A day filled with family, food and football is awfully tough to beat and that’s exactly what we have to look forward to every Thanksgiving. This year’s slate of games is interesting as you have a few playoff caliber teams along with others who are fighting for a wildcard berth or trying to gain a game in the NFC East. Regardless of if your team will be playing or as a casual observer, watching these games with those you care about the most is always a nice tradition to have.
Eagles 21 Lions (+0.5) 26: As I’ve mentioned in the past, this game with my dad being a Lions fan has the most meaning in my family. Despite being 10 games in, he’s already run a gauntlet of emotions this season. First, he thought the Lions (as did I) would be sneaky good and contend for a playoff spot. Then after the 0-5 start, he was hoping they’d just go 0-16 again to completely embarrass the Ford family. But now his worst case scenario is coming true. The Lions have won three of their last five, taken themselves out of a top two or three selection and will probably finish 6-10 or 7-9. Then the Ford’s will note how the team “turned it around” in the second half and keep everyone on board for another year. This is why they’re the Lions.
On the field, this is one of the winnable games for the Lions. Matthew Stafford has a nice matchup against an Eagles secondary that has struggled for the past few weeks so expect Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to be involved early and often. Also don’t be surprised if the team continues using Ameer Abdullah more in the ground game as they did this past Sunday. Abdullah hasn’t played like many expected he would to this point, but he has the ability to completely change a game on one carry.
The Eagles having lost three of their past four desperately need a win in a season which is starting to resemble the 2011 “dream team”. Mark Sanchez showed some potential in the starting role for the Eagles last year, but throwing an interception one out of every 16 throws like he has so far in 2015 is unacceptable. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Lions defense has looked much improved the past few weeks including against the run. DeMarco Murray should see his fair share of touches and with his ability as a receiver will still be able to rack up his share of total yards. The question for the Eagles here is what they will get out of their receivers. Jordan Matthews has been disappointing as the de facto number one receiver and rookie Nelson Agholor to this point has yet to make the impact that numerous analysts thought. For that, I’m going with the Lions here and hopefully a three game win streak wouldn’t lead them to start handing out contract extensions.
Panthers 23 Cowboys (+1.5) 20: Here we have a matchup between possibly the least talked about 10-0 team ever against a team who easily takes the cake as the most discussed that sits at 3-7. This season in Dallas has literally had everything between three different quarterbacks, Dez Bryant going down, the starting running back getting cut midseason, two players being cut for not wearing suits last week and Greg Hardy. I’m not even going to get into Hardy, but let it be known it’s going to be a topic which will be brought up at gatherings across the country. Chances are it will only end negatively, lead to loads of tension/awkwardness and plenty of takes so hot they would burn the pie in the oven.
Cam Newton is coming into Dallas after the best passing game of his career and defensively faces a much tougher test. While I’m expecting Greg Olsen to still get plenty of looks from Newton, the main beneficiary in this one should be Jonathan Stewart. Stewart has been a mini tear these past few weeks running the ball and I’m guessing he will see plenty of touches against a Cowboys defense that has struggled in that area.
The good news is for the Cowboys is they have their first stretch of the season where Tony Romo and Bryant are playing together in consecutive weeks. The bad news is they’re playing a very tough Panthers defense. Bryant figures to be shadowed by Josh Norman who has been playing at an All-Pro level this season. Jason Witten also has a difficult matchup against a very talented linebacker corps. That means Romo will likely need to have success finding guys such as Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley to get the passing game going in this one. On the ground, it is worth noting how Darren McFadden has had some games where he’s made a major impact as the Cowboys lead running back. If he gets rolling, it wouldn’t be surprising if this became a low scoring affair that comes down to defense and field position.
Bears 17 Packers (-9.5) 31: Remember when everyone was freaking out about Aaron Rodgers after the Packers dropped three in a row? Shows you what a difference a game can make in the endless news cycle we have today. The bottom line is any quarterback can struggle when they are surrounded by an ineffective running game, a shaky offensive line and a banged up supporting cast. Rodgers is still one of the top two quarterbacks in all of football he just had a rough patch.
In this one, the potential is there for another big Rodgers performance as while they’ve improved, there are holes in the Bears secondary. Eddie Lacy was finally able to get it going against the Vikings last week, and if that is a sign of things to come it could mean trouble for the rest of the NFC. This matchup is a favorable one as the Bears also have struggled against the run. Randall Cobb also could be in for a big night as he figures to face off against an undrafted rookie in Bryce Callahan who lines up as the slot corner. Callahan has some impressive physical attributes, but this is a tough task to ask of anyone in this position let alone a young/raw player.
While they were shorthanded and struggled against a vaunted Broncos defense, the Bears seemed to be clicking offensively for a few weeks leading up to that game. Jay Cutler has arguably been playing some of the best ball of his career to this point, but historically he has struggled against the Dom Capers lead Packers defenses. How he fares in this one should be very telling of the end result. Matt Forte figures to return from injury in this one and it will be interesting to see what kind of role he has to start off. Jeremy Langford impressed in his absence so there is a chance he will still get some work.
With the Bears being one of the more secretive teams regarding injuries, we’re all unsure about Alshon Jeffery’s status this week. Obviously I’m no doctor, but my guess is he will play and he’d see a dozen or so targets. The real area to watch for is the Bears tight ends. In recent weeks, the Packers have really struggled covering the position and the Bears have two who can catch passes in Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller. Miller (not the former Raider/Seahawk) is especially intriguing as injuries have limited his career to this point, but he has the speed where he could potentially line up in the slot.