The Cowboys and Lions have combined to win five games, so it’s no surprise their thankfulness is lacking. Regardless, I find a reason Dallas, Detroit, and the 30 other franchises should be thankful this Thanksgiving. Also, big games in Atlanta, Chicago and Indianapolis will significantly shape the playoff landscape.
Last Week: 12 – 4 – 0
Season: 100 – 65 – 0
Patriots at Lions
As if the Lions haven’t had enough embarrassment over the years, the NFL trots them out in front of a national audience every Thanksgiving to remind the country of their impotence. Even worse, most of the games are played in front of a half empty stadium. Even worser (huh?), the Lions haven’t won on Thanksgiving since 2003, and only twice in the past decade. This year, the Lions drew what many believe to be the NFL’s top team, the New England Patriots. When it rains, it pours. One thing the Lions can be thankful for is the stellar play of Calvin Johnson and Nadmamfkajngfjngfkngkjgd Suh. (By the way, it’s, Ndamukong.) Both are game-changers and should elevate Detroit to a competitive level soon, maybe as early as next season. Unlike Detroit, the Patriots have too much to be thankful for. Great quarterback. Brilliant coach. Draft assets. Young talent. Randy Moss is gone. The list goes on and on. But if I had to choose just one, I would take the throw-back red uniforms with “Pat the Patriot” on the helmet. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +7.5
Saints at Cowboys
At the start of the season, this was supposed to be the first intriguing Thanksgiving meeting since 1621. And similar to that wonderful encounter between the Pilgrims and Indians, the Saints will be easy for the Cowboys to deal with at first, only to get slaughtered by them as their interaction continues. As they say, history always repeats itself. Anyway, Dallas should be thankful that Jason Garrett revolutionized the coaching position by demanding discipline, responsibility, and effort. Maybe some other NFL teams will even adapt this strategy. New Orleans, on the other hand, should be thankful that Sean Payton dragged the Saints out of their Superbowl hangover. Now they appear destined to win home field throughout the NFC playoffs. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -4.5
Bengals at Jets
My parents don’t have the NFL Network included in their standard cable package. Being an NFL junkie, I normally give them some cash and add the NFL Network so I can watch the nightcap on Thanksgiving. This year, I opted to save my money and stuff my face with Whoppers. The only thing worse than watching Ochocinco and TO’s reality show? Yep, you guessed it; watching the Bengals. The Jets should be thankful they aren’t 0-3 in their last three games. The Bengals should be thankful that the season is more than halfway over. Even for tortured Bengal fans, 2010 has been tough to swallow. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +9
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Packers at Falcons
All season I’ve been disrespecting the Falcons. They beat the Saints and I blamed New Orleans’ Superbowl hangover. Then Atlanta beat the Buccaneers and I wrote off the Bucs as a good team. And finally, the Falcons beat the Ravens. Although I blamed a sloppy Baltimore performance for Atlanta’s win, I was pretty much out of reasons to disrespect the Falcons. Regardless, I’m still not buying the Falcons as a Superbowl contender. Here’s hoping Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and the rest of the Packers prove me right. Win or lose, though, the Falcons should be thankful they have one of the top QB/WR tandems in the NFL. Green Bay should be thankful that Aaron Rodgers outlasted Favre and eventually blossomed into one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers +2
Steelers at Bills
C.J. Spiller was the preseason favorite for offensive rookie of the year. In nine games, he’s produced only 245 yards (excluding returns). Spiller’s slow development is just one of many reasons the Bills will again finish with a losing record. The Steelers should be thankful for a free win in late November. The Bills should be thankful their players haven’t given up like the Bengals’. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -7
Panthers at Browns
The Panthers chose to move on from Jake Delhomme after the 2009 season for two reasons. First and foremost, to improve at the position, and secondly, to get younger and develop a quarterback of the future. Well, after 11 weeks, Carolina has certainly failed to accomplish goal #1 and is struggling with goal #2 as well. Matt Moore couldn’t duplicate his success from the 2009 season. Jimmy Clausen has been a roller coaster fluctuating between not very good and “whoa, he’s brutal.” To make matters worse, John Fox brought in Brian St. Pierre. Pierre didn’t improve the position over the rookies and is a decade too old to be considered the future. Maybe Delhomme for another year was the Panther’s best option. What we know for sure is that the Browns should be thankful for the play of their defense and the determination of their head coach. The Panthers should be thankful that the end of the mundane John Fox era is only 5 weeks away. Whether he brings Jeff George, Bernie Kosar, or Trent Dilfer out of retirement remains to be seen. BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns -10
Jaguars at Giants
New York is coming off two tough losses to division rivals and talk of another late season collapse surrounds the team. Obviously, the Giants need this win…badly. Lucky for them, the Jaguars will be without both starting tackles on their offensive line. David Garrard has reportedly called Jay Cutler for advice on handling the Giants’ blitz. Cutler’s response; “We played the Giants this year? When?” The Jaguars should be thankful that within the next decade they’ll have a real fan base in Los Angeles. Tom Coughlin and the Giants should be thankful that Jacksonville is due for a loss. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -7.5
Vikings at Redskins
Don’t count out the Redskins just yet. To be clear, I’m not a believer in the ‘Skins. I think Shanahan is overrated, and McNabb is going to war with paintballs instead of bullets. However, Washington’s wins (Packers, Bears, split with Eagles) and remaining schedule (Bucs, Giants x2) will keep them in contention as long as they can win the right games. A 4-2 finish with a win over the Buccaneers and at least a split with New York would probably get Washington into the playoffs on a tiebreaker. As bad as they’ve been, the Redskins should be thankful that they’ve won the right games. Those wins will go a long way if they can get their record a game or two over .500. The Vikings should be thankful they didn’t blow $20 million to convince Brett Favre to come back, trash a 3rd round pick to rent Randy Moss for three weeks, and waste the first four years of Adrian Peterson’s career. Oh wait, those things actually happened. Let’s try again. The Vikings should be thankful that Favre and his baggage will be gone for good in less than two months. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins -1
Titans at Texans
There’s over 6 billion people in the world, and only one of them thinks Vince Young is a starting NFL quarterback. Unfortunately for Titans’ coach Jeff Fisher, that one man owns the Tennessee Titans. Fans in Nashville have to be excited about seeing Young cry whenever someone hurts his feelings for the next few years. With that said, the Titans should be thankful that Young’s injured thumb gave them an excuse to remove him from the team for the remainder of the season. The Texans should be thankful that the team’s erratic play in 2010 may finally result in a head coach that can get Houston into the playoffs. Coming into this game, these teams are on a combined seven game losing streak. My analysis leads me to believe one of those streaks ends on Sunday. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -6.5
Game to Watch: Packers at Falcons
Game on Call: Jaguars at Giants
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Chiefs at Seahawks
This could be Kansas City’s last opportunity to distance themselves from the San Diego Chargers. While the Seahawks aren’t very good, they’re respectable at home (if you exclude the stomping delivered by the Giants). More importantly, a win would give the Chiefs a foot up on the Chargers in a tiebreaker scenario because Seattle already beat San Diego early in the season. Nevertheless, I feel an unfortunate loss coming. The Chiefs should be thankful Todd Haley’s head coaching inadequacies haven’t cost the team a big win…yet. The Seahawks should be thankful they’re in the NFC West. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks +2
Dolphins at Raiders
It’s 1:15AM ET. I just finished two games of Pinnacle. Apparently, bidding 23 with a run is equivalent to drafting JaMarcus Russell. Whoops. Miami and Oakland are similar squads. Both have solid defenses and would be playoff contenders if it weren’t for inconsistent quarterback play. If I’m the Raiders, I’m thankful that Darren McFadden is beginning to resemble an NFL running back. If I’m the Dolphins, I’m thankful that the Miami Heat has struggled. Otherwise, no one in Miami would care about the Dolphins right now. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -2.5
Rams at Broncos
Sam Bradford is definitely a quarterback to be thankful for. Barring a catastrophe of cough syrup proportions, the Rams are set at quarterback for at least the next decade. Similarly, the Broncos should be thankful they have Tim Tebow. Why? I don’t know. It just seemed like the appropriate thing to say. Moving on… Josh McDaniels’ coaching style resembles Bill Belichick’s in many ways. However, the illegal filming of an opponent was unexpected. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -3.5
Eagles at Bears
The race for the NFC playoffs has essentially boiled down to seven teams competing for five spots. Obviously, the NFC West gets their mercy berth, so, as unfortunate as it may be; they get one of the six postseason tickets. The seven teams in competition for the remaining five: Packers, Falcons, Saints, Eagles, Giants, Bears, and Buccaneers. You could even include the Redskins here if you really wanted. Anyway, a win for Philadelphia on Sunday would give them a huge tiebreaker advantage. Since they’ve already beaten the Falcons, a win against the Bears would give them the inside track at home field advantage throughout the playoffs if both Atlanta and Chicago were to hold onto their current position in their respective divisions. Obviously, a lot can happen between now and the playoffs, but these are the things a desperate fan thinks of when he’s up at night wondering how crazy it would be if the Eagles were to win a title the year after McNabb was exiled. The Eagles should be thankful that Michael Vick’s resurgence has made a bad offensive line irrelevant and given the Eagles a real shot at the Superbowl. The Bears, and more specifically, Jay Cutler (who commits 2-3 boneheaded turnovers per game), should be thankful for their defense. Without them, the Bears are 4-6 or 5-5. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3.5
Buccaneers at Ravens
I consistently ask myself how long the Buccaneers will hang around in the NFC playoff race? I feel like I’ve been waiting for them to lose three straight for a month now. For reasons I have yet to figure out, I don’t trust the Ravens as a legitimate Superbowl contender. Maybe it’s Joe Flacco or the aging defense. Or, maybe it’s because their two most impressive wins were won almost entirely without the offense. I don’t know. But I know the Buccaneers should lose this game, and yet I still wouldn’t be surprised if they won. With that said, the Ravens should be thankful they went out and got Anquan Boldin, because without him, Joe Flacco would be throwing to Derrick Mason and TJ Houshmandzadeh. The Buccaneers should be thankful for their recent success in drafting unheralded players that perform admirably. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -7.5
Game to Watch: Eagles at Bears
Game on Call: Buccaneers at Ravens
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Chargers at Colts
What an exciting game. Two offenses that won’t shy away from airing it out 40 times per game, two elite quarterbacks, and two elite pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Shaun Phillips. The Colts will again be without Austin Collie, and are still waiting for a handful of starters to return from the infirmary. Meanwhile, the Chargers are getting healthy and hitting their stride at the right time. Malcolm Floyd returned Monday (and subsequently tweaked his hamstring, but still…), and Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, and Vincent Jackson should return this week. To recap, Philip Rivers will have his full arsenal. Peyton Manning will have Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and a crew of guys that could be your next door neighbor for all you know. That won’t stop Manning, though. In a league where success is directly related to quarterback play, both San Diego and Indianapolis should be super thankful for their signal callers. The Colts badly need a win to keep pace with the Jaguars and further distance themselves from the Titans and Texans. I love Rivers and the Chargers, but picking against Manning at home, in prime time is just plain stupid. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -3
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
49ers at Cardinals
ESPN needs to figure out a flex system for Monday Night Football so we aren’t stuck watching a battle between the two worst teams in the NFC West. I understand switching days is impossible. I’m not asking for a flex system where the game is replaced by another football game. I’m simply requesting that ESPN give viewers the option to flex the game for another athletic event of their choice. For example, instead of this garbage game, I want ESPN to show me the Hornets/Thunder game, or even reruns of Playmakers. Just please don’t make me spend four hours watching Alex Smith and Derek Anderson exchange scuttle balls and horrible interceptions. I can’t start the week like that. It’s bad for morale. Oh, I almost forgot… The Cardinals should be thankful that Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t gone “TO” on his quarterbacks, and the 49ers should be thankful that the Giants won the World Series and effectively squashed all interest/anger/disappointment local fans had invested in the football team. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -1
Last Week: 12 – 4 – 0
Season: 71 – 84 – 5
(Lines as of 11/24, 1:40PM ET, from bodog)
Ryan – Brady is looking stellar as of late and he doesn’t look he’s going to be slowing down anytime soon. I also agree with that those red uniforms they wore on Thanksgiving were awesome. I almost thought the Lions were going to pull off an upset for a moment.
The Falcons and Packers game was great to watch. These Falcons not only have a great QB/WR tandem but they also have a solid running back in Mike Turner. I definitely think they’re Superbowl contenders right now. I can’t wait until they play Vick and the Eagles.
I loved the Eagles and Bears game a lot. That Bears defense is nothing to play with and they are the first defense to give Vick some real trouble in the pocket.
Also, Jay Cutler actually looked good with his 4 TDs. If he can keep up that type of performance for the rest of the year they are going to be trouble for whoever plays them in the playoffs.
Thanks for the comments John.
I agree with all your points.
I was wrong about the Falcons. Now they look like a lock for the top seed in the NFC.