Ed: Did everyone get their fill of turkey on Thanksgiving? That’s good — because Jazz and I had an early serving of crow the weekend before. I went 4-3 on picks in week 11, thanks mainly to some good matchups and surprising performances … not ours, of course. I’m at 46-31 now and looking grimly at a possible .500 season. Hopefully, everyone is enjoying a happy holiday weekend, but not everyone had a good time on Thanksgiving. We’re looking at you, Dallas. Yikes.
Jazz: I rather enjoyed watching Football on Thanksgiving this year since I didn’t have to panic over the Jets. A couple of good games to watch in between nodding off after too much turkey and some drinks. Sadly, the previous week was far worse. I fell further behind Ed with a mediocre 3-4 showing. That brings me to 43-34 with a sick feeling that I’ll have to start picking some ridiculous upsets if I want to catch up. We’ll probably start that process today.
Ed: Today will end with what might have been a classic matchup of original NFL franchises, with the Green Bay Packers coming to Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers (8:30 pm, NBC). Without Aaron Rodgers on the field, though, the Pack comes in as two-touchdown underdogs. They’ll be lucky to get that close, although the Steelers have an uncomfortable habit of playing down to the level of lesser teams. Steelers will still win, 30-14. The Jets welcome the Panthers to New Jersey (1 pm, Fox), having fallen a little off the beam in recent weeks while Carolina has picked up its play. Panthers 24-17 over the J-E-T-S. Minnesota outlasted Detroit on Thursday, so let’s focus on an important NFC matchup in La-La-Land when the Saints come to play the Rams (4:25 pm, CBS). Drew Brees has been on a tear lately, but LA’s offense scores almost exactly the same number of points per game, too. The Rams’ defense is slightly better than New Orleans, plus they’re playing at home. Rams 31-28 over the Saints in a shootout.
Jazz: The Packers have already shown what they’re made of without Aaron Rodgers this year and it’s not exactly titanium. This one doesn’t leave a lot of room for speculation. Steelers in a lopsided blowout, 33-17. I keep reading in the local press how the Jets are still theoretically in the mix for the AFC East. That may be true, but it’s only because the AFC East is so abysmal. The Panthers, with their second-ranked defense in the NFL, are not in that category. Hate to say it, but Carolina beats my Jets soundly, 27-20. Our third game should be a good one. The Rams took a tough loss to the Vikings and now they’ve got a bigger problem in the form of Drew Brees and the Saints. LA lost their biggest producing receiver last week and their rushing defense has sunk a long way in the standings. I don’t think the home field advantage helps as much in a mostly empty stadium so I’ll go with the Saints 27-23.
Let’s pick a few more to round out the weekend:
- Bills at Chiefs (1 pm, CBS) – Both of these teams started off as world-beaters, and both of them look pretty beaten down going into the final quarter of the season. The Chiefs need a win here to keep a two-game lead over the suddenly-hot Chargers in their division. Buffalo is so chaotic at the moment that it will give KC an opportunity to catch its breath at home. Chiefs 33-20 over the Bills.
- Dolphins at Patriots (1 pm, CBS) – This game is interesting only for the post-season seeding implications. With the Steelers rolling, New England has to keep pace. Miami’s 30th-ranked offense and 16th-ranked defense are going to be no match for the Pats, who should win easily, 35-17.
- Jaguars at Cardinals (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Jags should win this matchup, but Arizona can still play tough. Bruce Arians is promising a new look for the Cards’ passing offense, but it’s their rushing offense that needs the most work, ranked 31st in the league. Jacksonville has the #1 rushing offense, allowing Bruce Bortles to do just enough to keep from losing. They also have the #1 overall defense in the league for points allowed, and Arizona’s ranked 26th on that measure. Jags will win, but I’ll expect it to be a good game — 21-17.
- Texans at Ravens (MNF 8:30 pm, ESPN) – The Ravens are trying to play their way back into wild-card contention, and Houston hasn’t been the same since DeShaun Watson went down in a freak practice injury. They did turn up strong against the Cards last week though, and Baltimore’s been uneven, especially on the road. I’ll take the Texans in an upset, 26-21.
- Bills at Chiefs (1 pm, CBS) –I have no idea why Ed picked this one other than to see if he could goad me into picking a team I already don’t like. Buffalo is seriously outclassed here. They’re bringing in a new QB this week who might stir things up a bit, but the Chiefs’ defense will still be too much for him. I’ll take Kansas City 30-17.
- Dolphins at Patriots (1 pm, CBS) – Another snoozer, sadly. New England is favored by roughly the gross domestic product of a medium-sized country. Miami has given us no reason recently to doubt that. Patriots put them away 31-12.
- Jaguars at Cardinals (4:25 pm, CBS) – I’m unsure why Vegas has this game as close as it does at five and a half points. It seems like The Jaguars defense is head and shoulders above anything the poor Cardinals can manage. I’ll take the Jaguars 27-16.
- Texans at Ravens (MNF 8:30 pm, ESPN) – Not much goes right in Baltimore these days, but for once their NFL franchise is running smoothly and are looking like contenders for a wild card spot in the post-season dance. The Texans have been scoring about as often as the Jets with Tom Savage under center and Baltimore is very, very motivated with a better recent history of getting into the end zone. I’ll go with the Ravens here 27-13.