Turkey Day is almost upon us, which means three juicy football games on Thursday’s slate. On Thanksgiving, the Bears and the revamped Monsters of Midway meet the Lions for the second time in two weeks. The Cowboys smell blood in the water and host a Washington team with a laughable cast of backup QBs trying to fill in for Alex Smith. To cap off the holiday night, the Falcons and Saints slug it out in prime time in a game that’s expected to be a shootout between Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
Three Sunday games also stand out from Week 12’s remaining schedule. The Steelers are looking to extend their winning streak to seven, the Packers and Vikes get a rematch of their Week 2 tie, and the Colts and Andrew Luck are seriously making a playoff run.
Chicago Bears (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6)… It’s not the short trip is a problem, it’s that the Bears kickoff approximately 84 hours after their Sunday Night Football game ended. Blame the NBC suits that flexed the Vikes/Bears showdown to a primetime audience. Ah, the short rest doesn’t matter. Da Bears want to spoil Lions Turkey Day and beat them for the second time in 11 days. Matt Stafford (without Kerryon Johnson) will face Kahlil Mack and a tough Bears D that only gives up 19.5 ppg against a weak Lions offense that struggles to score points at 22.2 ppg. The Lions only have a shot if Mitch Trubisky sits out with a sore shoulder.
Mack WILL NOT be denied!
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 19, 2018
Washington Redskins (6-4) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)… The Cowboys know the NFC East is in play and three wins in a row is within reach. The Dak and Zeke Show will be out in full force for the Cowboys annual Turkey Day game. The Skins are 3-1 on the road this season, but it’s a short week. Colt McCoy gets the nod to replace mangled Alex Smith, and Mark Sanchez is the backup. Good luck with that, fellas.
Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at New Orleans Saints (9-1)… Drew Brees will have a field day against the Falcons horrendous secondary. If Matty Ice and Julio Jones can hold serve, this should be a fun high-scoring game to watch on Thursday Night Football. After consecutive blowouts in which they outscored opponents 99-21, the Saints are almost a two-touchdown favorite in the Super Dome.
Julio Jones for SIX!
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 18, 2018
Green Bay Packers (4-5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1)… These two NFC North rivals tied each other 29-29 in Week 2. The Packers blew a 20-7 lead and the Vikes scored 22 points in the 4Q to force the overtime. Vikes’ kicker Daniel Carlson missed 2 FGs in OT and he’s no longer with the team. Rematch time. Vikes have the home edge. The Packers cannot buy a win on the road. Aaron Rodgers can only play at home in Green Bay because of the massive quartz crystals buried under Lambeau Field that energize his chakras to extreme levels, which allows him to perform at super-human levels. The Vikes losses have come against the Rams, Saints, Bears, and the Bills. [INSERT SCRATCHING RECORD SOUND EFFECT!] Yes, the Vikes lost to the Bills. Like the great Jerry Garcia once sang, “Goes to show that you don’t ever know, watch each card you play, and play it slow.”
Seattle Seahawks (5-5) at Carolina Panthers (6-4)… Russell Wilson and an old-school running attack visit the CLT. The Panthers never lie down at home, which is why they are undefeated 4-0. The Seahawks are inconsistent on the road. The Panthers beat themselves last week in a game everyone know they should have crushed the Lions. Both teams have playoff berths within reach, so long as they win this one.
Miami Dolphins (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)… QB Ryan Tannenhill is back. Yay! Means zilch on a dark desert highway and the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air. The Dolphins are facing the revitalized Andrew Luck offense. Luck and Hilton are cranking out the hits like the Eagles in their 1994 Hell Freezes Over Tour. Frank Reich is taking it to the limit with the Colts offense one more time. The Dolphins are in for a long run with Luck in peak form.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1) at Denver Broncos (4-6)… The Steelers got off to a slow start in Jacksonville and if the Jags had any semblance of a QB, they would stopped the Steelers winning streak. Alas, Blake Bortles did what Blake Bortles does and the Steelers are riding a six-game win streak into the Mile High City. The Broncos win games they shouldn’t, but lose games they should win. By that logic, they will play the Steelers close in this one. The Steelers D will have their hands full stopping the Broncos 1-2 punch of Lindsay and Freeman. The Broncos run D was shredded this season multiple times and now they have to stop James Conner.
New England Patriots (7-3) at New York Jets (3-7)… Even when the #LOLJets are horrible, there are moments when they play their guts out and try to beat the Evil Empire and the Patriots. Sometimes the Jets catch the Pats off guard and backdoor a cover in what everyone expects will be a blowout. It’s like the saying… even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. But these squirrels are getting the heck out of dodge before Gronk eats them whole. Tale of two coaches with Belichick and Bowles. One is eventually headed to the Hall of Fame, while the other is headed to the unemployment line at the end of the season.
New York Giants (3-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)… The Giants are riding high off a two-game winning streak. While the Eagles might be dunzo. The Super Bowl champs dropped three out of their last four games. Will their slide continue? Or is this their bounce back game where they beat the Giants by 25 and try to backdoor an NFC East title?
Eli and OBJ extend the Giants lead!
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 18, 2018
Cleveland Browns (3-6-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)… First meeting of the season between these division rivals. Two bad Ds face each other. Could be a shootout? Marvin Lewis seems like he’s always fighting for his job. Bengals still have dreams about a playoff spot. The Browns and Baker Mayfield are dreaming about pumpkin pie the end of the season.
Raiders (2-8) at Ravens (5-5)… Rookie QB Lamar Jackson had some exciting moments during his first game as a starter. The Ravens are 1-0 under the rookie. “Quarterbacks don’t run forever in the NFL,” moaned Bengals coach Marvin Lewis in a loss. “Sooner or later, they get hurt.” Well, until Jackson gets hurt, he’s fun to watch and the Ravens will keep on winning. Jackson won the Heisman two years ago for his ability to run and pass, but his explosive open field running is unbelievable.
San Francisco Niners (3-7) at Tampa Bay Bucs (3-7)… Two teams on losing streaks hoping their opponent is the slump buster they’ve been waiting for. The QB drama continues in Tampa. Flip a coin: Winston or FitzMagic? Winston.The Niners are winless on the road (0-5) this season. The Niners dropped 7 out of their last 8 games. They lost four out of their last six games by 4 or fewer points. Nick Mullens gets the start for a third game in a row for the Niners.
Arizona Cardinals (2-8) at LA Chargers (7-3)… Just when you thought the Cardinals might have some life in them, they lose to the lowly Raiders. The Chargers got caught sleepwalking last week. This should be an easy one for Phil Rivers and Melvin Gordon. Then again, the Chosen Rosen is coming home to LA, where he played for UCLA.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (3-7)… Only sadists and Leonard Fournette fantasy owners are watching this dud. Here are some BillsMafia hijinks to brighten your holiday.
Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Houston Texans (7-3)… The Texans want to lock up the AFC South and they take a step closer with a win on Monday Night Football. With the Colts on the upswing, they cannot afford to lose any ground. The Titans won a Week 2 match up 20-17 when Ryan Succop drilled a FG late in 4Q to seal the win. Blaine Gabbert was the QB that week. This week, it’s Marcus Mariota will start despite a slew of injuries. Mariota should get the St. Eligius Award for playing through the most pain this season. The former Heisman Trophy Winner has been winning the Tough Guy of the Week award every other Sunday for playing with an elbow injury and wrist injury. The tough-as-nails Hawaiian left last week’s game with a gnarly stinger. He should sit this one out, but he’s a gamer. Mariota gets the start, but it won’t be enough to beat the DeShaun Watson and the Texans twice this season.
Pauly McGuire is a writer specializing in sports betting. He’s covered the NFL, NBA, college basketball, MLB, and the Olympics for numerous outlets. He’s the former co-host of the Everything Is Bettable podcast with Jesse May. You also might remember Pauly as the creator of the Tao of Poker blog. He was a partner in one of the first daily fantasy sports sites, Fantasy Sports Live.