By Doug Halberstadt
Tomorrow (Nov. 24) is Thanksgiving. Besides all of the normal things I am thankful for (loved ones, family, friends, health, etc.), I’m really thankful some genius decided it was a good idea to have NFL games on Thanksgiving Day. In addition to that, I’m particularly thankful I’m provided the opportunity to write about those games and that you’ve taken the time to read about them.
I love watching football while I’m chowing down on a plate full of turkey and all the traditional trimmings. I’ve been enjoying this holiday ritual for as long as I can remember.
This year, the Lions are hosting the undefeated Green Bay Packers in the first game on Thanksgiving Day. The Lions are obviously a better team than they were a season ago, and they should be thankful for that. The problem is, they still aren’t good enough to beat the Pack. Green Bay will improve to 11-0.
In the later game, the Cowboys welcome the Dolphins to Dallas. The Cowboys need to give thanks to whoever made up the schedule. This should be an easy holiday win for Dallas.
The best game of the day is actually at night. The San Francisco 49ers are in Baltimore to take on the Ravens. This game highlights the importance of spending the holidays with family. John Harbaugh will be pacing one of the sidelines as the head coach of the Ravens. Across the field, his brother, Jim Harbaugh, will be doing the same thing as the 49ers’ head coach. I’m assuming the rest of their family will be gathered together someplace else in the stadium.
This is a game the NFL Network should be thankful they got on their schedule. The 49ers haven’t lost a road game this year. The Ravens haven’t lost a home game all season. San Fran is 9-1, and they’ve won their last eight in a row. Baltimore is 7-3, and won their game last Sunday against the Bengals. They did so without the services of their superstar, Ray Lewis. He was sidelined with a toe injury. As of press time, it is not known whether he will be available for tomorrow night’s game. With or without Lewis, I think the 49ers will come away with the longer half of the wishbone and improve to 10-1.
In the Sunday games, the battle of Ohio takes place in Cincinnati. The Browns are in town to face the Bengals. I’m not impressed with the play of either team this season. I’m only taking the Bengals because they are at home and someone has to win.
The Houston Texans are 7-3. They play the 3-7 Jaguars in Jacksonville. The Texans will win this game easily. This is the first in a group of what I consider bad games this week.
One of the others is Arizona at St. Louis. Both teams are impotent. The question is, which is worse? I’m not sure. Flipping a coin may be the only way to pick this one. Tails, it’s the Cardinals.
Another game featuring two models of ineptitude is the Carolina at Indianapolis match-up. In the 20 games these two teams have played this season, they have a combined total of two wins. Carolina has them both. The Colts have to win at least one game, don’t they? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s this week.
In another in-state battle, the Jets host the Bills. The Bills were embarrassed by the Dolphins last Sunday and really let me down. The Jets lost a close one to the Broncos Thursday, Nov. 17. I think the Jets are the better team and will take advantage of playing in front of their fans. I look for Buffalo to drop their fourth in a row.
At the beginning of the season, several “experts” thought the Buccaneers were going to be a force to be reckoned with. Instead, they are just a plain wreck. They’ve lost four straight and have fallen to 4-6. This week, they are on the road in Tennessee. The Titans are 5-5 and mired in the pool of mediocrity. I’ll take mediocre Titans over the sinking pirate wannabes.
Speaking of sinking, the Vikings’ ship has sunk. They are 2-8 and don’t stand much of a chance this week when they hit the road to face Atlanta. Look for the Falcons to hand Minnesota their ninth loss of the year.
The Bears go on the road to face the Raiders without Jay Cutler at quarterback. He is expected to be out six to eight weeks with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. As bad as this may sound to Chicago fans, I still think the Bears’ defense and special teams can help carry the offense to a win. I’m sticking with Chicago.
The Seahawks are at home against the Redskins. Seattle has won their last two in a row, and the Redskins have dropped six straight. Seattle is a better team at home than the Redskins are on the road. I’m taking the Seahawks.
The Chargers host the Broncos. Denver is experiencing a bit of resurgence with Tim Tebow under center. They have won their last three. The Chargers have lost five straight. I like Tebow. I think he’ll make it four in a row and hand the Chargers another loss.
The Eagles improved to 4-6 with a win over the Giants last week. This week, they have the Patriots to contend with in Philadelphia. I don’t think they’ll be as lucky this week as they were last week. I like the Pats in Philly.
Sunday night, the Steelers are in Kansas City to square off against the Chiefs. Pittsburgh is coming off a bye, and the Chiefs have a short week thanks to their Monday night game with the Patriots. That combination spells doom for KC. I look for the Steelers to dominate.
The Monday night game should be entertaining. The Giants travel to New Orleans. The Saints also had last weekend off. The Giants lost to the Eagles on a final-minute Eli Manning interception. The Saints are a perfect 4-0 at home this season. I don’t see the Giants breaking that streak. I say a well-rested Drew Brees will prevail and stay undefeated in the Super Dome this season.
Last week, I was 10-3 heading into the Monday night game. I picked the Patriots over the Chiefs — so did all of the WNTA 100.5 FM radio guys. Thanks to my pick of Denver over the Jets last week, I managed to pick up my fourth win of the season. Everyone else took New York. Ken DeCoster still leads the pack with five wins. Howard Bailey Murray has won twice, and Doug McDuff and Timothy Edwards are still looking for their first victories.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, from my family, to you and yours!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Nov. 23-29, 2011, issue