As a proud Canadian I'm not jealous of much about other countries. Thursday is an exception, though. There are few things I love more than turkey. Football is one of those things. You Americans have a whole holiday devoted to just those two things. Brilliant. We had our Thanksgiving a month ago, and it's not quite the same. For starters, it's on a Sunday, not a Thursday, so it's just a typical day of football instead of a bonus one. Just in case you are too busy traveling and pre-drinking to get ready to spend the day with your family to really focus on Thursday's three games, here's a look at the three biggest betting storylines from each contest (Odds are from BetOnline):
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Philadelphia (+2.5) at Detroit
Who is the QB in green?: At this point we don't know for sure who will be quarterback. It was Mark Sanchez last week. He was pretty lousy - he is Mark Sanchez, after all. Sam Bradford may be back, but then again he may not. But does it really matter at this point? It's hard to argue that any quarterback gives them a relative advantage right now. This team is a total mess under center - and pretty much everywhere else, for that matter.
Are the Lions (somewhat) for real?: The Lions lost their first five games and seven of their first eight. It was ugly. Really ugly. Along the way they made several changes to the coaching staff and gutted the front office. Now they have won two in a row, beating the Packers in Green Bay and then Oakland at home. They haven't looked perfect in those games by any means, but they have been a dramatically better team than they were early on. Can they sustain it?
How hot is Chip's seat?: The powers that be can't be too happy about Chip Kelly. After all, he's an offensive genius with a completely inept offense. He overhauled his roster with a sledgehammer this offseason, and he has nothing to show for it. After two 10-6 years he would have to win out to match that record - which he really won't do. It's just ugly. Reports are bubbling that he has lost his team and his job is in jeopardy. It would be shocking if they aren't true. This game, and each to follow, could be significantly impacted by that situation.
Carolina (+1.5) at Dallas
What the heck is going on here?: This is bizarre. Not only are the Panthers 10-0, but they are a very legitimate 10-0 at that. Yet they are underdogs against a team that just broke a seven-game losing streak last week. Odd. Others have a lot more faith in the Cowboys, or less respect for the Panthers, than I do.
How much does Romo matter?: The public obviously thinks he matters a whole lot. The team won with him and lost - a whole lot - without him. He's a popular player for a public team, so it is easy for his impact to be overstated. Has it been in this case? Your answer to that question will have a big impact on how you play this game.
How hungry is Carolina?: The Panthers surely came into this season with very high expectations for themselves. Even the most optimistic fan or player, though, couldn't have foreseen this kind of success. It remains to be seen if they can maintain the hunger and intensity going forward. They have all but clinched their division, and they are in the driver's seat to get a bye and more. They don't need to be as consistently good as they have been lately to get where they want to be. Will they let up?
Chicago (+8.5) at Green Bay
Is Green Bay back on track?: After three ugly losses in a row, the Packers bounced back with a very convincing win over the Vikings. One win doesn't make the issues this team faces go away, though. Was last week a sign they have turned the page or was it just a series of circumstances that made things seem better than they are for a week?
What happened to the Bears last week?: I was highly disappointed about the game the Bears played last week. They were playing a backup quarterback making his first start - one who had, until this year, been coached by Chicago's offensive coordinator. They should have been in a very good place. Instead, they let Osweiler do pretty much whatever he wanted and lost a game they absolutely should have won. It was frustrating in so many ways. The Bears had looked pretty solid leading into that game - they had won two in a row and four of six and had lost another one in overtime. Was that performance just a blip? Or was it proof of just how much of a rebuilding job John Fox faces?
Can Cutler bounce back?: Cutler has been quietly strong this year, but he is coming off his worst game of the season. He didn't throw a touchdown for the first time all season, and his completion percentage and passer rating were the worst they have been since the opener - which was the last time he played the Packers. Will he find a strong performance again or will he have another middling performance that doesn't help his team exceed expectations?
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