It's a quick turnaround this week on the NFL prognostication since there are two games on Turkey Day and I'm traveling tomorrow, probably not to blog again until next week. I'll report back on whether Boston has changed since I last was there in August.
The fact that Detroit and Dallas get to host the Thanksgiving games every year is one of those things that makes me irrationally outraged. These two franchises shouldn't get the perk of hosting the holiday games year after year just because they have some history of doing that. It's like the pro sports version of the favoritism shown the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Come on, Paul Tagliabue, let's see some leadership on this one.
Thanksgiving also means I will have to face my George Bush-supporting extended family for the holiday meal over at my cousin's house. You could say I'm thankful we have football to serve as a way to divert the conversation. (And just think how thankful these relatives of mine should be, this fall they had both their favored presidential candidate win and the Red Sox World Series victory--they are in that rare category of being happy about both.)
On to the picks, which don't endorse wasting your money on bookies and such, naturally. If you were doing that sort of thing, though, it's worth noting that last week I was a strong 12-4 straight up and 9-6-1 against the spread.
Indianapolis (-9) over Detroit
OK, I think I might be sold on this whole Peyton Manning thing now. The fact that he threw the ball with such ease at Chicago proved he wasn't just fattening up his numbers in the dome against crappy teams. This is another road tilt, but it is another pass-friendly dome environment, plus the Lions are cratering. They actually had a shot to beat the Vikings last week and Joey Harrington threw an awful interception down three with two minutes left. We might see Mike McMahon here soon.
(Random trivia: when did Tom Brady make his NFL regular-season debut? It wasn't when Drew Bledsoe got belted by Mo Lewis in the post-9/11 game but back on Thanksgiving Day 2000, when Detroit was clobbering the Patriots, believe it or not. Bledsoe got pulled and Brady's first pro pass was taken back on an INT for TD.)
Chicago (+3) over Detroit to cover and win
Neither of these teams did so well last week. I'm giving the Bears a pass and punishing the Cowboys, who have been dreadful for a while. Bill Parcells is now hinting that Drew Henson may get the start, which I pray comes to pass since that's the only thing that would make this game at all interesting. Do you think Parcells will apologize to the reporter he publicly chastized a few weeks ago for making the ridiculous suggestion of a QB switch?
(Another side note: the Leon Lett debacle trying to pick up a blocked punt in the snow has to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories.)
Cincinnati (-6) over Cleveland
Butch Davis is getting fired, apparently. The Bengals, who I've watched the last two weeks, aren't half bad either. Barring an emotional performance to pick up their coach, the Browns, winless on the road, aren't pulling this off.
San Diego (+3) over Kansas City
The Chiefs are the Ron Artest of the NFL, impossible to figure out. They have beaten Indy, Baltimore and Atlanta, but lost every other game. They have the top-ranked offense in the league, yet they lost to the Patriots patchwork secondary last night. Priest Holmes is supposedly missing this game too, and the Chargers are the Team of Destiny this season. My favorite line from John Madden on MNF, after Deion Branch's touchdown: "You can't let them run through your entire defense." No kidding?
Minnesota (-5.5) over Jacksonville
I usually prefer making selections at the last moment before the games since then I get to know who is playing. Case in point: Randy Moss may be playing in this game, or he may still be out. That's kind of important to the pick, don't you think? Oh well, I seem to get the Jaguars wrong every week, why be any different this week?
Philadelphia (-7) over NY Giants
Soon after Terrell Owens put Philly up 14-6 with his calisthenics endzone display, the news came down on the Artest suspension Sunday late afternoon. I flipped to ESPN to see the David Stern show. After that was wrapping up a short while later, I clicked back on over to Fox. Apparently Brian Westbrook scored two touchdowns in the interim, and Philadelphia by then was up 28-6. For the record, both George Michael and Sonny Jurgenson had the Skins in an upset last week. Poor old guys, I fear this season is taking years off their lives.
Pittsburgh (-11) over Washington
Dammit, I need someone to beat the Steelers so the Patriots can get the #1 playoff seed. That ain't happening this week when the hapless Redskins visit Ketchup Field.
Tampa Bay (-3) over Carolina
Both of these teams scored in the mid-30s last week, somehow, despite the lack of discernible offensive talent. The NFL: impossible to figure out.
Houston (+2) over Tennessee
The Texans won in Nashville earlier this year, yet they're underdogs at home to the same Titans. It's back on the Houston bandwagon for me this week after their impressive-yet-losing effort versus Green Bay Sunday night.
New Orleans (+9.5) over Atlanta to cover but lose
That's just too many points for a Falcons team that still isn't dominating despite being 8-2. That's correct, if you hadn't realized, Atlanta's won eight of ten. They've also lost a home game to Detroit, given up 56 points in Kansas City, and had some other close calls that weren't so impressive (21-19 in Frisco week one, 6-3 over Arizona at home in week three, por ejemplo). That's good enough for the NFC South title and #2 NFC seed this year.
Miami (no line) over San Francisco
Both teams are 1-9, with the #1 pick in the draft riding on the outcome of this game. Can you feel the excitement? The cringing in pain of A.J. Feeley when he got slapped on the butt Sunday should make the all-time sports blooper reel. ESPN has no line listed for this one as of yet, probably a sign they want to pretend this game doesn't exist. The folks in Vegas
have the Niners as a slight favorite. I'll go with the Dolphins, based on their better performance last week.
Buffalo (+5.5) over Seattle
I guess ESPN has no line yet for this one either, and three of the four main casinos put the Seahawks as a 5.5-point favorite. I'm not sure how Seattle only could beat Miami on a late interception return last week, and I did see Buffalo beat up St. Louis at home. This will be a popular upset pick, I'm thinking (and those points may narrow up later in the week, get in now--if you were betting that's what you would do, that is, not that I advocate that, mind you.)
NY Jets (-3) over Arizona
The Cardinals are another one of those teams I can't figure out. I thought they would be ready to play last week in Carolina, with a shot of getting to 5-5, but instead they lay an egg and drop the game 35-10. Shaun King is now their starting QB, and the Jets are still in the midst of the Quincy Carter experience, so cover your eyes.
New England (-7) over Baltimore
Why I prefer picking later in the week, part two: Jamal Lewis might miss the game with an ankle injury. That's kind of important. I'm more confident of a Pats win in this one than I have been the last few weeks, at least, since the Ravens don't have much of a vertical passing game with which to exploit the depleted New England secondary.
Denver (-10.5) over Oakland
Lots of points for a rivalry game, but I can't see how Oakland makes it competitive either.
Green Bay (-5.5) over St. Louis
MNF is already preparing their Brett Favre-worship, as their promos last night made known this will be the QB messiah's 200th consecutive start for the Packers. Yes, I know they were doing a good bit of Tom Brady-praising last night too, and I thought that was excessive as well. Not to beat a dead horse, but I'd be more confident in a pick with later info on the Ahman Green injury. Even if he's out, though, the Rams looked pretty poor last week in Buffalo, I can't pick them (then again, this might be one of those weeks they decide to show up).