With all the byes now complete, 80 games remain over the final five weeks of the 2014 football season. Just in time for Thanksgiving, some of the NFL biggest turkeys have brought their act to the buffet table. And then there is the curious tale of the NFC South.
Be sure to make room for seconds and dessert.
Week 12 record: 6-8
Season record: 94-80-1
Chicago Bears (5-6) +7 at Detroit Lions (7-4)
Late-season Detroit fades and dirty plays by Ndamukong Suh have become Thanksgiving traditions. Previously best known for harassing University of Wisconsin band members at Lambeau Field, center Dominic Raiola decided to take a run at an opposing lineman’s knee during a kneel down play last week. Maybe the Lions can sign Richie Incognito so they can own all three Nebraska stooges.
ATS pick: Bears
Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) +3 at Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
The NFC East will start to be decided in the first of two meetings between these bitter rivals. Dallas is not happy about being scheduled for a Sunday night game before Thanksgiving.
ATS pick: Eagles
Seattle Seahawks (7-4) +1 at San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
Since the Golf Digest writer interviewing a faux Tiger Woods worked so well, I will do the same with Marshawn Lynch. Will you be good to go this week on short rest? Yeah. Will you be looking forward to the intensity Thursday night? Yeah. Will you be hitting the cranberry Skittles after the game? Yeah.
ATS pick: Seahawks
Cleveland Browns (7-4) +2.5 at Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Staying safe 101. Avoid running into Johnny Manziel at 2:35 a.m., in fact avoid running into anyone at 2:35 a.m.
ATS pick: Browns
Washington (3-8) +9.5 at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
If the NFL went with two 16-team tables instead of eight four-team divisions, the Colts would be in a playoff logjam with the four AFC North teams along with others. Thirty years later, it is safe to say that getting on the Mayflower and settling into the soft AFC South is the best thing to ever happen to the franchise.
ATS pick: Washington
Oakland Raiders (1-10) +7 at St. Louis Rams (4-7)
The once and future Battle of Los Angeles? After breaking out for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries, Latavius Murray now carries a $6,700 salary on FanDuel. The Rams defense should also be good for fantasy purposes with a bevy of sacks.
ATS pick: Rams
Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) +3 at Minnesota Vikings (4-7)
The Panthers could easily take over first place in the NFC South with a win. Yes, 7-8-1 or even 6-9-1 just might get the job done.
ATS pick: Panthers
New Orleans Saints (4-7) +4 at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Coming off a short week and yet another demoralizing home loss, I do not see the Saints covering this point spread. The AFC North sports a dominating 10-1-1 record against the NFC South.
ATS pick: Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) +4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9)
Will the Bengals finish the season one-half game ahead, or one-half game behind their AFC North adversaries? Meanwhile the Buccaneers remain “in the hunt.” Yes, “in the hunt” at 2-9. Five weeks from now Tampa could be division champions with the Bengals finishing in the cellar.
ATS pick: Buccaneers
New York Giants (3-8) -2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
The Tom Coughlin Bowl. Odell Beckham Jr. has arrived in the WR1 ranks while Denard Robinson should be one of the better running back options of the week. I can’t give you too many more reasons to care.
ATS pick: Giants
San Diego Chargers (7-4) +5.5 at Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
Obviously a pivotal game in the AFC playoff picture, and there will be more in the coming weeks. Despite traveling cross-country, look for the Chargers to cover against a Ravens team coming off a short week.
ATS pick: Chargers
Tennessee Titans (2-9) +6.5 at Houston Texans (5-6)
Points will be hard to come by in Houston this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick is back under center after the season-ending injury to Ryan Mallett. Look for the Texans’ defense to be one of the best fantasy plays of this week.
ATS pick: Texans
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) -2.5 at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
Is a late season slide in the Cards? This is a potential trap game for Arizona with more tough divisional contests to follow.
ATS pick: Falcons
New England Patriots (9-2) +3 at Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Eight years ago, Aaron Rodgers made one of his first appearances at Lambeau against the Patriots in relief of an injured Brett Favre, going a mere 4-of-12 for 32 yards passing. His career has progressed a bit since then. This will mark the first time Rodgers and Tom Brady start against each other – do they meet again in a few months?
ATS pick: Packers
Denver Broncos (8-3) -1 at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Another battle of division rivals meeting for the first time this season, and the Chiefs must win just to prove that they can defeat Denver. Scary news came out of the Kansas City camp with the news of safety Eric Berry missing the rest of the season with a possible cancerous mass in his chest.
ATS pick: Broncos
Miami Dolphins (6-5) -6 at New York Jets (2-9)
Fresh off a 38-3 defeat at the hands of Buffalo, the Jets face another division rival battling for their playoff lives. Rex Ryan has reached lame duck status.
ATS pick: Dolphins