LOS ANGELES: Football. Turkey. Football. Stuffing. Football. There are so many reasons in America to celebrate Thanksgiving, but for leatherheads, the main reason is the game we love. For five straight days, Americans enjoy football. While it is true that two of those five days only offer high school and college football games, there are still plenty of NFL highlights as well.
From a football standpoint, there is another reason to be thankful for football.
After a two-year political distraction, football has returned to being only about football. The protests are over. The protests sharply divided football fans and harmed one of the few things in America that united us. By the Grace of God, those days, for now, seem to be behind us. Whatever your politics, most football fans love the game because it allows getting away from everything else.
Outside of the Super Bowl halftime show, everything on our television screen during an NFL telecast is now directly connected to the game of football.
Most importantly, this is a competitive football season. Everybody has lost at least one game. While there are several elite teams, there is no consensus lock to win the Super Bowl. Six or seven franchises are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Most divisional races are still up for grabs Somewhere in football heaven, the late Pete Rozelle is celebrating the competitive balance that makes “any given Sunday” a reality.
So for those worried about how to avoid political fights at the Thanksgiving table, the answer is simple. Nobody should be talking to begin with. It’s Thanksgiving. They should be watching football. True leatherheads can honor John Madden by eating a turducken and watching football.
With that, here is the NFL 2019 Week 13 Thanksgiving Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by Football Locks and all times Eastern.
Thursday, November 28, 2019, 12:30 p.m.
Chicago Bears (-2.5) at Detroit Lions —
Outside of Virginia McCaskey and Martha Ford, there is little to celebrate about these two franchises. These ladies are approximately a combined 190 years old, but watching these teams can age anyone. When all things are considered equal, go with the Lions at home on Thanksgiving Day. Upset special, Lions win outright.
Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys (-7) —
The Bills have the better record and the better defense, but the Cowboys usually respond well when Jerry Jones implicitly threatens to fire everyone. Jerrah’s scorching comments after last week’s loss have everyone on notice. The boss is not happy and results better come now. At home on Thanksgiving Day, those results will come. This will mollify the boss for about a week. Cowboys cover.
The upset of the year came three weeks ago when the then 1-7 Falcons went into New Orleans and stunned the then 7-1 Saints 26-9. The Saints still have Super Bowl ambitions, and home field advantage is not that strong in this series. The Saints will be burning for revenge, and they will get it. However, an improved Atlanta offense could make this a shootout that goes to whoever has the ball last. The Saints have the better defense and are itching to prove the earlier game was a fluke. Saints win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 1, 1:00 p.m.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) —
Both teams are 6-5 and one game back of Houston in the AFC South. The Colts have the better passing game and the Titans have bruiser running back Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill is playing better than he has in the past, but Jacoby Brissett is playing better. Frank Reich is a more imaginative play-caller than Mike Vrabel, who prefers standard smash-mouth given his personnel. Go with the home field and the better overall offense. Colts cover.
New York Jets (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals —
The Jets after a 1-7 start has won three straight games, scoring 34 points in each game. With a healthy Sam Darnold, the Jets are a much better team. the 0-11 Bengals are five games from permanent ignominy. They fought hard in a home loss to Pittsburgh last week, but they lost to a third-string quarterback. Jets cover.
Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers (-10) —
The Redskins won their second game of the year last week, but that was at home. On the road against a reeling and desperate Carolina team, expect no miracles. Carolina took New Orleans to the limit in a gut-wrenching loss. The Panthers are trying to save their season and could put this game away by halftime. Kyle Allen will move the ball at will and Christian McCaffrey will run wild. Panthers cover.
San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-6) —
The only thing missing from this potential Super Bowl matchup is that it contains 50% less Harbaugh than the Harbowl a few years back. Jim is back in college, but older brother John still has a ferocious defense. He also has a video game quarterback who has made giant strides in his sophomore season. The 49ers are 10-1, with their only loss at home in overtime to 9-2 Seattle. 9-2 Baltimore at home has throttled 10-1 New England. Both teams have nasty defenses, but Lamar Jackson is far better than Jimmy Garoppolo. The spread is high against a great team, but Baltimore just went on the road and won by 39 points. Ravens cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-1) —
Neither of these teams are any good, but the Jaguars are a shell of what they were a couple of years ago, especially on defense. Jameis Winston throws too many interceptions but has a short memory. After watching what Tampa Bay did at an improving Atlanta team, it is hard to put any faith in the Jaguars. Nick Foles has not looked good in his return from injury. Upset special, Buccaneers win outright.
Cleveland Browns (-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers —
The league office and both coaches have let the players know that the ugliness that marred the game two weeks ago will not be tolerated. Forget the final eight seconds. Cleveland dominated the first 59 minutes and 52 seconds and deserved the win. The Browns are 5-6 and the Steelers are 6-5. However, the idea that the Browns will go into Pittsburgh and beat them is crazy. Until it happens, do not buy the hype. Never underestimate Mike Tomlin. He has proven himself. Freddie Kitchens is still a rookie. Even with a third-string quarterback, the Steelers as a home underdog in this game defies reality. Upset special, Steelers win outright.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) at New York Giants —
The Packers are a very good team coming off a horrendous embarrassing Monday Night Football loss. They lost to brutally tough San Francisco. The Giants are bad in every phase of the game. With the exception of running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants have nothing. The Packers have a defense and the Giants quarterback Daniel Jones keeps fumbling. A couple of defensive touchdowns for the Packers are possible. An angry Aaron Rodgers could put this game away by halftime. Packers cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (-9) at Miami Dolphins —
The Eagles are not the same team that won it all two years ago. However, the Dolphins are wretched. The Eagles are desperate to save their season and at 5-6 are only one game back in their division. Ryan Fitzpatrick piles up plenty of yards during garbage time, which for the Dolphins is much of the game. A garbage touchdown could defeat this spread. Eagles win but fail to cover.
St. Louis Rams (-3) at Arizona Cardinals —
It’s hard to trust a Rams team that lost at home by 39 points on Monday Night Football, but the Cardinals have faded after some early season pizazz. The Rams are fighting for their playoff lives. This is their last chance to prove they still have an offense. With everything on the line, give the Rams the benefit of the doubt one final time. Rams cover.
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Denver Broncos —
The Chargers have everything to play for knowing they face an uphill climb to make the playoffs. The Broncos are inconsistent but have clearly not quit on rookie coach Vic Fangio. The Chargers have all the talent. They should win games like this easily, but these are the exact type of games they lose. Plus, the weather in Denver will be brutally cold. The Broncos went on the road and beat the Chargers. Get out your brooms and get ready for a sweep. Upset special, Broncos win outright.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) —
The Raiders were never as good as their 6-4 record, but they are not as bad as their 31-point loss last week at the Jets that dropped them to 6-5. The 7-4 Chiefs beat the Raiders 28-10 in Oakland in a game where the second half was scoreless. Derek Carr has had some of his worst games against the Chiefs. Even in 2016 when the Raiders started 12-3, two of those losses were to the Chiefs. The Raiders are slowly on the upswing, but the Chiefs are far superior. Patrick Mahomes could have this game over by halftime. Chiefs cover.
New England Patriots (-3) at Houston Texans —
The Texans are a decent 7-4 team, but the Patriots are the Patriots. They are 10-1 and Tom Brady is grumpy. Additionally, New England’s defense is much better than in past years. Their special teams blocked a punt and a field goal last week. Deshaun Watson is a talented quarterback, but the Patriots are playing on another level right now. Patriots cover.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-3) —
The 8-3 Vikings and the 9-2 Seahawks both have very good defenses, good running backs, and tough defensive-minded coaches. The two differences are the quarterbacks and the location. Kirk Cousins is not playing badly at all, but Russell Wilson is playing lights out. He is a legitimate MVP candidate. This is a different game in the Metrodome, but betting against the 12th man on Monday Night Football in this game would be most unwise. Trust Russell Wilson to get it done. Seahawks cover.