If I had to choose, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of them all. Any day that is centered around spending time with family, eating delicious foods and watching football wins in my book. This year, all three Thanksgiving games have huge playoff implications. The results of this weekend have a very good chance of completely shaking up the current NFC playoff picture. As football fans, we have a lot to be thankful for this year.
Bears 17 Lions (-7.5) 26: Speaking of family, this game is the one that holds the most relevance amongst mine. I’ve mentioned if before, but that has to do with my dad being a Lions fan. On most years, the entire mood of the day is shot by around 1:45 or halftime, whichever comes first due to the Lions level of play. Now we’re on our second year in a row where the Lions are playing in a game relevant to their playoff hopes. In my lifetime, this may be a new record.
If recent weeks are any indication, fans are extremely worried about the “Same Old Lions” routine falling perfectly into place. Heck, when they were 7-2 my dad called they would go 10-6 and miss the playoffs. Since then, the Lions in two games have scored a grand total of 15 points. On the topic of family, with their recent play Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi should sure be thankful for his lineage.
Due to the Lions stellar defensive play, Lombardi having this team score less than 20 points a game was going under the radar. Well, that’s no longer the case after two straight losses. I don’t care if you’re playing the ’85 Bears and 2000 Ravens in back to back weeks. Even with a banged up offensive line, a team with a competent quarterback in Matthew Stafford throwing to a once a decade receiver (Calvin Johnson) and Golden Tate should put up points. That doesn’t even mention my dad’s personal favorite, “matchup nightmare” Eric Ebron.
When you’ve been rooting for the Lions as long as my dad has, there are some things you just know are inevitable. That’s why the moment he saw Ebron declared for the draft he knew the Lions would take him. Why is that you may ask? Because it was the least logical move for them to make. If you’re picking in the top ten, there are various holes that need to be filled on your team. Instead of addressing possible issues in the secondary or offensive line, the Lions went with a luxury pick. Yes, the Lions definition of “luxury” is selecting a tight end whose scouting reports out of college said that he doesn’t block and has inconsistent hands. Heck, if you were going to draft someone to be your third receiver, the Lions should have just selected Odell Beckham Jr. who if you didn’t notice is pretty darn good.
Tight end is one of the toughest transitions from college to pro, so the verdict on Ebron can’t be reached yet. Regardless of if he pans out, at least I’ll always have my dad’s quote regarding the selection: “the moment I heard the first syllable (of his name) I wanted to throw a brick through the TV”. Unfortunately, those bricks are what Ebron currently calls hands.
Despite everything I just said, I’m picking the Lions in this one. If they lose this game, their season is essentially over. They’re not catching the Packers in the division, and more experienced teams are starting to hit their stride. The Bears defense is in shambles due to injury, so the Lions offense should have its opportunities in this one.
Eagles 23 Cowboys (-3.5) 27: All that’s at stake in this one is first place in the NFC East in what figures to be a shootout. The Eagles bounced back on Sunday against the Titans and they’re certainly hoping that’s the LeSean McCoy who will be around the rest of the season. Minus his game against the Packers, Mark Sanchez has done an adequate job in place of Nick Foles. Sanchez has formed a nice rapport with rookie Jordan Matthews which should continue in this one. Jeremy Maclin hasn’t been used as heavily without Foles, but he is still the primary threat in the Eagles passing game.
The effectiveness of DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys rushing attack should be the difference in this one. With the Eagles running such an up tempo attack, the Cowboys have the chance to limit their opportunities by relying on Murray. Murray’s performance and the offensive line play has also allowed for Tony Romo to be extremely efficient this season. Romo’s numbers are modest compared to years past, but his turnovers are down and the Cowboys are winning games. Romo will still be throwing it often in this one as the Eagles secondary has struggled so Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and company should have their opportunities.
Seahawks 17 49ers (-1.5) 20: Two bitter rivals slugging it out for a wild card spot? Sign me up. The last time these teams played, we got the infamous Richard Sherman interview talking about Michael Crabtree. Ironically, the description of “mediocre” that Sherman used probably best describes Crabtree so far this season. Crabtree is currently on pace for just 825 yards this season. While he can still be effective, it seems like Crabtree lost a lot of explosiveness since tearing his Achilles months before the 2013. Unfortunately, it looks like his 2012 where he showed a fantastic connection with Colin Kaepernick could be the exception and not the norm.
Despite going up against a stout run defense, the Seahawks are still going to run it early and often. Marshawn Lynch is having another strong year and the team is going back more to the read option used during Russell Wilson’s rookie season. Wilson has responded well to it averaging a whopping 7.7 yards per rushing attempt. With a lack of receiving options, Wilson has been efficient, but will probably only throw the ball around 20 times in this one.
Kaepernick has had his ups and downs this year, but he has settled down of late. In his past seven games, he has thrown only two interceptions. Despite having plenty of tread on the tires, Frank Gore is still the lead back for the 49ers. It’s worth noting that in his last three home games against the Seahawks he has run for an average of 5.45 yards a carry. Look for him to see around 17 to 20 touches. Anquan Boldin has been the most reliable option in the passing game and that should continue even in this tough matchup.
This is an extremely tough one to pick, but in the end I decided to go with the home team in this one. In recent years, this rivalry has shown that home field can still be a very big deal. The recent return of Aldon Smith to the 49ers defense also gives them a huge boost.