The end of bye weeks and arrival of Thanksgiving always signals the unofficial start of the stretch run to an NFL season, the time when playoff permutations loom into view. That all begins with Week 12 and the 10th season of Bird Day tripleheaders. At my house, the timeline of football coincides perfectly with our holiday. The early game finds the bird roasting in the oven. The middle game finds us seated and saying grace. And the late game finds me dozing from an overdose of turkey-induced Tryptophan and Miller Lite.
EAGLES (4-6) AT LIONS (3-7)
Cote’s pick: DET 27-23.
TV: 12:30 p.m., Fox (airing in South Florida).
Detroit, a Thanksgiving Day fixture since 1934, hosts its 76th game, while Philly brings a 6-0 record into its seventh Bird Day. The Eagles could not have looked worse in making the Bucs look great last week, while the once-moribund Lions have found a pulse with two wins in a row. The question here: Whom do I mistrust slightly less? Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford? (It’s looking like Sanchez again, although the possibility Sam Bradford could return is a wild card here.) A low-confidence pick, but make it a venue call.
PANTHERS (10-0) AT COWBOYS (3-7)
Cote’s pick: DAL 24-20.
TV: 4:30 p.m., CBS (airing in South Florida).
Dallas joined the holiday tradition in 1966 and hosts its 48th Thanksgiving game, while unbeaten Carolina competes in its first as only the second team ever to play on the holiday at 10-0 or better, along with the 2011 Packers. I’ve been guilty of underestimating the Panthers at times this year but still see them ripe for a first loss to a Dallas team that’s home and revitalized by the return of Tony Romo. Dallas has won nine in a row over the Cats, Romo is 6-2 on Thanksgiving, and Greg Hardy will lead ’Boys in a big defensive showing vs. his former team.
BEARS (4-6) AT PACKERS (7-3)
Line: GB by 8 1/2.
Cote’s pick: GB 31-17.
TV: 8:30 p.m., NBC (airing in South Florida).
These old division rivals are Thanksgiving regulars, too, with Green Bay playing in its 36th holiday game — though hosting for the first time since 1923 — and Chicago playing in its 34th. I don’t give the Bears much chance here (famous last words) as Green Bay enjoys the added emotional charge of Brett Favre’s No. 4 being retired in halftime ceremony. The quarterback who is even better than Favre, if not quite yet the same Lambeau legend, Aaron Rodgers, has won 10 of past 11 meetings with Chitown.