This week of the season is significant for two reasons. Thanks to Thanksgiving we get to enjoy the best Thursday of the football season - and arguably the second best of the year after the first day of the NCAA Tournament. This is also the week that finally marks the end of bye weeks. That means we are back to 16 games each week - just as it should be. Unfortunately, with the way things are going this season, more games just means more opportunities for bizarre and unpredictable things to happen. Here's how the games break down from a straight up perspective:
Philadelphia at Detroit: The Lions are not a good team by any means, but they have sneakily won two in a row and three of five. The Eagles, meanwhile, have lost three of four, were absolutely humiliated by the Bucs last time out, and don't have a quarterback. Hard to believe, but the Lions are a confident pick here.
Carolina at Dallas: Dallas looked much better with Romo than without him. They are still a flawed and incomplete team, though. Carolina, meanwhile, is ferocious and playing with massive confidence on both sides of the ball. A bit of a mismatch. Take the Panthers.
Chicago at Green Bay: Green Bay has been rough lately, but they finally looked at least a little better last week. They are at home here, too. Chicago has taken some big steps forward, but I was hugely disappointed last week. They played a journeyman backup making his first career start and made him look like a star. Ugh. Take the Packers.
Oakland at Tennessee: I wanted so badly to believe in the Raiders. I really did. That defense is just horrendous, though, and now the offense is showing signs of wear. They are trending in the right direction, but it isn't their time yet. Take the Titans.
Buffalo at Kansas City: The Bills lost a strange one with horrible officiating on Monday night. Now they have to pick themselves up on a short week with a banged up QB and get ready to play one of the hottest teams out there. Too much to ask. Take the Chiefs.
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis: This is the Tony Dungy bowl - the rare battle between the two teams Dungy coached. The Colts won last week, but teams don't get any credit for beating the Falcons right now. Tampa Bay is playing great and with confidence, and I'm willing to play for the upset here. Take the Bucs.
New York Giants at Washington: The Giants have won two of their last four and gave the Patriots more than anyone else has in their last game. They are coming off a bye week and should be ready for this one. Washington was crushed last week and could be feeling sorry for themselves. Take the Giants.
New Orleans at Houston: The Saints made a much-needed change with the defensive coaching staff, but the personnel is still the same, so I am skeptical that it will matter. Houston's defense is suddenly playing as they should be, and that will add even more pressure to the Saints. Not good. Take the Texans.
Minnesota at Atlanta: Frustrating effort last week by the Vikings. They just weren't good enough - and that was against a reeling Green Bay team. The Falcons are a recipe for resurrection, though. The Falcons seem to have quit on themselves - just like they did last year and the year before. New coach, same old team. Take the Vikings.
St. Louis at Cincinnati: The Bengals have lost two straight, but now they are going to get back on track. The Rams are not playing well, and now there are questions about just who will play quarterback. Take the Bengals.
San Diego at Jacksonville: Jacksonville didn't necessarily deserve to win last week, but they still found a way to get it done. Meanwhile, the Chargers are coming off arguably the worst game any team has played all year. The Jaguars at home are the very clear pick here.
Miami at New York Jets: The Jets are pretenders - that much is clear by now. Miami just lost at home to the limping Cowboys, though, and aren't exactly eating the league alive. Ugly divisional contest here. Nod to the Jets, but only because of geography.
Arizona at San Francisco: Blaine Gabbert has been shockingly good, and I'm happy for him. This is a very tough spot for him, though. The Cardinals are very good and are playing with intensity to maintain their first-round bye. The massive coaching advantage alone makes this an easy pick. Take the Cardinals.
Pittsburgh at Seattle: Time for another upset pick. The Steelers are coming off a bye, and are as healthy as they have been in a long time. Their offense will be ready for a big day. Seattle has been inconsistent at best and has not responded well to being punched in the mouth - something that should happen repeatedly in this game. Take the Steelers.
New England at Denver: The Brock Osweiler era started off well. Things get different here, though. The Patriots are banged up, but they are playing like they couldn't care less. They will be hungry and prepared. Take the Patriots.
Baltimore at Cleveland: Baltimore suffered two more big injuries, and now I think I might be starting at QB. Cleveland just isn't good, and Johnny Football provided yet more drama with his partying during the bye week. This could very well be the worst Monday Night game in the history of the institution. Cleveland is at home, so I guess they get the nod. I guess.
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