Greg Cote

NFL Thanksgiving Day picks: A football banquet of three games, one notable upset

Saints QB Drew Brees record-setting year isn’t over yet

Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the all-time NFL passing leader in 2018 to add to his many NFL records. Now he is going for his second Super Bowl.
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Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the all-time NFL passing leader in 2018 to add to his many NFL records. Now he is going for his second Super Bowl.


The very first NFL game on Thanksgiving happened in 1925 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. (I was a cub reporter. I recall it being cold that day). Now, more than nine decades later, this marks the 13th consecutive year the NFL has given you three games on the holiday. Your appetizer, main meal and dessert are now served:

BEARS (7-3) at LIONS (4-6)

Line: CHI by 4.

Cote’s pick: DET 24-21.

TV: 12:30 p.m., CBS.

Appetizer: The early game is Detroit’s 79th Bird Day host job since 1934. This gets your holiday party started, and this feels like an upset. Yes, Bears are the better all-round team and beat Lions at The Soldier 34-22 just two weeks ago. We get that. But! Chitown QB Mitch Trubisky (shoulder) is legit-iffy to play on the short week, with a big drop-off to Chase Daniel in the on-deck circle. And Motown has won five consecutive home games in this division rivalry, while Lions have dropped four of past five after winning the previous week. Oh, and this: Chicago is going from Sunday Night Football to an early Thursday game, the shortest possible NFL turnaround. That and the home field mean an upset in the oven for starters.

REDSKINS (6-4) at COWBOYS (5-5)

Line: DAL by 7 1/2.

Cote’s pick: DAL 23-13.

TV: 4:30 p.m., Fox.

Main meal: Middle game sees Cowboys hosting for the 51st time on the holiday since their first in 1966. Washington got by its division rival 20-17 in October, but now the Skins are without QB Alex Smith following his gruesome, season-ending leg injury Sunday. That means Colt McCoy, who is 7-18 in his career as a starter and last took the first snap in 2014. Two stout defenses here, but Dallas will limit McCoy more than Washington’s does to Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. I would have liked the Cowmen at home even if Smith hadn’t been injured (though perhaps into to cover). Teams have met eight previous times on Turkey Day, with Dallas 7-1. Jerry’s Boys also have won nine of past 10 home games when favored by this many points.

FALCONS (4-6) at SAINTS (9-1)

Line: NO by 13.

Cote’s pick: NO 48-20.

TV: 8:20 p.m., NBC.

Dessert: You’re full of football as the triple-header nightcap and these teams’ 100th all-time meeting nears. After a long day of eating and drinking, tryptophan has kicked in and Old Granddad is passed out in the den. But who can resist this yummy slice of homemade pointfest pie!? The over/under here is only four points shy of what is was Monday for the Chiefs-Rams game that gave us 105 points. It was 43-37, N’Awlins, when these rivals met in September, and the idea of the Saints hitting 50 here is not far-fetched. Atlanta’s defense has been helpless lately especially against opponents’ running backs and, well, we’d like you to meet Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Some guys named Drew Brees, too. Won’t be a happy Bird Day for the Dirty Birds.