I have so much on my mind this week that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay would be impressed.
I will go through all 16 games this week with an angle on each team’s Thanksgiving Day history. But I also have some things to get off my chest that mainstream state-run media (see ESPN, NFL Network/Ian Rapoport) will not touch.
Note I easily nailed all three of my locks last week. Long live the Jags, Rams, and Bucs.
WEEK 12: 10-3-1
WEEK 12: 3-0
Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) +6 at Detroit Lions (6-5)
One thing about the Thanksgiving Day slate, all three games have playoff implications, which is not saying much considering the league-wide parity this season.
This is a fluid point spread considering Aaron Rodgers practiced this week, but now won’t play.
The last month says Green Bay has numerous problems besides quarterback, with the 26-26 “loss” on Sunday the most glaring.
Yes, I consider it a loss. Only elitist Ivy League schools dare treat a tie as if it was a win.
This will be the Packers’ 35th Thanksgiving Day game, most of them on the road as the Lions’ traditional opponent. ATS PICK: Packers
Oakland Raiders (4-7) +9.5 at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
This will be the Cowboys’ 45th time hosting on Thanksgiving, with a 28-15-1 all-time record. One of the better memories was then-quarterback Jason Garrett beating the Packers in 1994, proving you can win with a backup signal-caller. Dallas beat the Raiders 24-7 on Turkey Day 2009. ATS PICK: Cowboys
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) +2.5 at Baltimore Ravens (5-6)
This is the Steelers’ first Thanksgiving Day game since Jerome Bettis and Phil Luckett earned Turkey Day infamy in 1998. This will be the Ravens’ second Thanksgiving game in three years, the first being the first edition of the Harbaugh Bowl. Of the six teams currently tied for the AFC’s final playoff spot, these two are among the favorites.
Even if the Steelers lose, they still have a great chance of reaching the postseason considering their remaining schedule (Dolphins, Bengals, at Packers, Browns). And if Pittsburgh wins? The Steelers will almost certainly be in the catbird seat after an 0-4 start. ATS PICK: Steelers
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) +7 at Cleveland Browns (4-7)
Scott Hanson RedZone stat: the road team only won four of the 14 games last week. Just one more reason to break up the Jaguars. They and expansion twin Panthers are the lone two teams to never play on Thanksgiving. The Browns have appeared on Thanksgiving six times, going 3-3. ATS PICK: Jaguars (LOCK)
Tennessee Titans (5-6) +4 at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
By Sunday, controversial owner Jim Irsay may finally realize that last year’s team was much better coached than the current squad, and that was proven with an explanation point last week. Not politically correct to say, but it’s obvious.
The Titans’ franchise is 5-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, including a few Oilers/Cowboys clashes. The Colts played on the holiday twice during the Peyton Manning era. ATS PICK: Titans
Chicago Bears (6-5) +1 at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)
The Vikings play the Bears fresh off of sharing the spoils of a 26-26 “loss.” No, you can’t feel good about blowing a 16-point lead against the wounded animal staggering in the northeast Wisconsin wilderness known as the Packers.
Of the Bears’ 31 Thanksgiving games, perhaps most memorable was the walk-off overtime kickoff return in Detroit during the 1980 season. Despite playing in the Black and Blue Division all these years, the last time the Vikings played in Detroit on the holiday was 1969.
The Bears actually opened as a 2.5 point favorite but are now an underdog by a penny. ATS PICK: Bears
Miami Dolphins (5-6) +2 at New York Jets (5-6)
A few more 5-6 teams collide, and this is the first of two meetings between the Dolphins and Jets. Both teams have played on Thanksgiving seven times, Miami is 5-2, while the Jets are 4-3.
By far the Dolphins’ most memorable Thanksgiving moment was punctuated by the gift Leon Lett bestowed upon them 20 years ago. I can still see Jerry Jones celebrating the victory prematurely. That was also one of the first national exposures for now iconic referee Ed Hochuli. ATS PICK: Jets (LOCK)
Arizona Cardinals (7-4) +3 at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
On Thanksgiving in 1989 the Eagles shut out a Cowboys team that would finish 1-15 by a score of 27-0. But that game is more memorable for coach Buddy Ryan allegedly putting a $200 bounty on the head of Cowboys kicker Luis Zendajas in one of the more bizarre episodes in NFL history.
The Cardinals have actually played on Thanksgiving 23 times, as the Chicago Cardinals played the cross-town Bears annually in the early days of the league. Two consecutive games ended in 0-0 ties, before the Cardinals scored a 3-0 win the following year only to be shut out the next season. Over four years the team averaged .75 points a game. The St. Louis Cardinals actually hosted a few Thanksgiving games in the 1970s, subbing for the Cowboys.
As for the present, those footsteps the 49ers are hearing are the current Cardinals. ATS PICK: Cardinals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) +8 at Carolina Panthers (8-3)
Very little Thanksgiving history here, but the Bucs paid a visit to Dallas in 2006.
Remember everyone railing Greg Schiano a month ago? He knew exactly what he was doing running Josh Freeman out of town. Now the joke is on Minnesota. ATS PICK: Buccaneers
New England Patriots (8-3) -7.5 at Houston Texans (2-9)
Both teams played on Thanksgiving last year, the Patriots also played in Detroit in 2002 and 2010. ATS PICK: Patriots
Atlanta Falcons (2-9) +3.5 at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
On Thanksgiving 1976, a single-game rushing record was achieved by Bills running back O.J. Simpson. His 273 yards was far more amazing considering Buffalo quarterback Bill Marangi only completed four of 21 passes for 29 yards. The Falcons actually hosted a Thanksgiving game in 2007, I wonder how many bothered to show up? ATS PICK: Bills
St. Louis Rams (5-6) +8.5 at San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
The Rams last appeared on Thanksgiving in 1975. Prior to two years ago, the 49ers’ last appearance was in 1972.
From a fantasy perspective the biggest question is whether Rams running back Zac Stacy (concussion) will be able to make it to the post. ATS PICK: Rams (LOCK)
Denver Broncos (9-2) -5.5 at Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
The AFL had at least one, if not two Thanksgiving games annually during the 1960s. In all the Broncos and Chiefs have played 11 and 10 times on the holiday.
The bookend injuries of Justin Houston and Tambi Hali are going to put a crimp in Kansas City’s plans this week, even if Knowshon Moreno is also hurt and Peyton Manning’s abilities take a hit in the cold and wind. ATS PICK: Broncos.
Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) +1 at San Diego Chargers (5-6)
A Fish Taco Thanksgiving does not go over with the NFL, the Chargers have not played on the holiday since the AFL days. The Bengals’ only Thanksgiving game was in 2010.
A lot of people have the Chargers as having the best playoff chance of the 5-6 teams, I look for Cincinnati to put a hold on that theory. ATS PICK: Bengals
Washington (3-8) +1.5 at New York Giants (4-7)
There was no obvious choice for NBC to flex out of this game, so they stood pat with two major media markets for Sunday Night.
Both franchises have Thanksgiving memories. For Washington most of them are bad, including falling victim to one-hit wonder Clint Longley in 1974.
The most iconic Giants memory is Lawrence Taylor during his second year in 1982, where he proved on a national stage the absolute game-changer he was.
And get ready for Kansas City against Washington next week. The protesting outside the stadium will out-do anything going on the field. ATS PICK: Giants
New Orleans Saints (9-2) +5 at Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
The game to likely determine the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If the Seahawks were in Major League Baseball, the media would be calling for all their wins to be vacated as seemingly the entire Seahawks secondary are dealing with PED suspensions or allegations. But that is not part of the agenda by the media.
The Seahawks have actually played on Thanksgiving three times, while the Saints’ lone appearance was in 2010. ATS PICK: Seahawks