Thursday Night Football Breakdown: Turkey Day Special!
Ever since the league added a Thursday night game to the mix back in 2006, we’ve been spoiled with three NFL games on Thanksgiving. It’s a good thing too because the NHL and NBA give their players the day off entirely, leaving us with only college sports to help us navigate the . . . family-friendly holiday. So since we’re all a captive audience tomorrow, let’s talk about some things to look for in our all day football-athon. Pay close attention and you might even pick up a talking point or two to impress your father-in-law. Happy Thanksgiving!!!
12:30pm EST: Minnesota Vikings (8-2) @ Detroit Lions (6-4); Line: Vikes by 3
Chris’s take: This is the type of match up that makes football the best sport for spectators in my opinion. The Vikings have always taken pride in their defense and their defense has shown up this season in a big way. Last week they managed to shutdown, and nearly shut out, the league’s leading offense the Los Angeles Rams. They’ve been fantastic against the run and their veteran secondary has eight interceptions on the year so far. They’ve done a number on opposing quarterbacks, tallying 27 sacks through 10 games. Meanwhile, the Lions have managed to be the 5th highest scoring team week in and week out despite not having a run game and being forced to rely on Matthew Stafford’s arm. Speaking of Matthew Stafford, could there be a more reliable quarterback against an absolutely dominant defense in the Minnesota Vikings? Stafford is the toughest quarterback in football, in my opinion, and that’s what makes this match up special. The Vikings will get to Stafford, they’re going to bury him, and it’s going to be ugly, but this guy has the ability to take a beating while delivering a beautifully thrown football. He’s already been sacked 33 times this year and he’s still posting 2,760 yards while completing 63 percent of his throws. He’s not a dink and dunk guy, he’ll toss the long ball and despite all of that pressure he’s only given up 5 interceptions on the year compared to 19 touchdowns. I’m not going to sleep on the Lions this week or the highest paid quarterback in the league. This isn’t necessarily a pick column, but I’m going to say Stafford delivers at home on Thanksgiving and pulls out the win against this Vikings defense.
4:30pm EST: Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5); Line: Bolts by 2.5
Brad’s take: You read that right, in their annual national TV showcase game, the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys are a home underdog to a team with a losing record. Having lost two straight since Zeke began his suspension, the season appears to be on the brink for “America’s Team.” They were manhandled in the second half at home against Philly just a couple days ago as Dak was awful and the team failed to find the end zone for the first time in 2017. The Chargers on the other hand come in off their strongest outing of the year, a 54-24 demolition of Nathan “Nate Dog” Peterman and the Buffalo Bills (ok fine, I don’t know of anyone who calls him Nate Dog). LA has excelled at pressuring opposing QBs and that has been a major problem for Dallas the last two weeks. On the offensive side of the ball, the Chargers have all kinds of weapons for Philip Rivers to work with. You know about Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon, but here’s a name you probably haven’t heard yet: Austin Ekeler. The un-drafted rookie RB from Western State Colorado University is developing a knack for making plays in big spots so don’t be surprised if he finds the end zone tomorrow.
On the short week you always have to look at the injury report and it clearly favors the Chargers here. Dallas LT Tyron Smith is listed as questionable which is important because, as mentioned above, the Cowboys haven’t shown an ability to pass protect without him. Sean Lee has been ruled out which leaves the Dallas defense vulnerable as well. I see a close game here as the Chargers play their first ever Thanksgiving Day game, but let’s go to Arnold with the official pick:
8:30pm EST: New York Giants (2-8) @ Washington Redskins (4-6); Line: ‘Skins by 7
Brad’s take: These NFC East rivals are coming off two of the most shocking results of the entire NFL season, but they’re shocking for very different reasons. As chronicled on Monday, the way the Redskins lost to the Saints on Sunday defied some seriously long odds. A collapse like that sometimes bleeds over into the next game, but, in this case, Washington may actually feel lucky to have the opportunity to play again just four days later. The Sunday shocker for the Giants was that they scored their second win of the year by defeating KC in overtime at home. Beating an Andy Reid coached team coming out of its bye week is no easy feat, but the Giants benefited from sloppy play by their opponent who turned the ball over four times and committed nine penalties. The Redskins will play with more focus than that at home.
Washington has the home field advantage and will undoubtedly be the hungrier team. Look for Kirk Cousins and the league’s third most prolific passing attack to throw the ball all over the lot against the league’s fourth worst passing defense. I see Washington winning and covering the 7 points with relative ease. (And I am not just saying that because I will be dining with a lot of Redskins fans tomorrow!)