MUST WATCH GAMES
Bears at Lions/Eagles at Cowboys/Seahawks at 49ers
The NFL lucked out this season with their Thanksgiving games. In previous seasons the Lions' game was an unfavorable matchup because the Lions were so terrible and there were talks of discontinuing the traditional Lions game.
On Sunday the Lions looked listless against the Patriots while the Bears behind running back Matt Forte's 112 total yards and two touchdown runs improved the team's dimming playoff chances.
25 years ago was the infamous Bounty Bowl between the Cowboys and Eagles. In 1989 the Cowboys were in the middle of a 1-15 season while the Eagles were a playoff contender. Then-Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson accused the Eagles of placing a bounty on then rookie quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas who was an Eagles kicker earlier in the season.
In the postgame news conference after the Eagles 27-0 win over the Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson said he confronted then Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.
This season the Eagles and Cowboys are fighting for first place in the NFC East. Last season Eagles running back LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing. This season it is Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leading the league in rushing.
The Eagles easily handled the Titans while the Cowboys had to claw their way to a victory over the Giants on Sunday Night.
The Cowboys and Eagles play each other again 17 days after Thanksgiving when they meet in Philadelphia for the Week 14 Sunday Night game. Both these games are expected to determine who wins the NFC East.
The last game on Thanksgiving Day is a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and 49ers. Like the Cowboys and Eagles, they will meet again not on some sunny day, but probably in the cloudy Pacific Northwest in the Week 14 late doubleheader window on Fox.
Similar to the Cowboys and Eagles, these games will have an impact on the overall playoff picture. Right now Seattle has the tie breaker edge over San Francisco by virtue of better divisional record with their 19-3 win over division leader Arizona on Sunday.
Saints at Steelers
The NFC South is a dumpster fire. Three teams are still in the chase for the division title which will likely be the only team from that division to represent in the playoffs. As of this writing, the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers all have records below .500 and like the 2010 Seahawks could enter the playoffs with a below .500 record.
The Steelers are currently half a game behind division leading Cincinnati and hold the top wild card spot in the AFC North. Every team in the AFC North has a better record than NFC South leader Atlanta. It is likely that every team in the AFC North could finish above .500 and at least three would miss the playoffs.
As a matter of fact, there is the probable outcome that a 10-plus win team will miss the playoffs while the NFC South champion will end up with 10-plus losses in this scenario as described by Pro Football Talk.
Washington at Colts
Andrew Luck was drafted first overall in the 2012 NFL draft while Washington moved up to the second overall pick to draft Robert Griffin III.
Luck and Griffin saw early success by leading their respective teams to the playoffs. However Luck has avoided injury while Griffin suffered a knee injury in the 2012 playoffs followed by other injuries and poor team play.
Under Luck the Colts have seen regular playoff appearances while Griffin has seen his playmaking ability and durability under scrutiny. Griffin when healthy and with the right play calling scheme is a good quarterback.
It is now being reported that Colt McCoy is getting the start over Robert Griffin. As ESPN reported it is too early to declare the Griffin era over citing that Washington is 3-8 and they may be looking at talent evaluation since their playoff chances are not looking good. Adam Schefter cites that the team in the long term will have a first round draft choice in 2015 and cap space so that they build a team around his skill set.
Browns at Bills
At the start of the season, this game was viewed as a throwaway. By the time these two teams meet in Buffalo in November both teams will be 2-9, eliminated from playoff contention, and will be battling for draft position.
That is not the case.
Oh… and speaking of draft position, the Browns defeating the Bills does help improve their draft position. Right now the Browns have the x pick in the draft while the Bills would have the y pick in the draft.
Have you looked at the first round though?
Cleveland holds two first-round picks right now. They are projected to select 20th and 14th where Buffalo was originally slotted.
So if Cleveland defeats the Bills, it would improve their draft status.
The Bills had to play their home game in Detroit after a severe snowstorm dumped 6 feet of snow on Buffalo. For a reference I am 5 foot, 8 inches per my Colorado driver's license. Officials are confident that the snow will be cleared out well in time for Sunday's game. The weather forecast calls for a high of 51 with a 50% chance of rain.
Patriots at Packers
Both quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl.
Both quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl MVP.
Both quarterbacks are on teams that are division leaders.
Both quarterbacks wear the number 12.
This is these quarterbacks' first meeting and it is taking place at historic Lambeau Field.
Expect points on the scoreboard. Fantasy owners should be elated as well and could determine who makes the playoffs or consolation bracket in some leagues.
Broncos at Chiefs
First place is on the line in the AFC West in this game. The Chiefs did themselves no favors with losing at Oakland last Thursday.
And speaking of no favors… One of my two losses: picking the Chiefs over the Raiders. Last time I listen to Gambletron 2000. He said Kansas City would win by 300 points!!
The Broncos returned to their winning ways with a 39-36 win over the Dolphins. Denver might have found themselves a new running back in C.J. Anderson rushing for 167 yards and one touchdown.
While Denver needs the win to keep pace with the Patriots in the race for homefield and stave off the Bengals in the race for the bye week, Kansas City is running out of opportunities for wins. The Chiefs final five games include home against Denver, followed by at Arizona, and hosting the Raiders, Steelers, and Chargers in their final three games.
Denver can start to put the AFC West away with a victory over the Chiefs at Kansas City. Three of their final four games are against teams in playoff contention: home against Buffalo, at San Diego, and at Cincinnati where a win can provide space in determining who gets the bye week. Denver closes out at home against the Raiders.
And now the picks.
Kickoff times are mountain time, games airing in Denver are noted by (DEN), and picks are in BOLD.
Bears at Lions, CBS 10:30 AM (MT)
Eagles at Cowboys, Fox 2:30 PM (MT)
Seahawks at 49ers, NBC 6:30 PM (MT)
Chargers at Ravens (DEN)
Bengals at Buccaneers
Browns at Bills
Raiders at Rams
Titans at Texans
Saints at Steelers (DEN)
Giants at Jaguars
Panthers at Vikings
Washington at Colts
Patriots at Packers
Cardinals at Falcons
SUNDAY NIGHT, NBC 6:15 PM
Broncos at Chiefs
MONDAY NIGHT, ESPN 6:15 PM
Dolphins at Jets