NFL fans get a rare Thanksgiving Day treat today, with three competitive games on tap. Usually most Turkey Day games literally are turkeys; the business plan of the networks has appeared to have been that they figure that they have a captive audience that will watch whatever NFL game is on, so save the better games for the following Sunday. But this year San Francisco, Dallas and Detroit – all of whom finished with 6-10 records last year – have rebounded with winning seasons; they are a combined 22-8 and would all be in the postseason if the playoffs were to start today.
10-0 Packers at 7-3 Lions
Green Bay (-4.5 to -6.5); over/under from 55 to 56
I’ve been disappointed in the Lions recently; for a team supposedly renown for its defense, they give up a lot of points: 72 in the last two games, and twenty or more points seven times this season. Their running game, and offense as a whole had dropped off dramatically ever since Jahvid Best went out with a concussion six weeks ago but shockingly Kevin Smith came out of nowhere with a big game last week. I really liked Smith at UCF and in his rookie year in the NFL; for him to return after major knee problems two years later is a great story.
The Packers have had a relatively easy schedule this year; this should be a good test for them – especially for their defense. If they have trouble containing Tampa Bay, what will they do against Detroit? On offense though it looks like the only thing that can stop them is their own mistakes. I’m not as high on Green Bay as I was before Kevin Smith’s last game, but I still think they win this one with a much better performance today than they had last week.
3-7 Dolphins at 6-4 Cowboys
Miami (+8.5 to 6.5); over/under from 44.5 to 45.5
A few weeks ago Dallas was under achieving badly, Tony Romo was single handedly losing games, and he had major health issues with his ribs. Since then he has played very well, the Cowboys seem poised to win the NFC East, and DeMarco Murray has emerged as a very good running back. The Cowboys have surrendered an average of 128 rushing yards per game, so Reggie Bush could have a big game – which would set up some play action passes by Matt Moore, who has quietly improved over the last few games. Still, Dallas almost always seems to do well on Thanksgiving day games; I see them pulling away in the second half to win by a comfortable margin.
9-1 49ers at 7-3 Ravens
Baltimore (-5 to -3); over/under 38.5 to 40
For those that may think Ray Lewis is no longer important to Baltimore’s defense, consider this: without him in the lineup they allowed 24 points (which could easily have been more if not for a questionable non-catch) and 483 yards to Andy Dalton and the Bengals, hanging on with a goal-line stand in the final minute of play. I expect Lewis to play, but he may not be 100%. However, the Niners are banged up too: Frank Gore is playing on a short week with a banged up knee, and fullback Bruce Miller may not be able to go due to a concussion suffered last week. The 49ers really count on their running game, and these injuries could have a major effect today.
The last time these two met four years ago the final score was 9 to 7; I don’t think it will be that low today, but I’ll go with Baltimore at home, with a lot more confidence in the under.
49ers – Ravens under 40
Packers – Lions over 55
Dolphins – Cowboys under 45.5