It's Thanksgiving week, ladies and gentlemen, and that means a Thursday full of football. We bounced back from a bad week last week. . .sort of. . .going 8-5 straight-up but only going 6-7 against the number. That means we're still underwater against the spread for the season, but not so far that we can't get ourselves back to the surface this week. So, let's get to it, shall we?
Game of the Week - San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
Home field is usually worth three points, so Vegas is saying that this one is pretty much a toss-up. The Niners are one of the best stories of the season thus far, and are 4-0 on the road this season. The maddeningly inconsistent Ravens are undefeated at home this season, and are a much better team in Baltimore than they are on the road. This should be a defensive battle, as the Niners come into this one allowing the fewest points in the league, while the Ravens are the third-best scoring defense in the NFL. Something is going to have to give in this one, and I'm finding it hard to bet against Jim Harbaugh these days. Give me the Niners in a mild upset in a game that only about 20% of America is going to be able to see (thank you, NFL Network).
Straight-Up - Niners, ATS - Niners
Lock of the Week - Houston Texans (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes, if I were doing Vikings games, their game with the Atlanta Falcons would go in this slot, but I'm not. We're going with this match-up instead. Is there any team more snake-bitten this year than the Houston Texans? Seriously, they start out with no Arian Foster, they've played the last few games without Andre Johnson, and now they'll be without Matt Schaub for the rest of the season. It's a good thing that the Texans are the second-best defense in the National Football League, or else they could be in some serious trouble. As it stands now, however, even the Matt Leinart-led Texans should have enough to get by the Jaguars.
Straight-Up - Texans, ATS - Texans
Upset of the Week - Green Bay Packers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions
Yep, just like every other expert in America, I'm calling this one. The Lions are the best team that Green Bay has faced thus far and, for the first time in a long time, the house in Detroit is going to be rocking on Thanksgiving afternoon rather than sounding like a funeral home. This one is probably going to turn into a track meet, and if there's a team equipped to get into a shootout with the Packers, it's the Lions.
Straight-Up - Lions, ATS - Lions
The Rest Of The Week
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5)
The Dolphins have really come alive lately, reeling off three consecutive wins after an 0-7 start and playing themselves out of a spot in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Cowboys are riding a three-game winning streak of their own after squeaking out a 27-24 overtime victory last week in Washington. For as inconsistent as Tony Romo generally is, he's somehow managed to compile a record of 18-2 as the Cowboys' starter in the month of November. Jerryworld is a tough place for opposing teams to play, and I don't see it being any different for the Dolphins. There won't be any Leon Lett to save them this time around, but I think that Miami might be able to keep this one within a touchdown.
Straight-Up - Cowboys, ATS - Dolphins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans (-3)
This one is kind of tough to get a feel for, because we don't know who's going to be starting for the Titans at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck is expected to go if his elbow injury allows him to, but if it can't, Tennessee will have to turn to rookie Jake Locker to make his first NFL start. The Buccaneers gave Green Bay all they could handle last weekend, but came up just short. For now, I'm going to make the assumption that Hasselbeck gets the start, and if he does, I think he can get the Titans a victory to keep their slim hopes of winning the AFC South alive.
Straight-Up - Titans, ATS - Titans
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (no line)
We'll have more on this one once a line gets established. Check back for updates, folks.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-9)
A few weeks ago, this had the potential to be an outstanding match-up. Now, it's a game between two teams that are fighting just to stay relevant to the 2011 NFL season. The Jets have gone from having a shot at winning the AFC East to fighting for their playoff lives. The Bills got off to a nice start to the year but have lost their last three games by a combined score of 106-26. Buffalo is fading fast here, folks, and in what amounts to an elimination game for the AFC playoff chase, I can't see them going into the new Meadowlands and magically turning things around against the Jets. Not even Mark Sanchez can blow this one. . .I don't think he can, anyway.
Straight-Up - Jets, ATS - Jets
Carolina Panthers (-3.5) at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts had their best chance of the year to win when they hosted Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago, and took the field looking like they weren't the least bit interested in even playing, let alone winning. The Panthers may come into this one at 2-8, but they do have a pretty good offense, and they should get a chance to put it on display at Lucas Oil Stadium as they send the Colts another step closer to 0-16 infamy.
Straight-Up - Panthers, ATS - Panthers
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5)
The Bengals have dropped consecutive games to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but had opportunities to win both of those games at the end. Andy Dalton is hoping that A.J. Green can make his return to the lineup this week, but even without the promising rookie wide receiver, the Bengals should have enough to get a victory at home over a Browns team that really isn't that good, keeping the AFC North one of the most interesting divisional races in the NFL.
Straight-Up - Bengals, ATS - Bengals
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5)
The Seahawks have somehow managed to claw their way to within striking distance of .500. Sure, they're not going to catch San Francisco and there's absolutely no chance that they're making the post-season, but at least they're trying, which is more than you can say for some teams. The Redskins haven't won since October 2 when they beat the St. Louis, and now they have to fly out to the West Coast and deal with the 12th Man in Seattle. Not exactly a recipe for a victory. The Seahawks take another step towards respectability in this one.
Straight-Up - Seahawks, ATS - Seahawks
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders (-5)
Tough time for the Bears to lose Jay Cutler. . .not that there's ever a good time to lose your starting quarterback, per se, but sitting at 7-3 and staring at a run to the post-season is not the time you want to be plugging Caleb Hanie into the lineup. The Raiders are currently on top of the wild, wild AFC West, and with Carson Palmer finally getting comfortable in the Oakland offense, they have a real opportunity to take control of things with a win here. This was going to be a tough one for the Bears with win with Cutler behind center. . .with Hanie making his first NFL start, I don't think I like their chances.
Straight-Up - Raiders, ATS: Raiders
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (-7.5)
I'm done trying to figure out Tim Tebow. Guy wouldn't hit water if he fell off of a cruise ship, but he's 4-1 since taking over as the starter in Denver. I'm also not going to try to figure out why this current Chargers team is favored by more than a touchdown against anybody, since Philip Rivers seems to have developed an acute case of color-blindness over the course of the 2011 season. If it wasn't for Packers/Lions (see above), this would have been my Upset of the Week, even though I don't think it's an upset to anyone outside of Vegas.
Straight-Up - Broncos, ATS - Broncos
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles (no line)
We'll have more on this one once a line gets established. Check back for updates, folks.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-11.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
So. . .decided to keep this one in the ol' flex spot, did we? Nice call, NBC.
Straight-Up - Steelers, ATS - Steelers
New York Giants at New Orleans Saints (-7.5)
The murderer's row of scheduling for the G-Men continues as they head down to the Big Easy to take on the Saints. New Orleans is going to need this one to stay on top of the NFC South with the Falcons getting a bye this week ("getting a bye week" being the new term for "hosting Minnesota"), and the Giants need this one to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East. With the NFC North being as strong as it is, both of these teams will likely need to win their divisions to get into the playoffs. The Saints should be able to take care of business in this one, but I don't think it will be easy.
Straight-Up - Saints, ATS - Giants
Straight-Up For Season: 91-57 (8-5 last week)
ATS For Season: 70-72-6 (6-7 last week)
Lock of the Week: 5-5
Upset of the Week: 4-6