Greg Cote’s Thursday NFL picks

PACKERS (5-5-1) at LIONS (6-5)

Line: DET by 6.

Cote’s pick: DET 28-24.

TV: 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Fox.

NFL Week 13 kicks off with the eighth season of Thanksgiving Day triple-headers, and traditional host Detroit leads the holiday parade with its 74th Bird Day game. It's an NFC North duel that underlines the value of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, reflected in his continued absence. Packers have withered on the playoff vine without him; he'll return soon, but for now it's expected to be Matt Flynn. That's why a series dominated by the Gee Bees — who have beaten Motown five in a row and 15 of the past 16 — finds Lions favored. Watch Pack play it closer than the line, though. Cheesers' D dominated DET in October, and Lions have lost nine Thanksgiving games in a row. [Cote Thanksgiving Timeline: At 12:30, the turkey will be in the oven and heating to a mid-afternoon feast, and Greg Cote, his kitchen up to speed, will pay homage to the holiday by reacquainting with a dear old friend, Jim Beam.]

RAIDERS (4-7) at COWBOYS (6-5)

Line: DAL by 91/2.

Cote’s pick: DAL 27-19.

TV: 4:30 p.m. Thursday, CBS.

Dallas hosts its 46th Thanksgiving Day game, a meeting of once-proud franchises trying to recover old glories. Tony Romo is 5-1 on Bird Day, Dez Bryant had 145 catch yards a year ago on this holiday, and both should put up big numbers again on a shaky Oaks pass defense. Raiders are a bad road team, and Cows have averaged 34.6 points this year in going 4-1 at home. Despite that, I'd hunch Oakland getting almost double digits to keep it reasonably close. [Cote Thanksgiving Timeline: At 4:30, my clan will be hunkered down at the table or perhaps just finished. I'll try to avoid a repeat of last year's overeating, when I nicked myself with a sharp knife and what came out was not blood, but gravy.]

STEELERS (5-6) at RAVENS (5-6)

Line: BAL by 3.

Cote’s pick: PIT 21-17.

TV: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, NBC.

Pittsburgh has won past two meetings in this rivalry, including 19-16 Oct. 20, and also three of past five trips to Maryland. Ravens are a strong home team (18-3 run), but Steelers are hot and have the defense to limit a Crows attack that ranks 31st in NFL averaging only 4.54 yards per play. These teams always play it close — eight of past nine meetings have been decided by exactly three points — and I'll take Big Ben Roethlisberger over Joe Flacco, thanks. [Cote Thanksgiving Timeline: At 8:30, myself and my guests will have been rendered zombie-like by an overdose of torpor-inducing tryptophan and libation, but can expect a second wind in time for more pie. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!]

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