We had three Thanksgiving Day games that shortened the slate a bit today. There are five games that pit true playoff contenders against each other, but two of those involve the sub .500 leaders of the NFC South. The gem of the day will be red hot New England’s invasion of Lambeau Field to take on the almost as torrid Packers.
Washington (3 - 8) 27 @ Indianapolis (7 - 4) 24: Between the South divisions in both conferences, there is only one team with a winning record, and that’s Indianapolis. The Colts sit atop a division where the combined record of the rest of the teams is 8 - 25. So if there is going to be any kind of race in the AFC South, Indianapolis is going to have to find a way to lose to a team that’s starting its third QB. But earlier this season, Washington’s Colt McCoy led them to a big upset at Dallas.
Tennessee (2 - 9) 16 @ Houston (5 - 6) 23: The Texans have been very disappointing and now QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have to come back in after Ryan Mallet was injured in last week’s loss. Another loss for Houston, this time to a bad Tennessee team, and any postseason hopes begin to get slim.
Cleveland (7 - 4) 27 @ Buffalo (6 - 5) 20: The Bills ended a hectic week by drilling an atrocious and dysfunctional Jets team in Detroit last week. The snow is melted and they return home to face a tough Browns team that will give them a lot of problems. Cleveland is in the thick of the hunt in the AFC South and Buffalo is barely hanging on to any playoff hopes.
San Diego (7 - 4) 20 @ Baltimore (7 - 4) 27: The Ravens are on the rise, the Chargers not so much. San Diego is traveling cross country to face a very tough defense. I think it’ll be a long flight back to sunny southern California.
New York Giants (3 - 8) 30 @ Jacksonville (1 - 10) 17: Which Giants team will we see this week? Can they play without turning the ball over and rout a bad team on the road, or will their mistakes give the Jags a chance to get their second win?
Cincinnati (7 - 3 - 1) 34 @ Tampa Bay (2 - 9) 21: I can’t seem to get a Bengals game right this season, so this one will probably be wrong too.
Oakland (1 - 10) 16 @ St. Louis (4 - 7) 24: The Raiders are better than their 1 - 10 record would indicate, but the Rams share the same trait. This might be the best game of the week that no one will see.
New Orleans (4 - 7) 26 @ Pittsburgh (7 - 4) 28: It’s unbelievable that the Saints are still tied for the NFC South lead at 4 - 7. But they are as they head to Heinz Field to take on an inconsistent Steeler team. Of course, Pittsburgh is in a playoff battle of their own.
Carolina (3 - 7 - 1) 19 @ Minnesota (4 - 7) 27: The Panthers have seemed to deteriorate as the season has progressed, yet they find themselves a half game behind the leaders in the NFC South. I’m not sure that’s enough to overcome the Vikings.
Arizona (9 - 2) 17 @ Atlanta (4 - 7) 27: Can the Cardinals head east behind a backup QB after a beat down by the Seahawks? I doubt it. The Falcons are looking to make a playoff run and this should be the week it starts.
New England (9 - 2) 30 @ Green Bay (8 - 3) 34: This is a pick ‘em game for me. These are the two hottest teams in the league and probably everyone’s picks to meet again in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are pretty much a lock in their division, but the Pack needs a win to stay ahead of the Lions. The experts point to the Patriots’ after-Thanksgiving record of 33 - 3 since 2010, but those all of those games weren’t at Lambeau Field.
Denver (8 - 3) 27 @ Kansas City (7 - 4) 30: EVERYONE loses the week after playing the Seahawks, and the Chiefs did just that on a short week on the road against the Raiders. I rarely go against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but they’re banged up and Kansas City is a tough place to play, especially when the Chiefs have ten days to prepare.
Miami (6 - 5) 27 @ New York Jets (2 - 9) 14: I’m pretty sure that ESPN would have flexed out of this game if they could have. This really isn’t the kind of matchup the network, the league and fans envision for Monday Night Football. But who knows, we may be surprised...at least the few that bother to tune in.