WASHINGTON, November 25, 2015 – On this Thanksgiving Weekend, one thing Americans can be thankful for is five straight days of football. One thing we are not thankful for is injuries to our top signal-callers. Maybe it just seems worse than usual, but last week saw quarterbacks named Brock Osweiler, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck, Blaine Gabbert, Case Keenum and TJ Yates playing quarterback. Matt Cassel and Landry Jones played the week earlier. Now Matt Schaub will be playing.
Not playing last week were Peyton Manning, Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles and Bryan Hoyer. Before that Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger missed playing time. Now Joe Flacco is out for the year.
In 2000, the NFL was forever changed when Patriots superstar Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury and an unknown sixth round pick named Tom Brady took over. In 1990, Phil Simms led the Giants to a 10-0 record before an injury ended his season late in the year. Jeff Hosteler played the biggest two playoff games of his life to win it all.
That is the aberration. Football is about watching the stars we love. This year seems to be a war of attrition. Three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Gibbs once said that the team that wins the Super Bowl is not the best team, but the best healthiest team. Gibbs won three times in nine years with three different quarterbacks. Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien all brought home the Lombardi hardware.
With that, let us hope that the rest of the season sees more spectacular play and fewer injuries. Here is the NFL 2015 Week 12 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with all times Eastern and point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com
Thanksgiving Thursday, November 26, 2015
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (Pick ‘em) — After a 1-7 start and front office housecleaning, the Lions have won two straight games. The Eagles are a mess and getting worse. Go with the trending arrow. Lions win.
Carolina Panthers (-1) at Dallas Cowboys — When this spread came out, the Cowboys were actually favored. Cam Newton and Tony Romo are both unbeaten this year, but Romo has only played in three games. Romo looked like his old self last week, but Carolina has a tenacious defense. Panthers cover.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-9) — Both teams had a chance to make a statement last week, but only the Packers did it. The Packers have been less solid on offense in recent weeks, and Jay Cutler has played reasonably well this year. For those reasons, the spread seems high. Packers win but fail to cover.
Sunday, November 29
New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans (-3) — The Texans are seriously improved. Their defense is legitimate. The Saints are just not the same team they were from 2009 through 2013. Fans keep expecting them to just turn it on, but that is not happening anymore. Texans cover.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-2) — After a 5-0 start, the Falcons have gone 1-4. Minnesota lost last week, but they have a defense, all world running back Adrian Peterson, and the deceptively talented Teddy Bridgewater. Upset special, Vikings win outright.
St. Louis Rams at Cincinnati Bengals (-9) — Forget two straight losses after an 8-0 start. The Bengals are a solid football team that took high-flying Arizona to the final play. The Rams do not have the talent to keep up. The spread is high, and the Rams may have enough talent on defense to prevent a blowout during garbage time. Bengals win but fail to cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts (-3) — One year after going 2-14, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 5-5. Had they not blown a 24-0 lead at Washington, they would be 6-4. Lovie Smith has his team believing. Chuck Pagano is a dead man walking. The Colts are the better team, but they are just not playing inspired football. Upset special, Buccaneers win outright.
New York Giants (-2.5) at Washington Redskins — The NFC Least is the division nobody wants to win. Home field advantage does not matter in this series, especially this year. The Giants on paper are the better team, which is all one can offer in this uninspiring matchup. Giants cover.
Oakland Raiders (-1.5) at Tennessee Titans — After a 4-3 start, the Raiders have lost three straight and are starting to resemble the same old Raiders. Losing at Detroit does little to inspire confidence. Marcus Mariota is a very good rookie without much around him. This is the very last chance to give the Raiders the benefit of the doubt.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5) — Both teams are 5-5, but the Chiefs began 1-5. They went on the road and rocked San Diego by 30 points. Buffalo took New England to the limit. It’s hard to trust dink and dunk game manager Alex Smith against Rex Ryan’s defense, but the Chiefs are on a roll. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-3.5) — Miami lost to a Dallas squad that had lost seven straight coming in. The Jets began 4-1 but have since faded. The Jets have a decent defense, and Miami has faded since the initial glow of their coaching change. Jets cover.
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) — The Jaguars have won two straight, and San Diego lost by 30 last week at home. Yet Jacksonville never wins by more than a field goal. San Diego is a mess, but Jacksonville ekes out its wins. Jaguars win but fail to cover.
Arizona Cardinals (-10) at San Francisco 49ers — The Cardinals have the most explosive offense in the league. The 49ers are an inferno now led by Blaine Gabbert. The spread is high for a road team. This is a major mismatch, but San Francisco could get a garbage touchdown at home. Cardinals win but fail to cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks (-4) — The Seahawks are not the same team they were the previous two seasons. The Steelers have been a resilient bunch, winning games with their running back and quarterback both injured. The Steelers fight to the end. Seahawks win but fail to cover.
New England Patriots (-3) at Denver Broncos — This looked like Super Bowl 49 1/2 before the season started. It still looked that way when both teams were 7-0. Now Denver has lost a couple games and Brock Osweiler is in for injured Peyton Manning. Denver has a defense, but Tom Brady’s revenge tour survived being knocked senseless by Rex Ryan’s Buffalo blitzes. until the Patriots lose, they get the benefit of the doubt, even in Denver. Patriots cover.
Monday, November 30, 8:30 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (-2.5) — The late ABC executive Roone Arledge is rolling over in his grave knowing what has happened to his beautiful invention Monday Night Football. This game is so awful it might make casual fans watch anything except golf, soccer or the Lifetime Network. The Browns are at home and Joe Flacco is injured. Johnny Manziel was caught partying again during the bye week, but this may be his best chance to win a game. Browns cover.