NFL Predictions: Picking Each Thanksgiving Day Game Against the Spread

WesAnalyst INovember 23, 2011

NFL Predictions: Picking Each Thanksgiving Day Game Against the Spread

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    Detroit has their first meaningful Thanksgiving Day game since the Barry Sanders era, Miami and Dallas reunite for the Leon Lett Bowl and the San Francisco 49ers are relevant for the first time in nearly a decade.

    It's unusual to have this many great games, considering lowly Detroit has been on the schedule every year since 1934 and the NFL didn't have a third game until 2006, according to Covers.com.

    Dallas has typically provided the best football over the years and according to the same source, it has played in every game but two since 1966.

    Along with the picks, information about the TV schedule and the impact of the games on the playoffs is included.

    Each spread is listed at the top of the slides, while my selection is located at the bottom.

    These picks are such a lock that you can start counting your winnings along with your increasing waistline before the day unfolds.

TV Schedule

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    Boom.

    First you take the turkey, stuff that thing on up with a duck.

    Why a duck? Why not?

    And then get all your fixings, add some random legs to the turkey, sit down in a bus by yourself in a non-creepy way and shove all of it in your pie hole.

    Wait, did someone say pie? Stuff it in the turkey too.

    It seems like teams wear their throwback jerseys on Thanksgiving for a touch of nostalgia. Why can't the NFL Network bring John Madden back for the Thanksgiving Day game each year?

    Let him spew some nonsense about food, draw random lines on the telestrator and yell "Boom!" every other play. Oh, and he can talk about Brett Favre.

    You need it, I need it, we all need it.

    Besides, he's infinitely better than Bryant Gumbel, who apparently thinks Rick Romo is the Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

    Anyway, here's the schedule:

    Packers vs. Lions - 12:30 p.m. FOX.

    Dolphins vs. Cowboys - 4:15 CBS

    49ers vs. Ravens - 8:20 NFL Network

Packers (-6) vs. Lions

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    This could be the biggest game to hit Detroit since the Lions hosted the Packers in the 1993 playoffs.

    Strangely enough this might not be the biggest Thanksgiving Day game in Lions history.

    According to the Detroit Lions website, which has a ton of information about their Thanksgiving tradition, the franchise hosted a pair of undefeated, defending champions twice before.

    ESPN, and more notably, Chris Berman, can't stop cramming down the Lions confrontation against the Green Bay Packers in 1962. The network and its host want to point out the parallels between that game and this one.

    As they did in '62, the Packers go into Detroit as the defending champs with a perfect 10-0 mark.

    The Lions pulled off the upset in '62 and people seem to think the same will happen here because it makes a great story and we like to make things symmetrical.

    I get it.

    But what about the inaugural Thanksgiving Day game?

    The Lions hosted the Bears in 1934. Chicago was undefeated and the defending world champion.

    The Bears went on to win 19-16 and eventually finished the season 13-0.  

    Those are two of the 35 losses suffered by the Lions on Thanksgiving. Overall the Lions are 33-35-2. They have played Green Bay 19 times, the most of any opponent, and they hold an 11-7-2 advantage against their division rival.

    With so much history and so much on the line I have to think the home team will come out with extra energy and deliver their best punch.

    The scary part about the Lions right now is their best punch comes via the passing game. And the Packers' biggest weakness comes in their secondary.

    I know the Packers are starting to play better and they are making up for the loss of Nick Collins, but they are still prone to giving up big plays against the pass.

    The best way for Green Bay to combat Detroit's passing game is to make Matthew Stafford consistently make plays. Stafford has been a turnover machine of late and is battling a broken right index finger.

    I expect Jim Schwartz to recognize his quarterback's inconsistent play and lean on a running game which was bolstered last week by Kevin Smith.

    If Stafford can put the Packers on their heels early and gets enough help from his running game, I feel comfortable thinking the Lions cover the number.

    Pick: Lions +6

Dolphins (+7) vs. Cowboys

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    Since this slideshow is about betting, I'd like to put a nice prop bet out there.

    The number of times Leon Lett's boneheaded play is shown during the game: Over/Under 1.5.

    How strange was the play? Well, it snowed in Dallas on Thanksgiving and yet this one play is even more unbelievable.

    Back in 1993 the Cowboys led the Dolphins 14-13 with :15 remaining in the game. Pete Stoyanovich trotted out for a 40-yard field goal attempt.

    Mind you, the following is seen from an Eagles fan's perspective.

    Dallas blocked the friggin' kick and Jerry stinkin' Jones is celebrating on the sidelines. Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin look they just finished a make-out sesh and I'm throwing up my turkey.

    Thanksgiving suddenly turned into one of my least favorite holidays.

    And then it happened.

    Leon Lett, a man not small by any measures, raced down the field and touched the dead ball. Miami recovered the ball in the end zone for what I thought was a touchdown.

    It was actually better than a touchdown. Miami was given another attempt at a field goal and they made it.

    If it were a touchdown, the game would have simply ended. But a field goal attempt allowed Dallas fans to think there was a chance Stoyanovich would miss the kick. It let their hopes get up just a little bit before being crushed.

    P.S. Was Don Shula wearing Blue Blockers?

    Yes, another history lesson before we get to the game. Sorry, it's just too hard to ignore.

    This time around the Dolphins come into Jerry World having won three straight. Those wins came against the Chiefs, Redskins and Bills.

    Dallas is also riding a three-game winning streak. They knocked off the Seahawks, Bills and Redskins.

    I'm not impressed with either winning streak.

    This game comes down to the Dolphins' ability to run the ball. If Dallas can shutdown Reggie Bush and force Matt Moore to make plays, I feel like Dallas rolls in this game.

    Dallas ranks 11th in the NFL, allowing 101.4 rushing yards per game and has proven an ability to shutdown several teams this year.

    I know Miami is ranked seventh against the run, but I believe in Romo's ability to make more plays than Moore.

    Pick: Dallas -7

49ers (+3) vs. Ravens

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    Jim Harbaugh, coach of the 49ers, is already laying the foundation for strong house of excuses following San Fran losing Thanksgiving night.

    He's whining about the 49ers being the first team to travel three time zones to play a Thursday game and has pointed out how tough this situation is for his team.

    Aren't the 49ers supposed to be a tough team? Since when do tough teams cry before the game is even played?

    I don't know why the 49ers waste their time flying out to Baltimore. Stay at home and allow your fans to think this is a Super Bowl-caliber team. Don't show the nation how poorly this team will handle the adversity of this matchup.

    Baltimore has faced better teams on bigger stages and won. To think San Fran is too much to handle is absurd.

    Yes, I know Baltimore lost to Seattle, Tennessee and Jacksonville.

    Look at the dynamics of each game though. The situations surrounding those games were too tough for Baltimore to overcome. And if a team of this caliber struggles with certain situations, what makes anyone think the Niners are ready for a difficult spot?

    I don't believe in Alex Smith. I don't know if Frank Gore can walk away healthy. And I don't know if the 49ers, who are 23rd in the league against the pass, can slow down a Baltimore passing game that has plenty of weapons to give any team problems, let alone one that ranks in the bottom half of the league.

    Call me overconfident, cocky, idiotic, out-of-touch or anything else, but when the Ravens beat the 49ers and cover this number with ease please make sure you come back and tell me I'm right.

    Oh, and it's adorable that Jim and John are brothers.

    Pick: Ravens -3

Playoff Implications

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    The NFC Wild Card picture is going to go through quite a shakeup with a Lions loss and the Bears heading out to Oakland without Jay Cutler.

    Detroit needs to win this game, otherwise they are going to struggle to make the playoffs thanks to a brutal schedule. For the record, I think they lose despite covering the number.

    As tough as Detroit's schedule is, that's how easy things are for Dallas right now. They could put a stranglehold on the NFC East with a win here and the Giants losing to the Saints and the Eagles losing to the Patriots.

    Speaking of easy schedules, Baltimore has a great chance to run the table with the Browns, Colts, Chargers and Bengals on the schedule. A win against the 49ers gives them a shot at claiming home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

    And then there's the 49ers.

    The collapse is on folks. They still have the Steelers on the schedule and will lay an egg in a divisional game. Every team in the NFL does it. The Saints did it against the Rams and the Pats did it against the Bills.

    Don't think the 49ers are above a letdown.