Thanksgiving Preview

Posted: 11/26/2015 by levcohen in Football

It’s Thanksgiving, which can only mean that it’s time for one of the best football days of the year. No matter what the games are, or their importance, Thanksgiving football is always special. So even though the Cowboys and Lions are both 3-7 this year, today’s games are still going to get incredible ratings. Here are my thoughts for the three games:

*= upset pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 4-6) at Detroit Lions (3-7, 3-7):
Spread: Lions favored by 2.5
Over/under: 46
My prediction: I just wrote about the Eagles here, and once you read that, you’ll know who I’m going to pick here and that I don’t want to write much more about Philadelphia. The Lions, while still not good, have actually improved defensively over the last few weeks, holding Green Bay and Oakland, both of whom own solid offenses, to 16 and 13 points. I still think the Lions are one of the worst teams in football. Their offense is struggling, as Calvin Johnson is past his prime and Matthew Stafford is no better than an average quarterback. I said earlier that the Eagles had an exploitable run defense, but the Lions don’t have the running game to exploit said defense. And while the defense has improved, it’s still hard to forget that they gave up more than 30 points per game in their first eight games and still rank just 23rd in defensive DVOA. I’m talking myself into picking the Eagles… but of course I’m not going to. I expect a big game from Calvin Johnson and more floundering from Philadelphia in a 24-17 win for the Lions.
Lions cover
Under

Carolina Panthers (10-0, 8-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-7, 3-7):*
Spread: Cowboys favored by 1
Over/under: 44.5
My prediction: Why are the Cowboys favored here? Look, I understand that their defense has improved and that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are back. They are coming off a nice-and-easy 10 point win in Miami, in which Romo showed rust but the defense stifled the Dolphins. But the Panthers are no Dolphins. They’re 10-0, and despite having an offense full of nobodies (along with Cam Newton), they’ve scored at least 20 points in every game this season and 27+ in every game aside from the first two. Carolina is 4-0 against the spread as a road team, while the Cowboys are 1-4 against the spread at home and have been a below-average home team the past few seasons. You think Newton, the MVP Co-favorite (with Tom Brady) is going to let up here? I don’t. Newton has been clutch in the fourth quarter of close games all season long, going 18/28 for 256 yards and two touchdowns and carrying the ball six times for 43 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter of one-score games. He’s also enabled the run game to be as good as it is. I expect Newton, Greg Olsen, and company to gash the Cowboys’ defense a number of times.

On the other side of the ball, I really like this matchup for the Panthers. They can stick top corner Josh Norman, who’s been the best cover corner in football this year, on Dez Bryant, which should help throttle the passing game and enable the Panthers to focus on running back Darren McFadden, who has excelled since the Cowboys benched and subsequently released Joseph Randle. Romo is too good not to make some plays, so the Cowboys will score some points and keep it close, but I like the Panthers to win 27-23.
Panthers cover
Over

Chicago Bears (4-6, 6-4) at Green Bay Packers (7-3, 6-4):
Spread: Packers favored by 8
Over/under: 45
My prediction: The Packers just throttled the Vikings in Minnesota, but is that enough to convince me that they are back to being the Green Bay Packers after three consecutive losses? Not really, no. The offense still wasn’t clicking, although an overweight Eddie Lacy looked as good as he has all season. The Packers will score some points against an improving Chicago defense, but I don’t expect them to blow the game open early as they so often have done in the past at home. Meanwhile, I actually think the Bears are half-decent. After winning consecutive road games against San Diego and St. Louis, they kept their game against the Broncos close and was a two point conversion away from sending it to overtime. Had top playmakers Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte been available, they may well have won the game. Jeffery and Forte are back this week, and they will help aid Jay Cutler, who’s on pace to have the best season of his career. With all that said, can I pick Cutler’s Bears to beat the Packers at Lambeau and give new life to their playoff hopes? No, I can’t. Cutler is 1-12 in his career against the Packers with 15 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, and that history is just too much for me to ignore. Packers win 26-20.
Bears cover
Over

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