NFL Thanksgiving Preview and Predictions (Why you shouldn’t eat too early)

Thanksgiving is officially here! For a lot of Americans, this is a day in which they eat all day before passing out, while pretending that it’s the one day where they should be thankful for something, as they spend time with their families, before scurrying out to buy Christmas present for “discount” prices.

But, for NFL fans, this is a day of major rejoicing from start to finish. Not only are there three games today, but each game is a bitter rivalry amongst playoff contenders. Oh, and for those of you who eat “dinner” early on Thanksgiving, this is not the year to do the same. That’s because the final game of the day might be the best, and undoubtedly the most physical of them all.

From a historical perspective, NFL has been hosting games on Thanksgiving regularly since 1920, with Thanksgiving football games dating back to 1892. The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have been hosting Thanksgiving games since 1934 and 1966. And since 2006, there has been a night game to boot.

For several years, the Detroit Lions were a laughing stock, while the Cowboys have been relatively mediocre since the late 90s. However, this year, both teams are playing at a high level. Both teams are playing good teams this Thanksgiving, and the nightcap is a matchup of the fiercest rivalry of the new decade. So, without further ado, allow me to present my Thangsgiving day picks. Hopefully, they will get me off to a better start to the week than my 11-4 mark for Week 13, which pushed my overall record to 125-46-1.

Chicago Bears (5-6) at Detroit Lions (7-4) (12:30/11:30 a.m. CT, CBS)

Line: Lions by 7. O/U: 47.5.

The early game features, well the Detroit Lions. The two teams have been polar opposites for the better part of the season, with the Bears struggling, while the Lions were atop the NFC North. But now, the Bears have won two straight, while the Lions have lost their last two.

The Lions, known for the last few years due to their passing attack, have struggled to put up points all season. They have not scored more than 24 points in a game since their season opener, and have failed to score a single touchdown over the past two games. Reggie Bush has been hampered all season, while one of the league’s premier receivers, Calvin Johnson, still doesn’t look like he’s fully back. However, the last two games came against two elite defenses, each with elite cornerbacks guarding against Johnson. And defensively, the Lions are still pretty good.

Meanwhile, the Bears have stopped their leak momentarily, but both games were against losing teams. Jay Cutler has been up and down this season, which is also the case with their two highly capable receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. As for running back Matt Forte, well, he’s been tremendous all year.

On paper, it would seem as if this should be an offensive shootout. Each team features potent quarterbacks, some elite receivers, and running games that can explode at any moment. Even though the Lions have struggled offensively of late, the Bears possess the league’s second-worst defense in the league. And while the Lions boast the league’s top rush, and a top ten rush defense, they have been exposed on occasion.

I know that the Lions have been pretty good the past few seasons, but they still have a propensity of collapsing late in the season. Last year, after a 6-2 start, they lost seven of eight, and their head coach lost his job. While it is quite possible for the Bears to pull off the upset, I still believe the Lions can hold off a potential collapse for now. I do not view them as a playoff team, but they will hold on to a spot, for now. Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 31.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3) (4:30/3:30c, FOX)

Line: Cowboys by 3.5. O/U: 54.5

The next game is a hugely important battle amongst the two teams atop the NFC East. Each team is five games ahead of the floundering Giants and Redskins, and this game is huge in terms of playoff implications.

For Cowboys fans, here’s some good news. The Cowboys have won three of their last four against the Eagles, with the lone loss being last year’s two-point season finale, in which Tony Romo did not play. Oh, and they are playing against Mark Sanchez who, while being pretty good in place of Nick Foles, has been turnover. The Eagles are scoring 36 points a game with Sanchez at the helm, but Tony Romo is known as much for his November success as his overblown December struggles. He is 6-1 on Thanksgiving, and I see his team succeeding in an offensive shootout. The Cowboys will trail early, but prevail late. Prediction: Eagles 34, Cowboys 38.

Seattle Seahawks (7-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4) (8:30/7:30c, NBC)

Line: 49ers by 1. O/U: 40.5

Remember when I said not to eat Thanksgiving “dinner” to early, like in the morning, or in the afternoon? Well, this game is the reason why. It should be a close, hard-fought, physical tilt from start to finish.

In a rematch of the 2014 NFC Championship, the Seahawks and 49ers reignite the most bitter, physical rivalry in the NFL. These squads have bad blood, dating back to a coaching rivalry that began in 2007. Neither squad feels any love lost towards the other, and nothing would make their Thanksgiving sweeter than severing the other’s playoff hopes.

Both teams have dynamic quarterbacks that have had their ups and downs this season, which also describes each squad’s running game. But, each team still boasts a powerful, physical defense. The 49ers, despite dealing with Navarro Bowman and Patrick WIllis’ absence for the better part of the season, possess the league’s number two pass defense and number seven rush defense. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have the number three pass defense and number six pass defense. Oh, and offensively, there is no team that rushes for more yards a game.

This game will be physical, emotional, and probably low scoring. So, it is possible that if you eat turkey too early, the tryptophan will rob you of this viewing experience. The Seahawks have been subpar on the road, but the 49ers lost at home to the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears. Sure, both teams have been pretty good of late, but I’m going with the team that, while they haven’t won in San Francisco since 2008 (the Niners were in the midst of a six-game losing streak at the time), are the defending champs, and are not depleted. Prediction: Seahawks 23, 49ers 20.

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