Thanksgiving Predictions, Storylines

Posted: 11/28/2013 by levcohen in Football

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We have our traditional three games today, with Detroit, Dallas, and Baltimore hosting games against Green Bay, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. Over the past few years, there have been more blowouts than close games on Thanksgiving, and Vegas expects that trend to continue, with two favorites of at least a touchdown. Still, all six of these teams technically are in the playoff race, and in particular the two huge divisional matchups (Green Bay-Detroit, Baltimore-Pittsburgh), both between teams that hate each other, have big playoff implications. These six teams all have huge holes, some bigger than others, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1, 5-6 against the spread) at Detroit Lions (6-5, 5-6):
Spread: Lions favored by 7
Over/under: 49
Key Storylines:

Packers left guard Josh Sitton blasts Lions defensive line, coaches: This is a new development, and it adds something to this game. It was already clear that these divisional rivals did not like each other, but Sitton furthered those feelings. Sitton went on his weekly radio show and said, “They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time, that’s what they do, that’s who they are. They’re a bunch of dirtbags, or scumbags. I mean, that’s how they play.” He ended up blaming Jim Schwartz, the Lions head coach, and said he would never play for Schwartz. If this had been someone else, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But Sitton, an offensive lineman, will be competing against the same d-line that he bashed. Was it a great idea to rile them up before the game? We’ll see, but one thing I do think is likely is even quicker tempers.

Matt Flynn starts for the Packers: No, Aaron Rodgers will not be back for this Thanksgiving Day bout against his division rival. His coach has already ruled it out. That means a start for Matt Flynn in a hostile environment. Flynn is the third quarterback to start in the four games that Rodgers has been injured. He was a free agent just weeks ago. It seems that he has a comfort zone in Green Bay, but he isn’t a very skilled quarterback. It’ll be interesting to see if he holds up against a porous Detroit secondary.

Both teams on losing streaks, and in a very close NFC North: After the first slate of games in November, the Packers, Lions, and Chicago Bears were all 5-3. Green Bay had just lost Aaron Rodgers, but all three were playing relatively well. Since then, the three have combined for a 2-6-1 record, with Detroit’s only win in that time being at Chicago. Since that win, they’ve lost two straight, and Green Bay is 0-3-1 in its last four. So the question is: Can either of these teams snap out of their current losing streaks and take control of the NFC North playoff race? One team will win this game (please not another tie), but will we see a good football game between two good teams or a sloppy one?

My prediction: Lions- 28, Packers- 17.. The line is high, but I’m still willing to take the Lions. The Packers have been lost without Rodgers, and Detroit generally does better in these must-win games than they do otherwise.
Lions cover

Oakland Raiders (4-7, 6-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5, 8-3):
Line: Cowboys favored by 7.5
Over/under: 48
Key Storylines:

Can the Cowboys win a game they are supposed to win?: The Cowboys are 8-3 against the spread, but are just 3-2 when favored. So it’s clear that they thrive when they are underdogs. They have been favored by more than a touchdown just once, and they won but failed to cover against the Vikings. Can they win decisively here and further their chances at a playoff spot?

Will the Raiders try to play spoiler?: The Oakland Raiders were supposed to be one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in the NFL this year. They have been surprising many with their competent play, and are now a surprising 4-7 (and just one game out of the AFC wildcard race). But they are coming off a crushing loss against the Titans at home, so it remains to be same whether they will wilt and aim for a top 5 pick or continue to play hard and try to play spoiler. I hope it’s the second, because the Cowboys are ripe for an upset.

Cowboys defense: Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee is out again today, so they defense will be without their best defensive player again. This has been a bad defense, even giving up a record number of first downs to the Saints. But they were solid against the Giants last week, and it’ll be interesting to see whether they keep it up.

My prediction: Cowboys- 30, Raiders- 23
Raiders cover

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6, 5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-6, 6-5):
Line: Ravens favored by 2.5
Over/under: 41
Key Storylines:

Will the game be decided by a field goal?: Nine of the last twelve games in this highly contested series have been decided by exactly three points. That is really incredible. We knew that the rivalry was fierce and close, but 75% of games being decided by three points? Will it happen again tonight?

Win or go home?: This could be described as an elimination game for the loser. A 5-7 record wouldn’t be impossible to rebound from (the second wild card will likely take nine wins, so the loser would have to win out to have a shot), but it would be pretty close. The winner, on the other hand, will probably be considered the favorite for the #6 seed with a 6-6 record.

Throwback?: A few years ago, this was the biggest rivalry in the NFL. Not only did these teams hate each other, but they were also two of the best teams in the NFL. It’s still a big rivalry, but as you can see by their records, neither is quite elite anymore. Even years ago when the teams were good, this series was scrappy and violent and I expect it to be so again. Maybe even more so, given that the teams will be fighting for a playoff spot, rather than just the division as they did a few years ago (when they had a wildcard to fall back on).

My prediction: Ravens- 22, Steelers- 17
Ravens cover

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  1. quadrangular says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

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