carolina Panthers (6-4) – 1 PM Sunday on FOX
Vegas Odds: Panthers -3.5, O/U 47.5
The Seahawks have been an incredibly streaky team, essentially alternating two game losing streaks with two game winning streaks throughout the season. This has still been a better than expected season for Seattle, however, and they are just outside the NFC playoff picture. The Panthers are currently the 5 seed but their position got much shakier after their loss last week. Ron Rivera didn’t get the nickname “Riverboat Ron” for no reason, as he went for the win instead of the tie at the end of regulation in Detroit. A lot of that decision may have a lot to do with the fact the Graham Gano has struggled greatly, but it was a risky decision that didn’t pay off. Cam Newton got shaken up last week, but he was able to come back and finish the game. He is expected to play again this week and the Panthers need him to win this game. The Seahawks are going to try and keep this game low scoring and control the pace of the game. The newly found power rushing attack of the Seahawks will help them do that and the defense has over performed this season. Going across the country to go against Cam Newton, however, is a very difficult task for Pete Carrol’s team. The Panthers squeeze this one out at the end of the game.
Panthers 24 – Seahawks 20
1. Washington Redskins (6-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5) – 4:30 PM Thursday on FOX
Vegas Odds: Cowboys -7, O/U 40.5
This game would be so much better, but unfortunately Alex Smith suffered a gruesome injury last week. Colt McCoy came into the game after the injury and actually brought the Redskins back to take the lead and almost led them to a game winning field goal and a major upset. Nonetheless, McCoy doesn’t completely ruin the Redskins chances at winning the NFC East, but they certainly hurt them. The Cowboys have won back to back tough road games and are all of a sudden right back in the NFC East hunt. Ezekiel Elliot has been phenomenal and Dak Prescott has been playing his best football since 2016. Dallas desperately needs a win this week after losing in Washington earlier this season. This game will be a back and forth, low scoring battle once again and this game will have the biggest effect on the NFC East all season. The Cowboys are heavily favored in this one, but they have a tendency to disappoint especially on Thanksgiving. I think the Redskins rally for Alex Smith and pull off a major upset.
Redskins 20 – Cowboys 17