It has been a decade since the Lions last won on Thanksgiving. This year their game has some extra weight to it as they come in with two straight losses, as the NFC North is slipping through their fingers. By all means the Lions should win this division, with the injuries to the Bears and Packers, but a loss here and that can go by the way side. It is still unlikely that Aaron Rodgers will play and that means it is unlikely the Packers will win as the Lions get a big game from Matthew Stafford to stay on top of the division.
For the first time in 40 years the Cowboys will be wearing their blue jerseys at home. If they can’t win this game it may be another 40 years before they are in blue at home again. Coming off a big win in the Meadowlands, the Cowboys are the clear favorite to win the mediocre NFC East, but often this is when they are prone to a letdown. Especially at home where sometimes the Cowboys play worse as the home crowd’s groans get in their head. However, they still are playing a lackluster Raiders team and should get just enough offense to survive a Turkey Day scare.
The rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens has never been hotter as despite their 5-6 records, the winner of this game will take a big step towards making the playoffs. The Ravens coming off a Super Bowl have had their ups and downs, while the Steelers who looked dead in the water are suddenly red hot with three straight wins. The Steelers won the first in Pittsburgh and that makes this a must win for the Ravens. As usual a Field Goal will decide this game either way. This time it will be the Ravens getting enough pressure on Ben Roethlisberger to survive a tough battle of Field Goals.
If you don’t believe in the Panthers yet, you better start as they showed the ability to comeback in winning their seventh straight last week. Now they can not only make the playoffs but make a run at the NFC South with two games upcoming against the Saints. First they must guard against a letdown on the suddenly surging Buccaneers who themselves have three straight wins. The Panthers defense has been the key to their success and defense will win this game as the Carolina front seven will keep the Buccaneers in dry dock.
Like a boomerang from hell, Brandon Weeden keeps returning to the Browns starting lineup at quarterback as Jason Campbell is unlikely to play after getting beat up by the Steelers. The Browns defense though should be able to make some hay against the pathetic Jaguars offense especially with the game in Ohio. The Browns defense has been a major reason why they have remained competitive despite not having anyone capable of winning at quarterback.
No team has been a bigger disappointment than the Houston Texans who came in as a favorite in the AFC and have crashed and burned with nine straight losses. Making matters worse since their loss to the Colts, the Texans have quit, and not even tried to win a game even losing to the lowly Jaguars. Facing the Patriots who can make a run at home field, things won’t get any better this week. The Texans will bring a book of stamps to the game and mail in another one as the Patriots win going away.
This game will determine whether or not the AFC South will be up for grabs in December, as the Colts will all but lock up the division title with a win on Sunday. The Colts have laid eggs in two of their last three games, and need to avoid falling behind early. The Colts have been able to overcome their sluggish starts in most weeks as they have been able to comeback most of the season. However, the key will be to not let the Titans playing with a backup quarterback believe, and to make sure they take control early.
The Vikings hopes of making the playoffs are all but dead and buried, but they can still make an impact on the NFC North by spoiling things for their rivals. Last week they tied up the Packers in Lambeau and now they focus on the inconsistent Bears. The Bears defense is missing several key pieces and vulnerable to allowing a big game. This should open the door for Adrian Peterson. I see the Vikings running back having a big game at home as the Vikings put the Bears playoff hopes into serious doubt.
Another division battle of 5-6 teams, with an eye on the sixth spot in the AFC’s mi-mosh of mediocrity. The Dolphins have two problems in this game a weak offensive line and the inability to hold leads in the fourth quarter. Both of these issues were rear their heads again as they face the Jets, who ended their alternating results last week with a listless loss in Baltimore. The Jets front line will make it impossible for the Dolphins to get any running game going and this will open the door for the Jets to make a comeback win in the game’s closing minutes.
For a team that is red hot the worst thing is a bye week. That is the issue faced by the Eagles who before their bye won three straight thanks to the play of Quarterback Nick Foles. The Cardinals are also surging with four straight wins, and they have been boosted by a strong defense and a resurgent Carson Palmer at quarterback. The Eagles have still struggled at home, nearly blowing a 24 point lead at Lincoln Financial Field in their last game. The Cardinals secondary made life miserable for the Colts last week and will do so again in Philly this week.
Hopefully the Falcons know that postage is a little more expensive in Canada as they will need extra stamps to mail in this game. At 2-9 the Falcons are the biggest disappointment in the NFC and after losing at home to the Saints chances are they may not put forth much of a fight the rest of the season, as they have already gone through the motions in most of their recent games. The Bills meanwhile with a E.J. Manuel at quarterback and Kiko Alonso on defense have a pair or rookies that are driving them to a strong finish.
For the first time this season the 49ers will have their full complement of receivers as they host the red hot Rams. This is another key game for the Rams, as their playoff position in tenuous at best. The Rams have been able to get off to fast starts in their last two games, so containing Tavon Austin in the first quarter will be important. Fortunately the 49ers defense coming off a strong Monday Night game is also playing its best football of the season.
Two teams looking to bounce back from dismal performances in Week 12 meet with first place on the line. The Chiefs who after starting 9-0 have been exposed as their defense has not been able to put pressure on the quarterback in each of the last two games. With the health of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in question, chances are things won’t get any better for Kansas City this week. The Broncos meanwhile need to get the bad taste of Foxboro out of their mouth fast or they face returning in January.
Coming off a solid win in Kansas City has the Chargers thinking playoffs once again, as they are among the group of teams fighting for the sixth seed at 5-6. The Bengals meanwhile, at 7-4 have been like a fish out of water on the road. Going into San Diego they will be put to the task once again. The injuries the Bengals suffered on defense to key layers like Geno Atkjins will be especially hurtful when facing a strong quarterback like Philip Rivers. Once again the game will be close as Rivers sets up Nick Novack for a winning kick in overtime.
Last week the dream died for the Giants, as they lost at home to the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants who started 0-6 showed the spirit of a champion in rallying to 4-6 with a chance to win the division. However, that loss to Dallas will likely let the air out of the balloon and the Giants we see this week, on Thanksgiving weekend will be a team suffering mental letdown and will be vulnerable to a blowout. The Redskins at 3-8 meanwhile just need a win to get something going for the end of the season and are due for a breakout game.
Two teams that firmly believe there is no place like home meet in a Monday Night battle that could decide who get home field in the NFC Playoffs. Both teams have been juggernauts at home in recent years with the Seahawks last loss at home coming nearly two years ago. The bad news is the Seahawks secondary could be vulnerable with Walter Thurmond suspended for four games and Brandon Browner facing a year suspension for violating the NFL drug program. The Saints have not played well on the road and have struggled against physical teams. The Seahawks will do both as the 12th man will help them all put lock up the best record in the NFL.