By Ron Johnson
Ah, Thanksgiving. The time for family to come together, be thankful for what they have, pray for what is to come, prepare for the Christmas neighborhood decorations battles…
…And to watch some off the wall football.
Despite Tom Brady’s thoughts on the season, the NFL has been entertaining without him and Aaron Rodgers to decimate it into oblivion. With Week 12 on the horizon, we have the usual suspects in the front (Chiefs, Niners, Eagles, Jags), some new blood in the mix (Texans, Lions, Browns) and some potential new freshness in the hunt (Raiders, Broncos, Vikings). But of course, it is not about how you start (looking at you Seattle) but how you finish (looking at you Rams).
With that, let’s get cracking with the Thanksgiving Edition of the NFL Rundown.
Packers vs. Lions
One lifetime ago, the Packers used to laugh every single time they knew they would face the Lions on Thanksgiving. This time around though, it’s the Lions that are smirking. Not laughing but smirking heavily. The Packers have been dismal at best this season, and despite getting a much-needed win last week, they are going into Detroit to face The Ghost of Barry Sanders and a Lions team that didn’t quit last week in their shocking victory over the Bears. With the postseason on the horizon, the Lions are once again in charge of their own destiny, and Green Bay would love to play spoiler. But this Lions team is starving for turkey legs and knee caps this time around and hoping to complete the season sweep by winning their third straight game against the Packers.
Commanders vs. Cowboys
Thanksgiving traditions have become the norm for the Dallas Cowboys. No one can forget the Snow Bowl from the 90s, but they also can’t forget that Washington has played spoiler in a lot of Dallas’ dream seasons. Do we see the Commanders getting it done this time around? Slightly. For some crazy reason, either the Cowboys play like garbage on Thanksgiving, or their opponents decide to make Cowboys fans cry heavily on Thanksgiving. In any event, despite what the records show, it is not wise to just write off Washington in this game mainly because they have beaten Dallas on Thanksgiving before. Oh, what those Cowboys fans wouldn’t give to have Troy, Emmitt and Michael back on the field for this one…playing, that is.
49ers vs. Seahawks
The Niners were on a three-game losing streak going into their bye week. When they came back, they destroyed the Jaguars and took down the Buccaneers. Now they get to fight the Seahawks with the division on the line. Seattle is trying to figure out how they let a sure victory slip through their fingers last week. Even with bringing back in Geno Smith (who was ailing from an elbow injury) and moving the ball as close as possible to the target. It was Jason Myers that did not have the clutch on this one as his perfection was shattered with six seconds left in the game. A win for Seattle puts them back atop the division for now, but a win for the Niners all but seals the fate of the NFC West and its two true contenders for the division crown. Only solace for both sets of fans? They get to talk trash while passing the cranberry sauce and stuffing.
First Ever Black Friday Game on Amazon Prime
Dolphins vs. Jets
History will be made as those of us who have to suffer through the zombie train (i.e. people who still choose to bear the elements to grab midnight deals) will get to enjoy some football as well. For the first time in NFL history, we will have a football game on Black Friday. And that is rather fitting for the Jets, since their future seems to get darker and darker with every passing moment. While the Dolphins survived the Raiders on Sunday, the Jets suffered and suffered as the metaphorical punching bags for the once-dominant Buffalo Bills. Now it is Tim Boyle’s turn to try to turn this sinking ship around and get the Jets back into the postseason hunt they were projected in during the preseason. But what can the Jets do against a team that put up Madden-like numbers a few weeks ago? If they don’t believe in God, they might want to start this Friday.
Cyber Sunday Savings
Saints vs. Falcons
Both of these teams are coming off their bye weeks, but the Saints are already suffering a heavy dose of Sports Karma. After causing a ruckus outside his home two weeks ago, Michael Thomas now finds himself on the sidelines with an ankle injury. I’m not smiling whatsoever, but considering he should’ve been suspended and wasn’t? Moving on. The Falcons are going back to Desmond Ridder in the hopes they can turn it around and get back possession of the NFC South that is still wide open. Jameis Winston will try to get the Saints back to marching status, but at the same time, both teams have had monstrous problems that have plagued them all season. Suffice to say, something has got to give.
Steelers vs. Bengals
The Bengals will have to try to navigate the remainder of the season without Joe Burrow, and the last time that happened, they couldn’t even sniff the playoffs. On the other side though, you have Kenny Pickett, who possibly just lost a contact lens on the field during Sunday’s loss to the Browns. The Steelers are in trouble, which would explain why Matt Canada is no longer with the team. But is blaming Canada really the only issue in the Steel City? On a day where every win and every loss matters more, who will step up to the plate to potentially give pressure to the Ravens? Will Jake Browning make a name for himself at the Steelers expense? And if the defense coughs up this game too, will the Steelers get rid of the DC or finally tell Tomlin it’s time?
Panthers vs. Titans
In a game of ‘Would You Rather?’ this game qualifies for that. The Panthers are atrocious at best, and the Titans are just going through the motions and hoping that they can at least get Will Levis enough experience to be their starter next season and cut ties with Ryan Tannehill. There isn’t much to say about this one except we are all hoping that there will be tons of Derrick Henry Sightings in this game. So if there is a new movie on Netflix you want to see or Disney+, I’d say go watch that over this if nothing else is on.
Buccaneers vs. Colts
The Bucs are trying to find their way, and it shows with the way they’ve been playing. All season, they’ve been the wildest roller coaster ride in the NFC South, and the ironic part is that they are still in the driver’s seat of their own destiny considering the division they’re in. As for the Colts, they just cut ties with Shaq Leonard and look to continue moving forward. Gardner Minshew has been a blessing for the Colts as he has been able to navigate the choppy waters of the AFC South and keep Indy in playoff contention. As for Baker Mayfield, we are not sure if he is regressing or having growing pains. But he is still Tampa Bay’s best option under center to lead them to a possible division title and playoff berth.
Patriots vs. Giants
In a rematch of a couple of Super Bowls, we don’t get Tom Brady or Eli Manning back for this one. Does anyone think the Manning Brothers would do a Sunday game just for the fun of it? This is most likely Bill Belichick’s final ride as head coach of the Patriots, so I’m sure he’d like to go out a winner. As for the Giants, they got their scrub win last week as they swept the season series with the Commanders. And Tommy DeVito was more Daniel Jones and less Danny DeVito this time around. Whether it’s Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe, someone has to get control of this once great dynasty in New England. Cause they look like the punching bags we’re used to seeing.
Jaguars vs. Texans
This right here is a game that will be worth watching. On one side, you got the red-hot Jaguars who bounced back from getting embarrassed by the Niners only to turn around and make the Titans fall hard. On the other side, you got rookie sensation (and my vote for Rookie of the Year) CJ Stroud lighting it up whenever possible as he has the Texans Talking Tailgates for Postseason. This should be a fun game for everyone, and it almost pains me to have to pick a winner out of this one. This is the one time that I’d even allow a tie in this game. Both teams are playing better than expected, and I’m all for it.
Browns vs. Broncos
The Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos are two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum right now. Everyone who is from my era remembers ‘The Drive’ in which a young(ish) John Elway and the Broncos came back to stun the Browns in the playoffs. Well these Browns are playing with some fury…but then again, so are the Broncos. After stunning the defending champs a few weeks ago, the Broncos have not looked back providing banger after banger after banger. Both teams got huge wins last week (Browns over Steelers, Broncos over Vikings), and now it comes ahead on a day when most Americans are shopping online for Christmas gifts. I’ll enjoy this game while having myself another turkey sandwich, thank you very much.
Rams vs. Cardinals
The Rams are most likely playing for pride now. The season has not gone the way they have wanted it, and there is a good chance that Matthew Stafford might hang it up after this season ends. And Aaron Donald might join him too. But nonetheless, they are still in the playoff picture despite being 4-6, and that playoff chance could improve if they can keep Kyler Murray at bay. The Cardinals are playing with a little more fire lately with the return of Murray, but the fact is the season has not gone well for either team. But I trust Sean McVay in this game more simply because of experience. It’ll be good to see Kyren Williams back on the field though.
Chiefs vs. Raiders
The Chiefs may have won the Super Bowl, but they couldn’t win the rematch. Between the rain and madness of the game itself, Kansas City couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. They look to get back on a trip with a quick venture to Sin City to face a Raiders team that is reloaded and ready for war. Vegas has a new attitude under interim head coach Antonio Pierce, and considering they held their own against the Miami Dolphins? One has to give credit where it’s due. It may not all be free real estate for the Chiefs, and this Raiders defense looks nastier than normal. It’s as if the infamous Black Hole of Oakland is making a Reunion Tour in Vegas.
Bills vs. Eagles
At the beginning of the season, this game had promise. It has a little bit of promise because of the players, but after Monday night’s Super Bowl Rematch, it’ll be hard for the Bills to top that. One week after firing Ken Dorsey as OC, the Bills decided to show up and show out…against the New York Jets. Not a very impressive win, but I guess it is a win morally for them nonetheless. As for the Eagles, they have earned the right to be greedy, and I expect the Tush Push to be making rounds all over Broad Street during this game. It is also going to be interesting to see which version of Josh Allen shows up for this one.
Sunday Night Football
Ravens vs. Chargers
The Chargers are falling and falling hard. They have yet to pull the trigger on Brandon Staley, and they are suffering because of it. As for the Ravens, they are trending in the right direction and preparing to take it up a notch against a Chargers team that looks lost and is not as intimidating and dangerous as expected. Even Bosa is starting to look soft with this franchise right now.
Monday Night Football
Bears vs. Vikings
The Bears have Justin Fields back which could be good news for them, but they also have the Vikings on their radar for Monday night. Besides Monday night’s loss to the red-hot Broncos, Joshua Dobbs and the Vikings have been firing on all cylinders since his arrival. The Vikings are doing their part in keeping the pressure on the Lions for the NFC North, but the Bears are just trying to show their potential. On Monday night, inside a packed house in the Twin Cities, expect a lot of football, a lot of defense and above all else, expect a lot of SKOL!!!!!