It’s time for Thanksgiving Football! Not only do we get three games on Thursday, but in my opinion, we have an excellent slate of games this week- almost all of them were nearly impossible to predict! We’ll really learn a lot from teams this week, given that many playoff contenders are playing each other. So, who’ll separate themselves from the pack? Let’s predict every game for Week 13!
Thanksgiving Game #1: Bears (5-6) at Lions (3-7-1)
Spread Pick: CHI (-5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (37)
Score Prediction: Bears 23 Lions 7
Raise your hand if you thought David Blough would be the starting quarterback of the Lions in their annual Thanksgiving game? Now put it down- you’re clearly lying. Yet, here we are, as the former undrafted free agent will lead Detroit as they take on the Bears, who’ll be looking to get back to .500. The offense had already stagnated under backup Jeff Driskel, and now against a strong Bears defense, the Lions would be lucky to score any points in this game. Plus, while Chicago’s offense has struggled this season, they were able to move the ball against this substandard Lions defense in their first meeting- they’ll score enough to support what should be a dominant defensive performance. I never thought that this Bears team would be close to a lock as a five-point road favorite. Yet, here we are; I can’t see them not winning by at least two scores.
Thanksgiving Game #2: Bills (8-3) at Cowboys (6-5)
Spread Pick: DAL (-6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47)
Score Prediction: Bills 13 Cowboys 27
Ironically, it’s the Cowboys, who are just 6-5, who are the heavy favorites to win against an 8-3 Bills team. That’s the beauty of looking beyond the teams’ records- Buffalo has had the easiest schedule in the NFL, and Dallas clearly has the more talented roster. Behind Josh Allen, Buffalo’s offense has been both uninspiring and inconsistent, and facing a usually strong Cowboys defense, their flaws could be exposed. Allen, in particular, is an issue with his 4.72% turnover worthy play rate- any turnovers in this game could prove costly for the Bills, given the difference in talent. Meanwhile, although Buffalo’s defense has an excellent reputation, they’ve also constantly struggled to defend elite offenses, which is what the Cowboys have. Not only should Dak Prescott have a bounce-back game against an offensive line that’ll neutralize the Bills’ pass rush, but given Buffalo’s major problems defending the run, this could be a monster game for Dallas on the ground- if they are able to get out to an early lead in this game, I can’t see the Cowboys surrendering it. Despite the records, this is a lopsided matchup for the most part; Dallas needs this game more, should play with some urgency, and are the much better team in all areas- they should roll to a comfortable win.
Thanksgiving Game #3: Saints (9-2) at Falcons (3-8)
Spread Pick: ATL (+6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48.5)
Score Prediction: Saints 17 Falcons 38
Wrapping up the Thanksgiving slate, the Falcons will host the Saints in an NFC South rivalry matchup. New Orleans will be looking to clinch the division with a win- this is a big game for them. Unfortunately for them, Atlanta looks primed to sweep the season series. After all, the Falcons already beat the Saints pretty easily in the first matchup, and that was in New Orleans. Since then, matters have actually gotten worse for New Orleans, who’ll be without left tackle Terron Armstead, while cornerback Marshon Lattimore will be a game-time decision. They already couldn’t handle the Falcons pass rush previously, and without Armstead, they could be in serious trouble in this game. Therefore, this could be a rough game for the Saints offense, and that’s without considering that Atlanta shut down their rushing attack. Furthermore, New Orleans has struggled greatly in pass defense, and now, they’ll face an explosive Falcons offense that should feast in this game. This may be a rivalry game, but Atlanta should come out firing in this game, thus winning this game easily and spoiling the Saints’ Thanksgiving aspirations.
49ers (10-1) at Ravens (9-2)
Spread Pick: SF (+5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45.5)
Score Prediction: 49ers 21 Ravens 24
In what may be the best game of the year so far, arguably the league’s top two teams will do battle- the Ravens will host the 49ers. This is the classic matchup between the league’s offense (Ravens) and defense (49ers), which always is extremely fun to watch. However, there’s always a clear advantage for the top offense- Baltimore may have the upper-hand. Furthermore, San Francisco’s strength with their defense is with their pass rush and secondary, which won’t come to fruition against a Ravens offense that rarely asks Lamar Jackson to drop back. Instead, it’ll be Baltimore’s potent rushing attack that dominates against the 49ers’ average run defense; San Francisco also struggles against heavy personnel, which the Ravens utilize often. Additionally, Jimmy Garrappolo has struggled against the blitz this season, and now, he’ll face a defense that is one of the frequent blitzers in the NFL. With rain in the forecast, this may be a game decided on the ground (ironic given this era in football), and with that, I’ll take the Ravens over the 49ers, whose rushing attack has declined significantly since the start of the season- it’ll be very close, though.
Redskins (2-9) at Panthers (5-6)
Spread Pick: CAR (-10)
Over/Under Pick: Over (39)
Score Prediction: Redskins 17 Panthers 31
Do the Panthers have any fight left in them? After losing a heartbreaker in New Orleans, they’re double-digit favorites against a Redskins team that is actually coming off of a win. As far as Carolina is concerned, this should be a nice rebound game for them. Washington may have won last week, but Dwayne Haskins was very inaccurate, and still can’t be trusted to read defenses. Now, he’ll face a Panthers’ zone-coverage based defense predicated on confusing opposing quarterbacks- Carolina’s defense should be much better than they’ve been recently. Plus, the Redskins defense lacks any sort of speed, and as a result, will be extremely vulnerable to some of the Panthers’ playmakers: running back Christian McCaffrey, receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. One can argue if a team with a losing record deserves to be a double-digit favorite. Yet, Carolina has at least shown the ability to beat up on inferior teams this season, and Washington had to get lucky to barely beat a Jeff Driskel-led Lions team. Therefore, this should be a relatively easy win for the home team, who’ll at least preserve some optimism in what’s been a roller-coaster of a season.
Jets (4-7) at Bengals (0-11)
Spread Pick: NYJ (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (42)
Score Prediction: Jets 20 Bengals 16
After three games of rolling with fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley under center, the Bengals are turning back to Andy Dalton, hoping to secure their first victory of the season. Meanwhile, the Jets have won three straight and are generating hype to the point where some are considering them a possible playoff team? Most of the time, this turns into a trap game for the team with the hype- they’re due to crash back down to earth, while Cincinnati has to win at some point, right? However, that may not actually be the case. With arguably the worst offensive line, Dalton doesn’t stand much of a chance, especially against a very aggressive Gregg Williams-led defense; the Jets will also be able to stop Joe Mixon and the Bengals’ rushing attack, thus putting the offensive line in an even worse position in terms of pass protection. Then, there’s Sam Darnold and the Jets offense, which has been fabulous during their winning streak. Although Cincinnati’s defensive line has been significantly more disruptive in pass rush and run defense recently, their pass coverage remains an absolute mess- this is a prime opportunity for Darnold to continue his second-half surge. New York should definitely be on upset alert, but the Bengals appear to be completely dejected right now, and I can’t see them actually pulling off a win- the Jets win in a game that’s closer than expected.
Titans (6-5) at Colts (6-5)
Spread Pick: TEN (+1.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43)
Score Prediction: Titans 19 Colts 13
In one of a few divisional matchups with a lot at stake, the Titans and Colts will not only play for the chance to remain in the divisional hunt, but also for a wildcard spot- this will be a very hard-fought game. In fact, this was the most difficult game to predict, as these two teams share many similarities, including their inconsistency. Therefore, it behooves me to side with the more talented team, and that’s the Titans. Ever since they’ve switched to Ryan Tannehill, they’ve been a completely different team, and have shown the ability to win in a variety of ways. While it may not sustainable for him to maintain his success, there’s also a great chance that he’s thriving in a better situation, and Indianapolis’ pass defense has been shaky when tested. On the other side of the ball, Jacoby Brissett hasn’t shown the consistency necessary to be trusted, and without TY Hilton, the Colts may struggle to pass against a relatively strong pass defense. That’s normally not a major issue given their success playing ball-control football with their rushing attack, but since they’re facing a run defense that may be the league’s best, that won’t’ work. This simply isn’t a good matchup for the Colts, who struggle to win games when they have to revert from the traditional gameplan. Therefore, it’ll be Tennesee who asserts themselves as a legitimate playoff contender in this game- they’ll win a somewhat sloppy game in which they receive a stellar defensive performance.
Buccaneers (4-7) at Jaguars (4-7)
Spread Pick: TB (-2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48)
Score Prediction: Bucs 34 Jags 24
It’s the battle of Florida! Well, that’s not entirely accurate, as they’re three teams in Florida. Still, excluding the Dolphins, this Jags-Bucs matchup will provide bragging rights for the winner- these teams only face off once every four years, after all. Obviously, that may be a reach – there’s nothing on the line – but hey, there needs to be some sort of storyline for this game, which features two teams who likely will be picking in the top ten in next year’s draft. Based on their identical records, this would appear to be an evenly-matched affair. Yet, that doesn’t appear to be the case. After two straight losses by 20 or more points, the Jaguars are a mess right now- they don’t have a single strength. Their defense, in particular, is extremely susceptible to explosive offenses, and now, they’ll face a Bucs passing offense that excels at creating explosive plays. What about Jacksonville’s offense? They’re still busy trying to establish the run, which has held to them being extremely inefficient. That strategy certainly won’t work this week, as Tampa’s run defense is among the league’s best; add in the fact that the Bucs are the significantly better team on early downs, and you have the makings of a decisive victory for them.
Eagles (5-6) at Dolphins (2-9)
Spread Pick: PHI (-10)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (45)
Score Prediction: Eagles 31 Dolphins 13
The Eagles may be 5-6, but with a very soft schedule coming up, they still are in the driver’s seat to win the NFC East. All they have to do is take care of business against inferior teams, and that starts in Miami. Ever since their two-game winning streak, the Dolphins have lost two straight games by 17 points each, and appear to have lost whatever they had going for them. Meanwhile, the Eagles will be getting back right guard Brandon Brooks, tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters, and receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor back healthy- they’re ready to roll. With their offensive line back intact and still with an elite defensive line, they’ll absolutely dominate in the trenches on both sides of the ball- this should be as easy of a win as it gets for them. Obviously, you can never take a team for granted, especially when you have a losing record, but Philadelphia is a much better team than their record would indicate, and they’ll demonstrate that with a decisive victory in Miami.
Packers (8-3) at Giants (2-9)
Spread Pick: GB (-6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (44.5)
Score Prediction: Packers 31 Giants 20
The Giants haven’t won a game since Week 4 and appear to be ready to move on from head coach Pat Shurmur. The Packers, on the other hand, will almost certainly play with a sense of urgency after being demolished in primetime against the 49ers. Add those two factors together, and you have the makings of a Packers rebound win. Aaron Rodgers will be looking to get back on track after having one of the worst games of his career, and he’ll get exactly what the doctor ordered- an opportunity to face the Giants defense. New York ranks in the bottom five in coverage grade and pass-rush grade, per Pro Football Focus, and is very vulnerable on explosive passes down the field. Well, that’s exactly where Rodgers excels- he could easily throw for over 400 yards in this game. Furthermore, the Giants offense has stagnated tremendously as of late, and without tight end Evan Engram and receiver Golden Tate, they’ll be even more depleted. Daniel Jones has shown flashes, but he’s also been extremely turnover-prone, particularly with fumbles. Facing a scary pass rush led by Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark, that could be a problem- I can’t see Jones and co. keeping up with the Packers offense, and as a result, the Giants will lose their eight straight while Green Bay remains in contention for a first-round bye.
Browns (5-6) at Steelers (6-5)
Spread Pick: CLE (-2)
Over/Under Pick: Over/PUSH (39)
Score Prediction: Browns 23 Steelers 17
For the second time in three weeks, the Browns and Steelers will matchup in a game that has pivotal playoff implications; Cleveland is also trying to sweep Pittsburgh for the first time since 1988, when they were still the Browns team that would eventually become the Ravens. Yet, that obviously won’t be the main storyline in this game, unfortunately, due to the infamous fight between Browns star edge rusher Myles Garrett (suspended for the season) and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (now benched). Therefore, this game could get a lot of dicey, but as far as who wins, Cleveland appears to have the advantage. Although their offensive line would appear to be a liability against Pittsburgh’s elite pass rush, they held up last time, as the Steelers struggled to contain the Browns’ playmakers. Plus, Cleveland has been using much less 11-personnel, and as a result, is better compensated to deal with elite pass rushes. Furthermore, even though Rudolph was benched, undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges is not a much better option under center for the Steelers, and without receiver Juju Smith Schuster or running back James Conner, they’ll have trouble moving the ball against a Browns defense that has been playing better, even without Garrett. This is a game that could go either way, as is the case with most divisional rivalry games, but the Browns are a significantly better team than this depleted Steelers team- they’ll save their season with a huge win.
Rams (6-5) at Cardinals (3-7-1)
Spread Pick: LAR (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48)
Score Prediction: Rams 34 Cardinals 23
Coming off an embarrassing Monday Night Football loss to the Ravens, the Rams have hit an all-time low- making the playoffs is more than a longshot at this point. With the Cardinals coming off of a bye, the “trendy” pick would be for them to contribute to Los Angeles’ downfall with a home upset. However, I can’t see that happening. There is a chance that the Rams’ weak offensive line can’t handle Arizona’s pass rush, which could be a major factor in this game. Yet, the Cardinals secondary has been abysmal all year, and now, they’ll face an offense loaded with weapons- this could be Jared Goff’s “get-right” game, in which he silences all the criticism that has been directed towards him. Indeed, it’s tough to pick against Kyler Murray and Arizona’s offense, which has been stellar as of late, but the Cardinals don’t have the receiving talent nor the offensive line to deal with a very strong Rams pass defense. Regardless of how they’ve been playing recently, these two teams remain on completely different levels, and that’ll be apparent as Los Angeles rolls to a two-score victory.
Chargers (4-7) at Broncos (3-8)
Spread Pick: LAC (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (37.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 13 Broncos 10
When the Chargers and Broncos played each other in Week 5, Denver pulled off an upset in Los Angeles. However, a lot has changed since then. The Chargers are struggling, but they’ve gotten significantly healthier, and now, they’ll get back star safety Derwin James and safety Adrian Phillips by from injury. Furthermore, Denver will be starting its third different quarterback- second-round rookie Drew Lock will start under center. Although Lock comes with a lot of upside and is definitely worth evaluating, a lot of turnover-worthy plays was what kept him from being a first-round pick- he’s a major project. Considering that he faces a major test in a still-very talented Chargers defense, it could be a rough first game for him, even if his long-term outlook could remain bright. Yes, Denver’s defense under head coach Vic Fangio has exceeded expectations this season, but they’ve been poor in pass defense over the past couple weeks, and appear to be deflated after several close losses. I have zero faith in either team winning this game, so rather, I’ll express my lack of confidence in Lock and the Broncos- Los Angeles will essentially win by default.
Raiders (6-5) at Chiefs (7-4)
Spread Pick: KC (-11)
Over/Under Pick: Over (50)
Score Prediction: Raiders 17 Chiefs 41
In this AFC West battle between the Raiders and Chiefs, Oakland can actually tie for the division lead with a win- on paper, this should be an interesting game. Yet, the talent discrepancy between these two teams is astronomical- Kansas City should blow the Raiders out of the water. Oakland’s pass defense was exposed last week against the Jets, of all teams, and now, they’ll have to contain the league’s most explosive offense. Said offense will also be healthier following their bye week, which head coach Andy Reid is 17-3 coming off of. On the other side of the ball, the Raiders conservative offense is not built to win in a shootout, and even if rookie running back Josh Jacobs could be extremely successful against the league’s worst run defense, it won’t matter if they’re playing from behind. Plus, Derek Carr is 0-4 with a 9 QBR in games in which the temperature is under 40 degrees Farenheight, per Trey Wingo of ESPN- the weather forecast is for it to be 36 degrees Fahrenheit with 20 MPH winds. By siding with the Chiefs to win in a blowout, I’m taking the significantly more talented roster, the better-coached team, the team that matched up well to the opposition, and I’m picking against the quarterback who seemingly can’t win in cold-weather games- a clear argument can be made that Kansas City should be favored by much more than 11 points.
SNF: Patriots (10-1) at Texans (7-4)
Spread Pick: NE (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (46.5)
Score Prediction: Pats 20 Texans 10
Is there any other AFC team, outside of the Ravens, capable of beating the Patriots. With New England slated to play the Texans and Chiefs over the next two weeks, we’ll get that question answered very soon. That starts on Sunday Night Football- the Patriots will travel to Houston. While it would be fun in theory to hypothesize that the Texans have what it takes to knock down New England, that would appear to be rather foolish. To beat the Patriots, a team needs to play mistake-free football, be well-coached, and have the ability to cover up the few flaws they have. None of that describes the Texans. They tend to play very sloppy football, especially against the Patriots, where head coach Bill O’Brien has constantly been out-coached. Additionally, when kept in the pocket, Deshaun Watson often takes unnecessary sacks and makes the most mistakes, and Bill Belichick’s strategy is always to keep mobile quarterbacks in the pocket. Plus, if superstar corner Stephon Gillmore is successful in neutralizing star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, I’m not sure Houston will be able to have a response. Meanwhile, New England’s elite defense will also finally have support from the offense- facing an extremely weak Texans pass rush that has been exposed constantly since losing star edge rusher JJ Watt, Tom Brady will have a feast and silence the noise about his decline. In fact, the Patriots haven’t lost to the Texans in this decade, and most of their wins haven’t even been close. I expect that trend to continue this week, as New England will pick up their 11th win with a comfortable road victory in primetime.
MNF: Vikings (8-3) at Seahawks (9-2)
Spread Pick: SEA (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (50.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 17 Seahawks 27
Though 49ers-Ravens is definitely the best matchup, but this week’s edition of Monday Night Football shouldn’t be considered a slouch by any means. Not only do the Vikings and Seahawks have a combined record of 17-5, but since both of them are currently trailing in their respective divisions, this is a crucial game for both sides. In my opinion, Minnesota is the more talented team, yet I don’t see them having an edge in this game at all. Instead, Seattle almost feels like a lock to win this game- they have several small advantages. For starters, they have Russell Wilson on their side, but this week, he could have a huge game through the air- Minnesota’s cornerbacks have struggled to keep up with faster receivers, and now, they’ll face Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Josh Gordon. That means that the Vikings may need to rely on their own passing game, which has been excellent, to maintain pace with Seattle, yet with the way the Seahawks are playing defensively right now, that’s far from a sure thing. Then, there’s the home-field advantage- Seattle has a history of dominating in front of their home crowd on primetime, and for as well as Kirk Cousins has played this year, I still don’t trust him to win in a hostile environment in suboptimal weather. Then, you factor in that Minnesota may come out a little flat after their bye week, as head coach Mike Zimmer is only 2-3 off of bye weeks, and this matchup looks even more favorable for the home team. Obviously, a game between an 8-3 team and a 9-2 team should be very competitive. Yet, this feels like a game that won’t be as close as it should be- the Seahawks should take control of this game early and hold on to remain in the hunt for the NFC West, as well as the #1 seed.