Aah, Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday for myriad reasons. Family, the food, the standard four-day weekend (at least for those of us who don’t work in retail, much respect to those who do), and, of course, the football. Yes, I admit, it’s somewhat hypocritical for me to enjoy Thursday games this much when I generally deride them for quality of play and player safety reasons, but this is a holiday. If there’s time to make an exception, this is it.
So many of my Thanksgiving memories are rooted in football memories. Dave Williams returning the overtime kickoff for a touchdown to beat Detroit the year we spent Thanksgiving at my uncle’s house (1980). Leon Lett costing the Cowboys a win in the Dallas snow in 1993, the year we spent Thanksgiving partying at our friend’s apartment during a Minnesota blizzard. Ndamukong Suh stomping on Evan Dietrich-Smith’s hand in 2011 while at my sister-in-law’s. All good times, made better by some memorable football. I hope you and yours can enjoy those same kinds of happy memories, with a side of exciting football.
(Standard disclaimer – All opinions are my own and may or may not reflect those of this website. “Analytic Lines” are ELO point spreads from fivethirtyeight.com, and “Vegas Lines” are courtesy of thelines.com, current as of the writing of this article. Predicted Line (“PL”) is my early week estimate of where the Vegas line would be set. Chosen games are those with a multiple point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines.)
The slump is real. I need a bye week as badly as the Packers do. Wait, what? I don’t get a bye week? Right. Rolling on, nose to the grindstone-style. A horrific, winless Week 10 showing for me, ELO wasn’t much better at 2-5. Time to take the medicine…
Game of the Week – Cincinnati at Las Vegas: Looks like the emotion of the Henry Ruggs tragedy has taken its toll on the Raiders, as they’ve laid three straight eggs since.
New England at Atlanta: Credit to the Pat’s D, but that Atlanta offensive showing made me yearn for the glory days of the single wing. Yikes. I thought Arthur Smith was an offensive guru?
Detroit at Cleveland: Turns out the only thing more Cleveland than blowing out a bad team the week after getting run out of the building by an actual good team is barely beating a winless team starting a never-used backup QB the week after getting run out of the building by an actual good team. My bad on that one.
Houston at Tennessee: I saw the letdown look-ahead coming and ignored it. No excuses.
Baltimore at Chicago: In fairness, I will claim an excuse in this one. Had I known Lamar Jackson’s mystery illness would keep him out, I would have gone the other way. ELO must have sensed it, I guess.
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Chargers: ELO’s other correct call. Big Ben didn’t appear to be as affected by COVID as I thought, and the Chargers could only cover 4 of the 5.5 spread.
Upset of the Week – New York Giants at Tampa Bay: Is it insulting to Tampa that they were the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Giants to fire Jason Garrett? I kind of feel like it is.
Last week: My picks, 0-7; Analytics, 2-5
Season: My picks, 32-41-1; Analytics, 39-34-1
Eleven opportunities to redeem ourselves this week. It’s Wednesday, and I’ve got last-minute shopping to do, so let’s go rapid-fire through them. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Game of the Week
Buffalo at New Orleans – Analytic Line: NO (+1.5), Vegas Line: NO (+5), PL: NO (+3.5)
This line is all over the place, ranging from 5 to 6.5 for Buffalo. ELO leans toward the Saints, but I think this is a terrible matchup for them. The Saints are really good at stopping the run, the Bills couldn’t care less about running the ball. Kamara’s hurt, and Trevor Semien has turned into the overripe, leftover Halloween pumpkin we all knew he was.
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis – Analytic Line: INDY (-1), Vegas Line: INDY (+3), PL: INDY (+2.5)
Make It A Parlay
Indy’s hot streak is all about Jonathan Taylor, but you still can’t run on Tampa, and the fact that Carson Wentz hasn’t made a bone-headed game costing play for three weeks only means he’s overdue. The Buc’s season-ending hot streak started Monday Night.
New York Jets at Houston – Analytic Line: HOU (-4.5), Vegas Line: HOU (-2.5), PL: HOU (-3)
I can’t trust the Jets on the road.
Philadelphia at New York Giants – Analytic Line: NYG (+1.5), Vegas Line: NYG (+3.5), PL: NYG (+2.5)
The chance that the Giants are invigorated by the Jason Garrett firing is mitigated by the short week to prepare for the Eagles, who have found their groove since Nick Sirianni decided to play to their strength (running the ball behind a really good offensive line to set up play-action for Jalen Hurts). Who would’ve thunk? (Narrator: In fact, everybody thunk.)
Carolina at Miami – Analytic Line: MIA (-2), Vegas Line: MIA (+1.5), PL: MIA (-2.5)
Don’t look now, but Tua’s playing pretty well. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Even if giving up a king’s ransom of draft picks for a player facing numerous outstanding legal allegations would have been remarkably stupid.
Tennessee at New England – Analytic Line: NE (-3.5), Vegas Line: NE (-6.5), PL: NE (-2.5)
The archetypal “Don’t put too much stock in last week” game.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati – Analytic Line: CIN (-3), Vegas Line: CIN (-4.5), PL: CIN (-3)
There was a reason it was shocking when Cincinnati won at Pittsburgh. I like the Steelers to restore some of the natural order of things.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver – Analytic Line: DEN (+.5), Vegas Line: DEN (+2.5), PL: DEN (+3.5)
Denver’s coming off the bye, and LA played a tough Sunday Night game last week. I’ll take the Broncos to keep it close in the altitude of Mile High.
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay – Analytic Line: GB (-4), Vegas Line: GB (-1), PL: GB (-1.5)
Competing fundamentals alert! Rest (Green Bay is beat up and limping into their bye, while the Rams are coming off theirs) vs. Home Field (A California dome team playing outdoors in near-freezing game-time temperatures). This may be my clearly unbiased heart talking, but I think the Packers gut one out at home.
Cleveland at Baltimore – Analytic Line: BAL (-5), Vegas Line: BAL (-3.5), PL: BAL (-5.5)
I’d lay a FG with Chet Huntley starting at QB for the Ravens against Two-Injured-Shoulders Mayfield and the Browns. So even if Lamar’s mystery illness keeps him out again, and it’s Tyler Huntley, I’d still take him to cover the FG-and-a-hook.
Upset of the Week
Chicago at Detroit – Analytic Line: DET (+5), Vegas Line: DET (+3), PL: DET (+3)
C’mon. There’s no way this isn’t the “Thanksgiving Miracle” that gets the Lions their first win. It’s Andy Dalton on the road. It’s a Thanksgiving memory waiting to happen! 100% betting with my heart on this one. I will be absolutely devastated if this doesn’t happen. I mean, not “Ruin Thanksgiving-level” devastated, but at least kinda bummed out.