Week 12 of the NFL regular season makes fans across the nation reflect on what they're so thankful for. An undefeated season? A shred of a chance for the playoffs? Maybe even a high draft pick for next year? But maybe fans are just thankful for this national holiday, when they can sit down with friends and family around a table of mouth-watering food and enjoy three separate football games right after dinner. A night packed with food and football - who could ask for more?
The Thanksgiving Day games feature Green Bay v. Detroit, Oakland v. Dallas and New York v. Denver. These don't seem to be the most exciting games, but intense match-ups are hidden everywhere. Can Bruce Gradkowski pull off another last minute win against the 'Boys? Can Josh McDaniel strengthen his team's chemistry? Do you have what it takes to finish two pieces of turkey, a side of mashed potatoes and still have room for pumpkin pie?
We have a lot to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day: friends, family, piles of food, Silver Chips and, most definitely, some of that good ol' pigskin madness to top off the evening. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thursday, Nov. 26
Green Bay Packers (6-4-0) at Detroit Lions (2-8-0)
Rose - Green Bay
Dennis - Green Bay
Ava - Green Bay
Without top defensive players CB Al Harris and LB Aaron Kampman, the Packers look less intimidating. But the Lions, having just roared their way to a second season victory against the Browns, also have their losses. QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson sport injuries that coach Jim Schwartz doesn't believe will permit them to make it to the field come Thanksgiving Day. Overall, Green Bay still ranks higher by 16 points and 17 yards. Packers pack it in on Thursday.
The clear favorite is Green Bay for this match-up. An improving QB Aaron Rodgers teamed with one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league (Donald Driver and Gregg Jennings) means the Packers' offense may very well dominate a Detroit defense with more holes than Swiss cheese. However, the Lions are coming off their first win in a long time, and are relying on that momentum and WR Calvin Johnson to pull off some big plays. Cheeseheads celebrate Thanksgiving with a win.
After beating Cleveland last week, Detroit has got to be feeling pretty good. On top of that, the Lions' only two wins this season have been at home. Even so, those two wins have been against bad teams. Green Bay isn't a dominating force in the league, but they're clearly better than the Lions. Don't forget: Aaron Rodgers is the fourth best QB in the league right now! Green Bay all the way.
Oakland Raiders (3-7-0) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3-0)
Rose - Dallas
Dennis - Dallas
Ava - Dallas
Especially on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys will use their home field advantage. Especially with QB Tony Romo back in the game, fans can rely on Dallas to showcase some serious skill against the sinking Raiders. Oakland has the worst points, yards and pass yards in the league right now; they won't be able to conquer the climbing Cowboys.
What happens when you finally grasp the fact that your former first-round draft pick quarterback won't live up to his hype? You win a game. QB Bruce Bradkowski managed an impressive victory against the Bengals last week in place of QB JaMarcus Russell. On the other hand, Dallas has a long history of winning on Thanksgiving night and will depend on QB Tony Romo to take over the game. 'Boys cook up a victory.
I first thought this pick would be a snooze-fest, but after last week's Redskins v. Cowboys game, I will be keeping a close eye on Dallas. They're going to have to come out strong, and I hope they've gotten some rest and rejuvenation since Sunday. Despite their struggles against Washington last week, I don't see the Cowboys losing at home. Tony Romo would have to be cosmically bad, and the Raiders (who did beat the Eagles back in Week Six) would really have to step up their game. The chance of the Raiders upsetting the Cowboys at home is about 10 percent, and I'm not going to bet against the odds. The Cowboys improve to 8-3 on Thursday.
New York Giants (6-4-0) at Denver Broncos (6-4-0)
Rose - New York
Dennis - New York
Ava - New York
After a four-game slip, the Broncos are getting frustrated. In fact, fighting erupted among Denver team members on the sidelines of their miserable 32-3 game against San Diego last Sunday. If the team doesn't come out on top of the Giants this week, the Broncos will be facing a win-less November. The Giants just came off their first win in six weeks and Peyton Manning threw for a career-high 384 yards and three touchdown passes. New York definitely has the stamina to pull out over the Broncos.
This is by far the best match-up of the night. Despite the Giants' recent win and the Broncos' recent losses, the two teams are evenly matched. The key for the Broncos is team chemistry. Denver offense without QB Kyle Orton looked frustrated and unimpressive drive-by-drive. For the Giants, Eli Manning needs to keep up his accurate play for another week. Give thanks, for the Giants get another 'W' on their plates.
I suggest fighting off that tryptophan, Blazers; this one's going to be good! Neither team is on a hot streak by any means, and the Broncos have lost two winnable games in a row. The Giants barely pulled it out over the Falcons in OT last week. On one hand, Josh McDaniels is a fire-y head coach and Kyle Orton wants to prove that he's not just an early season-gimmick. On the other hand, Denver is in some trouble: apparently the team hasn't been getting along well and there's some animosity between players and the aforementioned fire-y coach. I think the Giants will take advantage of the turbulence and get the "W."
Sunday, Nov. 29
Miami Dolphins (5-5-0) at Buffalo Bills (3-7-0)
Rose - Miami
Dennis - Miami
Ava - Miami
It's a not-so-intense battle of the AFC East! Even after their bye two weeks ago, the Bills were unable to snag a win. Their rankings still indicate that there's a good reason that they're wallowing at the bottom of the division. Meanwhile, Miami ranks fourth in rush yards, and should use their offensive strength to power through Buffalo.
Have the Bills finally noticed that WR Terrell Owens is available to receive passes? It seems like it - he got them their third win. If RB Ricky Williams can step up in Ronnie Brown's place, QB Chad Henne should have enough pressure off his shoulders to manage in the pocket. Miami brings the Bills under water.
Miami RB Ricky Williams had a huge game last Thursday, with two touchdowns and 119 yards. Going up against Williams is Buffalo's 32nd-ranked run defense. If Williams ever has a standout game – okay he kind of had one last week – so if Williams were to have another standout game, it would be against Buffalo. I predict the Dolphins will smoke the Bills (pun intended).
Seattle Seahawks (3-7-0) at St. Louis Rams (1-9-0)
Rose - St. Louis
Dennis - St. Louis
Ava - St. Louis
At last! An opportunity for St. Louis to grab a win. The Rams are still 0-5 at home, and if injured QB Marc Bulger doesn't play, St. Louis may face difficulties in Sunday's game. But Steven Jackson is in second place for rushing, so the Rams have the upper hand over Seattle.
While Seattle has played at a mediocre level since the very first week, St. Louis has actually shown some improvement. All eyes will be on RB Steven Jackson to bulldoze a young Seattle defense with tons of untapped potential. For the Seahawks, WR Matt Hasselbeck has to be consistent in order for the passing game to get off the ground. WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh seems unhappy with his production, so look for him to step up his game. St. Louis gets one step in their division.
Who's going to be watching this game when the Redskins are playing the Eagles at the same time? Despite the possible lack of viewers, the Rams have someone for whom to be thankful: Steven Jackson. Jackson had 150 yards and a touchdown last week, but is feeling some "lower back soreness." Despite Jackson's pseudo-injury, St. Louis will get their second win of the year.
Indianapolis Colts (10-0-0) at Houston Texans (5-5-0)
Rose - Indianapolis
Dennis - Indianapolis
Ava - Indianapolis
Wow. What a record to have as the Colts power their way through the last half the 2009 NFL season. The glorious Peyton Manning is still at the top of the league for passing yards, and Reggie Wayne now holds the best record for receiving yards. The Colts can also boast the most passing yards per game; their 313.5 yards is over 10 greater than the second place Patriots. Comparatively, Houston is looking like easy competition, but Matt Schaub has been getting points every week and Houston is at home. Indianapolis still keeps their perfect record.
What is the key to stopping Peyton Manning, who is crucial for a Colts win? It's pressure. And DE Mario Williams needs to bring it. Period. Colts win.
Indianapolis escaped the Texans three weeks ago with a close 20-17 win, so Houston will be eager for revenge. That was the first in a series of three nail-biting wins the Colts would pull out, the two most recent being against the Brady Bunch and Baltimore. It would be foolish to pick against an undefeated team of that caliber at this point. In addition, Houston only has an average pass defense, and Peyton Manning is no average quarterback. The Texans, while they do stand a chance, won't beat the Colts.
Cleveland Browns (1-9-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-0)
Rose - Cincinnati
Dennis - Cincinnati
Ava - Cincinnati
At the bottom of the AFC North, the Browns have little chance of conquering the first place Bengals. Cincinnati has almost twice the passing, rushing and receiving numbers of lowly Cleveland, and will surely pull through for an easy victory.
Division rivals in the same state? Intensity levels are about to hit 'red' for this game. Drop all impressions of each teams' record and enjoy pure, hard-hitting football. After all, the Bengals did lose against the Raiders last week. Still, the chances are leaning towards Cincinnati's side of the state.
Cleveland is coming off a tough loss to the lowly Lions, and the Bengals are coming off of a huge loss to the Raiders. The Bengals will be looking for retribution after last week's fluke (I'll admit – I'm a little bitter over that upset) and they will be triumphant at home against the 1-9 Browns in a divisional game.
Carolina Panthers (4-6-0) at New York Jets (4-6-0)
Rose - Carolina
Dennis - New York
Ava - Carolina
Although the Jets have just 4.4 more average rushing yards per game than the Panthers, Jake Delhomme's passing has been stellar. Julius Peppers' injury has been causing trouble for Carolina defense, but the Jets have lost six of their last seven games, with QB Mark Sanchez pressing on the team's downfall with 16 interceptions this season. Jets coach Rex Ryan now recognizes the team's offensive troubles, so the Panthers will be up against struggling defensive and offensive lines. Carolina prowls past the Jets.
Look for a pretty well-matched game. QB Mark Sanchez for the Jets will be matching wits with DE Julius Peppers. Sanchez's ability to get the ball in the hands of his receivers (not into the hands of the opposing players) will be vital. Look for the ol' one-two in runningbacks DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart - it'll be huge for the Panthers to have a chance at winning. Jets arrive with a victory.
This isn't exactly what I'd call a marquee match-up. These two teams have taken up shop under the looming cloud of mediocrity in the NFL. It's too bad really. New York started out so strong and Sanchez looked so promising. Anyway, the Panthers have only a mediocre defense (surprising, I know). They're the fourth best team in the league for yards allowed per game, but are 14th in touchdowns allowed per game. The Jets' defense is just the opposite; they allow too many yards but not a lot of touchdowns. Because one team is defensively weak where the other is strong, this game will be a battle of – you guessed it – defense. That also means that these teams won't be putting up a lot of numbers on the scoreboard. I'm torn, so for this one I'm going to go with the Panthers. I don't know for sure, but like the Black Eyed Peas, I've got a feeling.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-9-0) at Atlanta Falcons (5-5-0)
Rose - Atlanta
Dennis - Atlanta
Ava - Atlanta
Although the Falcons have lost their last two games, they've managed a decent .500 record for the season thus far. That's better than the Bucs can brag about - they're one of only three teams in the NFL this season to have only one win. With the worst defensive rush yards in the league, Tampa Bay won't have a chance against the Falcons. Atlanta will improve to a winning season.
Right off the bat, I know my pick: Atlanta. They're more explosive on both sides of the ball. Young QB Matt Ryan plays like a long-time veteran and will be able to spot holes in Tampa Bay defense. The only chance the Bucs have is QB Josh Freeman, who has also been showing a veteran-like ability to maneuver the offense.
The Falcons really, really need this win. Matt Ryan has been pretty bad for two out of the three last games he's played, with 135 yards against the Redskins and 224 against the Panthers. He's also only made two touchdowns in total for those two weeks. Considering the opponents for those games, the numbers should have been doubled, at least. Ryan finally pulled it together last week against the Giants, with 268 yards and two touchdowns, but even that wasn't enough to win (though he fared exceptionally well)! I'll take the Falcons against the 1-9 Bucs. Hopefully Matt Ryan can pad his stats.
Washington Redskins (3-7-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-4-0)
Rose - Philadelphia
Dennis - Philadelphia
Ava - Philadelphia
It's still a surprise that the Redskins rank number one for defensive passing yards, considering the fact that their record leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, the Eagles delivered a big blow to the Bears last week, which puts them in a better position for potential playoff status. Although the win wasn't by a large margin, it was all they needed to jump back from their losses. Philadelphia will pull another one and continue their comeback this week.
The Redskins are struggling, to say the least. Two runningbacks are injured, but Rock Cartwright has been producing positive yards in the ground game. The Eagles have a ready-to-explode-at-anytime bomb in WR DeSean Jackson, who has been looking like a play-making machine over the past few weeks. If the Eagles can put an end to the Skins' ground game, look for a soaring NFC East win.
This is a pretty huge game for both teams. For the Redskins, a loss means that they might as well start losing games in order to get the first draft pick of 2010. The Eagles, however, have a little bit more riding on this Sunday, as 7-4 is leap years better than 6-5. Philadelphia needs this NFC East win, and especially at Lincoln Field, they will respond well to all of the pressure. Sorry 'Skins fans. The Eagles have got more to lose, so they're going to win.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-7-0) at San Diego Chargers (7-3-0)
Rose - San Diego
Dennis - San Diego
Ava - San Diego
For the Chargers, this division match-up will be an easy win. San Diego has more than twice the win percentage of the Chiefs, and will have no problem overcoming their struggling offense and defense rankings.
Welcome back, L.T.! RB LaDainian Tomlinson has exploded back into the scene and is ready to make an impact against the Chiefs. On the offensive side of Kansas City, WR Chris Chambers will be looking for revenge as he attacks San Diego's defense. Chargers charge up the Chiefs.
Definitely the Chargers. They're at home, coming in with confidence after a whopping 29-point victory over Denver. LaDanien Tomlinson seems to be hitting his stride (finally!) after a couple of weeks in a slump; he's had three touchdowns in the past two games. I don't think this one will be decided in overtime. San Diego all the way.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4-0) at San Francisco 49ers (4-6-0)
Rose - Jacksonville
Dennis - San Francisco
Ava - Jacksonville
The 49ers have always been interested in pressuring the opponent's quarterback, stopping the run and creating turnovers. But recently, San Francisco has been putting more emphasis on the tackle, which won't be easy against the Jaguars. Jacksonville is looking to add yet another win to their three previous victories, a feat the team hasn't managed for two years. David Gerrard had two game-winning drives in the last two weeks, more than ever before, and the Jaguars seem to boast a certain offensive confidence. Jacksonville drives forward again.
When RB Maurice Jones-Dew produces touchdowns, the Jags win. The 23rd-ranked defense needs to step up against a potent RB Frank Gore to shut down an otherwise mediocre San Francisco attack. The Jags need this win for a chance at the playoffs, but they won't get it.
Lately, MJD and David Garrard have been working together beautifully. With a duo like that to run behind, I imagine Jacksonville is very confident. However, San Francisco's defense is by no means shabby. In fact, LB Patrick Willis has the second most tackles in the NFL, while the team's rushing defense sits happily in the top 10. But the 49ers are plagued by inconsistency, and I think MJD will be able to run for some quality yardage. Jags for the win!
Chicago Bears (4-6-0) at Minnesota Vikings (9-1-0)
Rose - Minnesota
Dennis - Minnesota
Ava - Minnesota
The Vikings rank second in the league with over 30 offensive points per game, and third in the NFL for 85.5 defensive rush yards. Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice have also made it into the top five for their respective rushing and receiving. The Bears just won't have the stamina to hold up to such stats.
Minnesota QB Brett Favre is looking his best in years. How could he not? He's surrounded by weapons RB Adrian Peterson, WR Percy Harvin and WR Sidney Rice. The Vikings are a dominant force on defense as well, with DE Jared Allen as a major threat against opposing quarterbacks. Bears' QB Jay Cutler should be scared. Vikings take it.
No question. The winner will be Minnesota, especially since they're playing at home. The pretty bad Bears only have one win on the road (against Seattle), but they don't stand a chance against the undeniable La Favre powerhouse. Also, I still just don't like Jay Cutler. He's too confident and a little too braggy for me - he's really only had one decent season (in 2008).
Arizona Cardinals (7-3-0) at Tennessee Titans (4-6-0)
Rose - Tennessee
Dennis - Tennessee
Ava - Tennessee
My instinct tells me that the Titans are ready for another win. They've managed to keep their streak with magic-makers QB Vince Young and WB Chris Johnson, even against a team with a tough defense to penetrate. But this time, they're up against the top-ranking team in the NFC. The Cardinals have a 5-0 ranking on the road, but Tennessee wants this win too badly. If Kurt Warner's injury doesn't prevent him from playing, attacking the quarterback early will give the Titans just enough edge to get them their fifth consecutive win.
The top of the NFC West vs. the bottom of the AFC South seems like an easy pick. But not so fast. The Titans have regained playoff composure, thanks to QB Vince Young and RB Chris Johnson. IF CB Cortland Finnegan can handle WR Larry Fitzgerald, watch for the Titans to rise up in the face of the Cards.
So here we have a team on a four-game win streak (though admittedly, the wins haven't been against the best teams) going against a pretty solid team. Kurt Warner might not play due to a head injury, the team won't know for sure until the weekend, which means that the Cardinals might have to adapt. Because of the uncertainty with Warner, and because Tennessee will be at home, I'll stick with the Titans. It's risky, but Tennessee will have to make up the 4-6 margin by winning games like this.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5-0)
Rose - Pittsburgh
Dennis - Baltimore
Ava - Pittsburgh
This will probably be a pretty intense game. Both teams really need the win, as the Steelers won't want to lose their second place rank and Baltimore will want to try and replace Pittsburgh in the division rankings. The Steelers are top in the league for their total defensive yards per game and rushing. The Ravens just don't seem to be as good this season.
The Ravens are in need of a win this week in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. They're going to put everything on the line and create havoc for QB Ben Roethleisberger, who suffered a concussion last week. If the Ravens' offensive line can protect QB Joe Flacco, watch for the Ravens to take advantage of the Steelers' own quarterback situation. Ravens pull out in the clutch.
This head-to-head between AFC North foes will certainly be exciting. The Steelers are 6-4, but lost last week to the inferior Chiefs in OT. The Ravens lost as well, but Pittsburgh's defeat was a lot more discouraging, needless to say. This is a really tough choice. I want to take the Ravens because they're at home, but I believe the Steelers will win. Pittsburgh needs to make a statement after losing to Kansas City, and they won't do that if they lose a divisional game. Tough luck for Ravens fans!
Monday, Nov. 30
New England Patriots (7-3-0) at New Orleans Saints (10-0)
Rose - New Orleans
Dennis - New Orleans
Ava - New Orleans
The Saints are one of only two teams in the NFL this season who has kept a perfectly gleaming record. Especially at home, they'll have no reason to experience their first loss this week. Although the Patriots are only 4.4 yards behind the top-ranked Saints for offensive yards per game, Drew Bees has more yards and touchdowns than passing competitor Tom Brady. Saints sail this Monday.
This is the game of the week, no question. Tom Brady or Drew Brees? It might be the hardest pick of the season so far. The Patriots must stop the ferocious New Orleans offense. If the Saints remain unbeaten through this week, they're going to have a great chance at ending the regular season 16-0. Through thick and thin, the Saints continue to march in.
This is clearly a Monday night game for a reason. It's kind of a toss up. I want to take the undefeated Saints at home, but Brady has always been able to pull something out of his sleeve last minute. But following the logic I used for the Indianapolis game, I'm going to stick with the undefeated team until they lose.
Dennis Chae. Whhaazzaaa, I'm Dennis Chae. I love my Baltimore Ravens and shoes. In fact, I collect sneakers and am always looking for a new pair of Nikes. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is probably going to be the greatest thing ever in a year or so. I ... More »
Ava Wallace. More »
Rose Wynn. I love piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and the ladies of the Blair Pom Squad. More »