John: Happy Thanksgiving, America. As a Canadian, American Thanksgiving isn't a day off for me. It's just a Thursday. It just seems like every year I find a way to watch the majority of these games because I'm a NFL junkie that needs my fix.
In the past there were just two games (on CBS and FOX), but then NFL Network added a Thursday night game. Now NBC gets the Thursday game because the NFL is smart and realizes their audience for these Thursday games is enormous. Smart move. They're not dummies. When they pick these games sometimes there are stinkers. Dallas and Detroit always get home games and while neither team is elite they're both watchable. It's better than if they gave the Chiefs the Thursday game, right? I'm trying to be positive here.
As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to break down tonight's game.
Standings after Week 11 (Straight Up)
Mike 107-52-1 .673 (Last week 13-1)
John 106-53-1 .667 (Last Week 9-5)
Bret 103-56-1 .648 (10-4)
Every favorite won last week straight up. Mike picked them all so his only loss was the Rams. What a risk taker. Maybe I'm mad because I got passed for first place? Yes. That's the reason.
Here are the three Thanksgiving games coming your way on CBS, FOX and NBC. All game times are Eastern because the other time zones just don't matter as much.
I'll edit in Bret's picks when they arrive.
Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6) 12:30 PM
Bret: Tough game to pick here on storylines alone. On one hand, Houston is coming off a tough overtime game at home (negative) and playing on the road on a short week (meganegative), on the other they met their serious challenge after having a poor game (positive) and may be playing a team on its way to implosion (positive).
There's no clear advantage statistically. Houston's defense is strong against the pass (6th in YPC), Detroit's average against the run (114. YPG), and we all know what the teams offensive strengths and weaknesses are.
For me though, there's still a clear difference in these teams - namely the ability to actually come through and win a game. Houston is 3-1 ATS on the road. Detroit is 1-3 at home ATS.
I'll take the successful team. Houston 27 Detroit 21
Mike: I'd like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and hope you get to eat way too much food and watch way too much football this holiday weekend. Not an amazing slate of games this year, but not a terrible one either. In my defense in picking the Texans to cover last week, that was under the assumption that Blaine Gabbert would be running with things and not the great Chad Henne. So, my bad.
I'm not sure I take a ton from last week's Jags game. Henne completed a 63-yard pass to Justin Blackmon, a 67-yard pass to Cecil Shorts, a 26-yard pass to Mercedes Lewis, a 39-yard pass to Justin Blackmon, an 81-yard pass to Justin Blackmon, and a 28-yard run by Jalen Parmele. Now obviously it's an issue that Houston got burned so badly in their secondary, but we're basically talking about six plays in the game that represented 304 of their 458 total yards in the game. The other 60 plays in the game gained them 154 total yards. Chad Henne was 11/28 for 78 yards aside from those five big pass plays. Again, I don't want to just discount those plays, they obviously count, but I don't think this was just a total collapse by the Texans' defense. And there is something to be said about a new quarterback coming in and throwing their strategy out of whack by hitting these deep passes, something I doubt they expected Gabbert to do coming into the game.
Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is I still think Houston has a very dangerous defense, and just like Detroit struggled against Green Bay last week, I think they are in store for more struggles this week. Detroit is not a bad team despite their 4-6 record, but they do have a real problem getting it done against the good teams they face (See their close losses to San Francisco, Chicago, and Green Bay). It wouldn't surprise me if this came down to another fourth quarter where their opponent gets it done and they don't. Houston 23 Detroit 17
John: I know I'm not alone in saying that I was shocked that the Texans needed overtime to beat the lowly Jaguars. I watched a lot of the game on Sunday Ticket and for the second time this year I saw their defense get exposed - the first time was the loss to the Packers. Credit the Jaguars for realizing they could throw on the Texans and as a divisional opponent they're familiar with them. I think the Texans went into the game thinking it would be easy, it wasn't and it nearly cost them. Good teams find ways to win those close games, though, so I respect the Texans for that.
How about Andre Johnson? He certainly came alive for Houston last week. He said he's completely healthy for the first time in a few years and caught 14 balls for 273 yards plus the winning touchdown last week. Very impressive. It's a big boost for the offense because Arian Foster is carrying the ball a lot and could be worn down if he keeps on the pace where he runs the ball 400 times this year. It's important to have a little balance in your offense.
I think the Lions offense lacks depth. Matt Stafford hasn't been that consistent throwing the ball and while Calvin Johnson is still the best WR in the NFL, I think a team like the Texans is going to do everything they can to stop him. Stafford needs to find other WRs better than he has in the past. I think RB Mikel LeShoure is pretty good, but not a consistent threat yet. I have a feeling the Texans will force a few turnovers in this game.
It should be an entertaining game from the points scored standpoint. I like the Texans, though. More consistent offensively and much better all around defensively. The Lions have too many holes in their team this year.
Also, I'm making Houston one of my five best bets of the week at -3. I think the line is too low. Detroit isn't very good and despite Houston having a scare last week against the Jaguars, who know them well, I think the Texans will bounce back with a comfortable win against a bad Lions team. Texans 31-21
Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5) 4:15 PM
Bret: I'm making it up to Washington this week. This game will not be pretty. Washington's pass defense is bad - and will only get worse with the loss of Marriweather. Dallas will only be able to pass - it's not just that Felix Jones is mediocre, it's that the line continues to get worse each week. I expect mistakes, turnovers, sacks, and 40 yard touchdowns on that side of the ball.
On the other side of the ball, Washington leads the league in rushing and Dallas can be rushed on. On a short week, I expect Washington to lean heavy on the run - and to find success in doing so.
I think this game is close, and if Dallas can avoid making more than 2 turnovers, they might win it, but I think they make 3 and lose the game. (Which, by the way, brings Washington back into the mix for the NFC East title.) Washington 28 Dallas 24
Mike: I'm really hoping this will be a good game, because I'm certainly looking forward to it. Good rivalry game, very meaningful game for two middle of the road teams trying to fight for a playoff spot. Washington's got a tough road the rest of the way out, but if they manage to sneak out a win here and then win against the struggling Giants next week...who knows? Meanwhile Dallas is sitting at .500 and only a game behind the Giants in the NFC East.
Robert Griffin was pretty impressive last week, and it's really shocking to see how much the Eagles' defense has fallen off this season. He should have a tougher time against a better Cowboys' secondary, but I'd still expect him to have a pretty good day. What should make the difference this week is Dallas' passing game going up against a flawed Redskins' defense. I don't expect them to be able to run the ball well, with DeMarco Murray likely missing another game and Felix Jones just not a guy that can ground out a lot yards. But I also think if they're going to lean on Tony Romo to throw the ball 50 times just to be able to score 23 points they might be in a bit of trouble.
Right now I'm leaning towards Dallas winning in a squeaker, but I think this is a pretty big toss up and the play of Romo should dictate the winner. Dallas 23 Washington 21
John: I think Dallas will win this game although it will be close. Last week I thought that the Cowboys would easily handle the Browns and they needed a fourth quarter comeback to barely get the win. The biggest problem for the Cowboys offense is their lack of a run game. Teams know they're going to throw the ball a lot more than they run. When you have an instinctive QB like Tony Romo back there throwing the ball all over the place it makes things easier for the defense - even a bad defense like the Redskins.
The Cowboys will have some problems dealing with Robert Griffin III. A lot of teams do. It's easy to say they can stop the run well, but it's not easy to say they can stop RG3. His first two divisional games saw him put up big numbers against the Giants (250 yards, 2 TD, nearly 100 rush yards) and last week's four TD performance game against the Eagles. He's born to be on the big stage. You can argue that this is the biggest game of his rookie year because of the large audience that is likely to be watching. I just have this feeling he'll have a big game.
Will RG3's potential big day be enough for a win? Don't think so. But it will be fun to watch. I think the Cowboys are going to win this game that will go right down to the wire. In the end, they have the better defense and they will make more stops than the Redskins will. Along with getting RG3 better WRs, improving the defense is something the Redskins need to do next year and beyond. For this game, I'm going with the home team. Cowboys 27-24
New England (7-3) at NY Jets (4-6) 8:20 PM
Bret: This game's pretty simple. To beat New England at this point, you're going to have to score 30 points. New York can't do that. New England hasn't had trouble beating the Jets at home in the past - and they won't do it now. New England continues to roll here. New England 37 New York 20
Mike: I can't help but feel like we're looking at a blow out win for the Patriots here. Rob Gronkowski is out, and it's a huge loss for their offense, but ultimately I think the biggest result in this game is that they will have to settle for some more field goals and fewer touchdowns. Aaron Hernandez is supposed to be back for the game, giving them another viable threat at tight end, although he's obviously not the red zone target that Gronkowski is.
I don't expect the Patriots to shut out the Jets by any means, but I'm also not anticipating Mark Sanchez to have another 300+ yard 70% completion kinda day either like he did last month against New England. Their running game is still awful, and they still have nothing resembling a receiving corps, and their savior for the first Pats game, Jeremy Kerley, is banged up and might not even play in the game. I could see this being a higher scoring game, but ultimately I expect to see the Jets playing from behind all game and losing by double digits. I'm definitely going to make this one of my five bets for the week. New England 40 New York 24
John: The Jets had an impressive win last week in defeating my Rams. The Pats were even more impressive in their destruction of the Colts. When these teams met in week seven the Patriots won 29-26 in overtime. I remember being surprised by it because the Pats were at home and the Jets were able to keep the game close. I think being a divisional opponent is a big reason for that.
When it comes to the Jets you never know what you're going to see from their offense. They've been brutal at times - as bad as any offense in the league - and at other times they look competent. I think at home they'll be comfortable, but I also think the Pats will be able to confuse Mark Sanchez enough to force him into a bad play or two that's going to cost the Jets the game.
I think this will be a low scoring game early on, but then the Pats will likely pull away late. They know eachother so well that I think both defenses will be successful in their schemes. Ultimately, I like Tom Brady to find his receivers and make the key plays. I think he'll miss Rob Gronkowski, though. Still the Pats are averaging 35.8 points per game and it's tough for anybody to slow them down - even a familiar foe like the Jets. Patriots 30-23
Thanks for reading. We'll see you again on Friday for the rest of this week's games.
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