NFL WEEK 12: Thanksgiving Day is about food, family, and football, and as a veteran of nearly 40 of these celebrations of gluttony, I have to say that Thursday’s football offering was the equivalent of cold turkey, your aunt’s unmentionable squash casserole, and the green gelatin thing your grandmother serves that contains mayonnaise but is still considered a dessert.
Watching the Lions lose is a Thanksgiving tradition by now, but the way it happened this time– ghastly turnovers, a helpless defense, and the inability to stay competitive with a 3-7 team– makes you wonder how Matt Patricia still has a job, and why you invested 3 hours of your life into observing this pit of sadness and despair. And the other game wasn’t much better– having the “Football Team” on your screen this season is bad enough as it is, given their unwatchable style of play and their status as a living monument to performative political correctness run amok, but watching them smother and dominate Jerry’s Boys was just kind of depressing. Two bad teams, two over-the-hill QBs, and three hours to stew over the fact that Pittsburgh/Baltimore, originally meant to be the highlight of our evening, was moved to Sunday and thrown in with the rest of the games (and now, given the COVID situation in Baltimore, the game itself is very much in doubt).
Never fear, though– we’ve still got 14 games on the docket this week to wash away the bad taste of the Thanksgiving offering, and with some good choices we can mitigate the damage that Black Friday will do to the bank account (already bracing myself for the wife telling me she “saved” us $250 or whatever… meaning she spent untold sums but feels she “saved” money on account of the supposed discounts. God help us.). Here are a few suggestions:
New York Giants @ Cincinnati Bengals (NY -6, 44)
Recommendation: New York -6 at 1.91
Don’t look now, but the Giants have actually been playing some pretty good football lately, going 3-2 over their past five games, with the two losses coming by a combined 3 points. A victory in Cincinnati this week would give the G-Men their first 3-game win streak since 2016, and considering the circumstances– New York is coming off a bye, while the Bengals will be playing their first game without starting QB Joe Burrow, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week– you have to like their chances. It’s not just that Burrow almost single-handedly propped up the Cincinnati offense, ranking 10th in the NFL in passing yards to counteract the team’s 25th-ranked rushing attack, it’s also the fact that the New York defense has allowed fewer rushing yards than all but five teams leaguewide. This would be a tough matchup for the Cincinnati offense anyway, given the play of the Giants D over the past month, but without Burrow it’s difficult to envision them having any sustained success whatsoever. That means the Bengals will have to rely on *gulp*… their defense, which ranks 26th in total yards allowed and is surrendering a league-worst 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. So… yeah. Not ideal. I know it’s unusual to see the Giants laying so many points on the road, but in this case it’s definitely warranted. This one won’t be close.
Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts (IND -3, 51.5)
Recommendation: Tennessee +3 at 2.06
We just saw this game a couple of weeks ago, with the Colts erasing a 4-point halftime deficit and cruising to a 34-17 win. The stout Indianapolis defense totally put the clamps on Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee offense in the second half, but the Colts defense that takes the field this Sunday will be a different unit, as three starters– end Denico Autry, linebacker Bobby Okereke, and, most importantly, All-Pro tackle DeForest Buckner– have been ruled out of this game due to injuries and/or COVID protocol. That’s less than ideal with Derrick Henry coming to town– Henry has topped 100 yards rushing in 7 consecutive road games, and Indianapolis had trouble bottling him up even when at full strength, surrendering 103 yards on 19 carries in the Week 10 clash. The Titans are coming off an upset win over Baltimore, and they’ve been excellent on the road this season, sporting a 4-1 record away from Nissan Stadium. I’ve been riding the Colts with some success these past few weeks, but I think the good times come to a temporary end this week at the hands of a hated division rival. Gimme Tennessee and the points.
Oakland Raiders @ Atlanta Falcons (OAK -3, 54)
Recommendation: Atlanta +3 at 1.96
The Falcons are coming off a disappointing loss to the Taysom Hill-led Saints last week, but they’ve been trending in the right direction ever since Raheem Morris took over as head coach, winning 3 of 4 prior to the clash with New Orleans, with the one loss in that stretch a 23-22 heartbreaker to Detroit. Matt Ryan continues to lead one of the NFL’s most potent passing attacks– Atlanta ranks 3rd in the league in pass yards per game, and Ryan had been playing at an elite level prior to running into the Saints buzzsaw in Week 11. He should find the going much easier against an Oakland secondary that has struggled mightily this season, surrendering more passing yards than every AFC team with the exception of the bottom-feeding Jets and Jags. The Falcons are a bit banged up on offense, but I expect Julio Jones to play, and Todd Gurley’s absence might not be the most devastating thing in the world considering his backup, Brian Hill, has been the more effective back on a per-touch basis this season. This just feels like tough spot for the Raiders, having to take their rickety secondary to the Dome (it’ll always be the “Georgia Dome” to me..) to face Ryan and his cadre of weapons, not to mention the cross-country/early time-slot factor. Despite the records, I think the wrong team is favored here.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams (LA -6.5, 44.5)
Recommendation: San Francisco +6.5 at 1.94
It’s been a rough year for the 49ers, as injuries and losses have piled up and left the team at 4-6, barely clinging to playoff hopes. They staggered into the Week 11 bye losers of three straight, but the cavalry is coming, as WR Deebo Samuel and RB Raheem Mostert, two key cogs of the offense, will be back in action this week after several weeks on the sidelines, as will CB Richard Sherman and reserve RB Jeff Wilson. The return of Samuel and Mostert should give Kyle Shanahan enough weaponry to work his magic, even with Nick Mullens at QB, as Shanahan has conclusively proven over the last couple of seasons that he knows the formula for dissecting and decimating this L.A. defense. Back in Week 6, for instance, the Niners rolled up a whopping 291 first half yards en route to a 24-16 victory over these Rams, and they swept the two games last year, notably ending L.A.’s playoff hopes with a 34-31 win in Week 16. The Rams have won back-to-back games against NFC heavyweights Seattle and Tampa Bay, which has inflated this line a bit– given the recent history between these teams, and the fact that San Francisco is getting healthier and coming off a bye, there’s no way the Rams should be spotting a touchdown here.