Sure, I could mention that last week’s Upset of the Week pick (Eagles over Redskins) might have been the worst decision since John McCain said, “OK that settles it, then. It’s Sarah Palin.” But on this holiday, I prefer to emphasize what I’m thankful for — a bull’s-eye on Jets’ upset at St. Louis, and Jaguars, Chargers and Steelers with the points. Give me 12-2 straight-up and 9-4-1 against the spread and I’ll say thanks every time. [Thanksgiving Day picks: Texans (-3) over Lions, 31-24; Redskins (+3 1/2) over Cowboys, 24-23; and Patriots (-6 1/2) over Jets, 27-17].
SEAHAWKS (6-4) at DOLPHINS (4-6)
Hope y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that this pick doesn’t exacerbate your indigestion. There are teams that are distinctly better at home than traveling, even beyond the norm, and Seattle (1-4 on the road) is one of them. Likewise the ’Hawks rookie QB, Russell Wilson, commensurately has been much better in the Space Needle’s comforting shadow. These are reasons to look hard at Miami as a home ’dog. Alas, there are not many others. Marshawn Lynch (four consecutive 100s) is one of the best runners Miami will face all season, and Seattle’s defense is that, too. I cannot think of many tougher opponents in terms of Ryan Tannehill trying to shake a personal funk and get his bandwagon rockin’ again. Tannehill (needing 91 yards) surely will break Dan Marino’s 1983 rookie record of 2,210 yards, but the phrase “pyrrhic victory” comes to mind. Seattle is coming off a bye and vitally in a playoff hunt in a way Miami is not. Also, ’Hawks are a sturdy 7-3 against the point spread. Sorry, Dolfans. Don’t take it personally. It’s just business.
49ERS (7-2-1) at SAINTS (5-5)
Game of the Week committee was mightily challenged with stout, competing Week 12 presentations by Packers-Giants and even Falcons-Bucs, but ultimately the panel was wooed by a great 49ers defense dueling a great (and hot) Saints offense. Panel also liked that it’s a rematch of last year’s playoff game won by San Fran, 36-32. Game stayed off bet boards because of Niners quarterback situation, with Colin Kaepernick likely to start as Alex Smith continues with concussion symptoms — and also with coach Jim Harbaugh inviting a QB controversy with his “hot hand” comments. But that isn’t why I like N’Awlins; Kaepernick is good. Like Cajuns because Frans are coming off a short week, and because Drew Brees at home — he has a 20-yard completion in 100 staright games, a record — is close to unstoppable.
PACKERS (7-3) at GIANTS (6-4)
“AAWWK!” carols the Upset Bird, thankful for another year not associated with the turkey breed. “Green Bay Paaawwwk!” Sunday prime-timer is a top-grade NFC matchup, with Aaron Rodgers’ Cheesers way hot and Eli Manning’s Biggies trying to shake off back-to-back losses and start acting like champs. Giants coming off a bye gives us pause, but still like Gee Bees to avenge last season’s playoff loss. Rodgers is 24-4 on TDs/picks in past seven games. I just trust that guy. “I too love Aaron Raawwk,” notes U-Bird, a turkey wishbone hanging ghoulishly from a neck chain. “Although I’m not sure how much of my admiration is dispassionate and how is due to him being on my fantasy taaawwwk!”
PANTHERS (2-8) at EAGLES (3-7)
As most know our Dog game is the lousiest matchup, having nothing to do with a betting ’dog, and we rarely look to Monday because that stage seems to dress every game in fancy clothes. But not this one. How are the poor MNF guys going to fake enthusiasm here!? All that compels watching is morbid curiosity. Carolina is bad. Philly, with six consecutive losses, may be worse. Fact: The Phillies have won a game since the Eagles have. Phils also are 1-8-1 against the spread; good thing there’s no spread because of QB matter. Looked as if rookie Nick Foles would go because of Mike Vick’s concussion. RB LeSean McCoy also seemed very iffy for Birds. There’s a phase for someone like me who nonetheless likes the homies here: Glutton for punishment.
Yet another off-the-boarder, this one on the status of Bears QB Jay Cutler. A concussion made him a legit-questionable to play, and, although Cutler isn’t having a great year, the drop-off to Jason Campbell is steep. That’s partly why I’m being a wimp and opting for Chitown here, against a gut feeling. Mark it down: Bears O-line is an omnishambles, and Vikes coming off a bye have an XXL upset shot.
I keep expecting Al Davis to come back from the dead just to complain about how bad the Raiders (still) are and maybe fire somebody. But at the same time I like Oakland — with ex-Bengal Carson Palmer making his first return to Cincy — getting this many points. Yeah, Oaks are 1-4 on the road. But Palmer has pitched for 1,094 yards in three wins, and this is the game he’s had circled all season.
Our latest off-board game should not have been because it was clear all week that old veteran Charlie Batch would sub for injured Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. That’s a steep falloff, even with Plaxico Burress back in the fold. Clevers have all the emotional incentive here in a series Pitt has dominated including a 10-1 run in Ohio. But stubborn me still likes a Steelers D that has not allowed an offensive TD in seven quarters.
Indy has started to build some home-field muscle (4-1), Andrew Luck is hardly playing like a rookie and so make this a venue call in what feels like a tossup game. Luck, with more passing yards through 10 games than any rookie ever, should keep it flying against a mediocre Buffs pass D. Nags also are precarious in the playoff hunt and simply must have a winnable home date like this one.
Well, cows WILL fly at some point. But not now. And the NFL equivalent of that mighty be a Chiefs upset here. Once-proud KC is 0-5 at Arrowhead. Denver has won five in a row. Chiefs have lost seven in a row. Peyton Manning will have his way. The Broncos’ defense should dominate. Are you beginning to sense a pattern here? Almost forgot to mention. Brady Quinn will start over Matt Cassel. Um, is that good thing?
This has a little Game of the Week feel and heft, a near pick-’em affair. Surging Bucs have scored 206 points in past six games, with Josh Freeman on a 16-3 TDs/picks roll during that span. Can easily see Tampa come crashing, but I’m-a keep the faith here and roll with a mild upset. Bucs are believing in themselves, and Doug Martin, the rookie you don’t hear enough about, could exploit a so-so Falcs run D.
Chad Henne. He’s baa-aa-aaack! Jax’s backup-turned-starter was a near-hero in last week’s OT thriller-loss to Houston. Jags spent so much emotion in that near-shocker that I can see them (and Henne) crashing here. I mean, they’re 0-5 at home, and Titans are coming off a bye. But I don’t care, I’m rolling the dice here. Blind squirrel finds an acorn! Jaguars win a home game! “Hen-ne! Hen-ne! Hen-nie!”
The phrase once bitten twice shy evidently does not apply to me. I seem to keep picking the Chargers, keep getting bitten, and then keep picking the Chargers. I figure Ravens coming off a big emotional grudge division win over Pittsburgh, then a long trip, and facing a QB (Philip Rivers) who has 955 yards in three career games against Crows. So it’s San Diego, then! (Oh lord will I never learn!?)
Here is our Dog game first-runner-up. Rams have not won on the road. Free-falling Cardbirds have lost six in a row. What more do you want? St. Louis won first meeting 17-3, now ’Zona has no running game and a rookie, Ryan Lindley, at QB. So naturally I see Cacti winning on big defense. It’s that kind of week, folks. I’m gonna come out of this looking like a genius or looking like a picked-clean turkey — nuthin’ but carcass.