Last week: 4-10, though I did nail the exact score of the Browns 22-17 win over the Eagles
Thanksgiving means three games of NFL football on Thursday instead of the usual single helping. And one of the matchups might even be good…
Houston Texans at Detroit Lions (+2.5): How bad is it in Detroit? The 4-6 Lions are home underdogs to a 3-7 Texans team that hasn’t beaten a team with more than 4 wins all year. What’s worse for Detroit is that it’s hard to argue with the line. Their passionless defense stands little chance of being more than a mild inconvenience for Deshaun Watson, who is having an MVP-caliber season on a bad team in an awful situation. Houston’s own miserable defense gives the Lions a chance, especially if rookie RB D’Andre Swift is back after missing the Week 11 shutout loss with a concussion.
Texans 33, Lions 27
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys (-3): The winner of this meeting between 3-7 teams will seize first place in the NFC East. Taste the excitement! This game takes place when those of us who intently watch the Lions game eat our holiday dinner. Might be a good move for those who ignored the two bad teams in the first matchup of the day, too. I give the slight edge to Washington for having the better playmakers on defense. If these two teams played 50 times, each would win 25. Maybe three of those would actually be entertaining…
Football Team 23, Cowboys 20
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5): Pittsburgh is the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team. Based on the increasing COVID-19 issues involving several members of the Ravens, it’s hard to see that changing...if this game winds up even being played at all. All bets should be off, quite literally.
Steelers 27, Ravens 14
In the process of writing the rest of the picks here, this game was moved to Sunday. Tentatively. It’s still iffy if it takes place at all.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5): The weekend’s most important game for playoff purposes will settle the lead in the AFC South. Both teams come in off impressive wins over good teams, which sort of dampens any narrative that the Titans were still sliding. The Tennessee defense is trending up, and that’s a problem for the one-dimensional Colts offense.
I see this one coming down to the Colts pass rush. If the Titans can give Ryan Tannehill time to take shots down the field to A.J. Brown and attack serial holder Rock Ya-Sin in coverage, they’ll either hit the big play or draw the game-altering penalty. Indy’s pass rush has waned lately, and having to worry about Derrick Henry toting the rock means they can’t pin back the ears or blitz heavily. It’s the same recipe the Browns used against the Colts successfully, and the Titans do that more consistently.
Titans 27, Colts 24
Kansas City at Tampa Bay (+3): Here’s what we’ve learned in 2020: Tom Brady is not going to be great all the time. But we’ve also learned that Tompa Bay bounces back from bad games with a vengeance. In their three previous losses, the Bucs have rebounded the next week to win all three matchups by a combined 67 points. They’re not going to do that to the reigning champion Chiefs, but don’t go into this game thinking the soggy, discombobulated Bucs offense you watched in prime time on Monday is the team that will show up against Mahomes & Co.
Buccaneers 34, Chiefs 32
Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings (-4.5): Teddy Bridgewater will be back in the starting lineup for the Panthers and back in Minnesota for the first time since his career ascended while leading the Vikings. He remains popular with Minnesotans, and rightly so. Alas, I don’t think the happy holiday story will end well for Bridgewater, through no fault of his own. Carolina’s defense does not match up well against an efficient Kirk Cousins taking smart deep shots and Dalvin Cook proving he belongs on the short list of combatants for the NFL’s best running back.
Vikings 28, Panthers 20
Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots (+2.5): Last week the Patriots had no answers for a mobile QB who can also throw well in Deshaun Watson. They face the faster, though less accurate, version of Watson in Kyler Murray this week. The Cardinals also have DeAndre Hopkins, a player Watson wishes he still had in Houston, too.
If you just look at the players on these two teams comparatively and ignore any coaching or history, you’d probably favor the Cardinals by at least a touchdown. Weird things do happen to teams making the cross-country trek, but outside of the Patriots suddenly developing multiple weapons for Cam Newton, there’s a limit to the freakshow here.
Cardinals 30, Patriots 22
Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5): Desperate times call for desperate measures. In that spirit, the Jaguars will start The Giraffe at quarterback. Mike Glennon gets the nod over Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton. Glennon hasn’t started since 2017 in Chicago, where he was so bad the Bears believed Mitchell Trubisky was a significant upgrade over his unathletic, indecisive lobbing.
Having said that, Glennon probably gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. The Browns will be without their two best defensive players, Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. If the JAX defense can slow down Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, they’ve got a real chance to steal this one. Easier said than done…
Browns 24, Jaguars 19
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (+6.5): I picked the Jets to win outright last week, a mistake that weighed down the overall forecast. I won’t make that mistake again, though the Jets did cover the spread last week and I expect them to do it here, too.
Dolphins 23, Jets 17
New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5): Without Joe Burrow, the Bengals turn to...Kyle Allen? Oy. Get well soon, Joe…
Giants 20, Bengals 9
Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons (+3): When last we saw the Raiders come off playing the Chiefs, they got annihilated by the Buccaneers. I worry again about the emotional letdown after playing such a competitive and heated rivalry game. That’s been a problem for Jon Gruden teams his entire coaching career. I’d say it runs in the family but Jay Gruden’s Washington teams never played in an important game. Beware overconfidence in the Raiders traveling east…
Falcons 27, Raiders 26
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo Bills (-5.5): Am I the only one who feels like these teams have played three times already in 2020? Buffalo probably won the first two so there’s no reason to think they won’t pull off the trifecta, likely as the result of the Chargers blowing a 10-point lead with 4:22 to play.
Bills 30, Chargers 28
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos (+5.5): The Taysom Hill experiment worked quite well in the first week for the Saints. Now that they’ve shown their hand a bit in what Hill will do at QB, I think the defenses will start to adapt. The Broncos don’t have enough talent to really make it happen this week, however.
Saints 23, Broncos 17
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-7.5): I’ll steal this one from Twitter…
There is no greater indictment on the state of the Chicago Bears than the fact that their starting quarterback this week could be Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky, or Tyler Bray but the sportsbooks don\\\'t think it matters and are happy to post their line against the Packers anyway.— Lee Sharpe, ⛓️ @ 🏠 (@LeeSharpeNFL) November 24, 2020
Packers 24, Bears 13
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles (+5): Carson Wentz is statistically the worst regular starting QB in the NFL this year and it’s not particularly close. The Seahawks defense, while improving of late, remains the football equivalent of the emergency goalie who normally spends NHL games as an usher in the arena. If Wentz can’t protect the ball or find the proper target in this one, it’s gonna get downright hateful in the City of Brotherly Love.
Seahawks 26, Eagles 20
All lines are from BetOnline as of Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET