First Thanksgiving Day Game- Miami @ Detroit
Ronnie Brown has a groin injury, and no one really knows what he will do. Jon Kitna has been having a good season under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, and what quarterback, may I ask, has not? Miami's defense, especially Jason Taylor, has been playing some inspired ball lately. Kevin Jones, starting tailback for Detroit, is dealing with an ankle injury, so both teams have franchise rushers not totally 100%. I must say this game is not what people are looking forward to on Thanksgiving, but hey, go with the flow. Football is football, right? That said, I believe Miami to be the stronger team, and I expect them to continue their winning streak this week.
Second Thanksgiving Day Game- Tampa Bay @ Dallas
Last week I successfully gave Tampa Bay the victory over Washington, but must admit that I am rewarding them with a loss this week. Dallas thwarted my best efforts to give Indianapolis a tenth win. Tony Romo is not a guy I am particularly fond of, but he seems to be getting the job done for the most part. He'll get it done again this week against the Buccaneers.
Third and Final Thanksgiving Day (Night) Game, Also the First Live Game on NFL Network, Denver @ Kansas City
Denver is coming off of an embarrassing home loss to the San Diego Chargers, in which they blew a 17-point lead. Of course, how could they not, since I picked San Diego to win. I don't know if Tatum Bell will be available, but I suspect he will be. But again, this is Denver we are talking about. They could take the local McDonald's drive thru window operator and have him rush for 1000 yards in a season. The Chiefs just barely managed to dispatch the hapless Oakland Raiders in the Return of the Quarterbacks duel, as Aaron Brooks, ineptitude in a quarterback personified, and Trent Green both were returning from injury. Brooks managed to throw a game-losing interception in the endzone with little time left on the clock. I think we've seen that before, but this isn't about the Raiders. This is about two teams vying for playoff contention, with the winner potentially being knocked out of the race. Both teams know this, and both teams are preparing for it. It'll all come down to which team prepares better, and I say that will be Denver. Broncos win it.
Arizona @ Minnesota
Minnesota is slowly sinking down into the pits of despair, but then, successive losses to teams like Green Bay, San Francisco, and Miami will do that to you. They'll keep themselves alive with a win this week, though, as Matt Leinart continues to grow and learn. Anyone think there'll be drastic changes to the Cardinals next year? I do. Something's got to give. I say Vikings snap the losing streak this week, and pull one out over the Cards.
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Those of you who have read my NAPC! before know that I never pick against Carolina, due to my love for the team. This week stays the same. Joe Gibbs finally made the right decision -- to start Jason Campbell, finally allowing the Redskins to see if he was worth the selection after all. After making mincemeat of the Rams offense last week, I expect no less than total domination from the Panthers defense this week. Steve Smith will also hopefully be over this bout with the flu. Maybe next year he'll remember to get his shot? Panthers win it this week, remaining the leaders in the NFC South.
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
That fierce Bengals offense has finally started to erupt this year. Better late than never, though I doubt those people living at Mt. St. Helens agree with me on that. Cleveland's defense has quietly been one of the better units in the league, comparatively speaking. Braylon Edwards' recovery from a torn ACL seems to be coming along without many problems, but it's obvious his speed is not all the way back yet. I'm going to have to give this one to the Bengals.
Houston @ New York Jets
Man, it's like the Jets get to face polar opposites on defense two weeks in a row. I mean, come on, as a starting QB in this league, would you rather play against Chicago or Houston? I'm willing to bet the Jets score more points than they did against Chicago (a big fat goose-egg, to be precise). What, no takers? Ah well... your loss. Houston, for that matter, must still be in shock from the first quarter of that wild Bills game last week. I like the Jets at home this week.
Jacksonville @ Buffalo
You know, that Jags team would be darn good if they only played in primetime. Maybe they'll ask for that rule next off-season, think the NFL will grant it to them? Nah. The NFL is not very accommodating that way... it would after all mess up the parity that exists in the NFL. I suppose I should mention Lee Evans' awesome day, but then again, why? Yeah, it was awesome. Yeah, he had some great numbers. So what? Maybe if JP Losman could throw it to someone else aside from Evans with any kind of consistency, I'd appreciate more. I seem to remember Lee Evans having a huge game like this last year, too. Guess he's good for one a year... but somebody tell Losman to start spreading the ball around. Until he does, Buffalo won't be in the playoffs. And they won't win this week, either. Jacksonville will.
New Orleans @ Atlanta
A key NFC South divisional matchup, two teams vying for second place in the division. As Atlanta's loss helps the Panthers more, I shall choose New Orleans this week. Besides, it's about time for them to win, what with the offensive numbers they've been putting up. Hey, I bet you John Abraham is regretting staying on the field at the end of the game against Carolina. He'd still be playing now if he hadn't. Saints win it.
WEEKLY UPSET GAME-PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE
For newcomers to this, every week I choose an upset game. I've chosen some pretty notable ones before, for instance, San Francisco over Tampa Bay last year. This week, I'm choosing the Pittsburgh Steelers to travel to the Ravens' stadium and win, thus keeping their hopes alive.
San Francisco @ St. Louis
It's been said that it's hard to take a team seriously when they lose to San Fran, but considering if they win this week, they'll remain in playoff contention AND be above .500, I think it's no longer quite as bad to lose to San Fran. I'd still rather not, and I think St. Louis will be quite desperate for a win in this game, so I see St. Louis fighting horn to whatever-it-is-49ers-fight-with for a victory.
Oakland @ San Diego
Well, you can't mention San Diego these days without failing to mention Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson. And for good reason, as both of these players are putting up amazing numbers, but no one is putting up numbers more amazing than Tomlinson. Now they're going against their opposite in the Raiders... a team with a horrible QB, a defense more porous than Swiss cheese and rice paper, and anything else you can say about how bad the Raiders stink. No way I pick them against San Diego, the second-best (and possibly the best) team in the AFC. SD wins this one no problem.
Chicago @ New England
At last, Chicago gets to face the test I've been waiting for them to encounter. Chicago has an awesome defense and an offense that can put up some points when needed. New England has a pedigree, and two guys named Tom Brady and Bill Belichek. Guess what? When those two are at home, playing against the supposed best team in the NFC, and steaming from two losses in a row (the win over GB isn't enough of an antidote), look out. New England wins this one, and Chicago leaves with their second loss of the season, both to AFC teams.
New York Giants @ Tennessee
Fresh off an improbable win over Philadelphia, Tennessee now gets another NFC East opponent. This one won't lose, however. The Giants are coming off an embarrassing prime-time loss to the Jags, and need a win. They'll get it. Giants take the Titans and do the downtown stomp all over them.
Philadelphia @ Indianapolis
I guarantee you that Chicago @ New England would have been the Sunday night game if the NBC guys could have known McNabb would have gotten injured. Instead, Jeff Garcia now gets to start for the Eagles against none other than Indianapolis on Sunday Night Football. Lovely. I expect the Eagles to not do through the passing game, although Brian Westbrook will be productive. Peyton Manning and the Colts are highly annoyed to have lost against Dallas, and I'm willing to bet Peyton chewed somebody out after the Dallas game. Colts win it.
Green Bay @ Seattle
Monday Night Football, otherwise known as the game every week that I can't watch, (because I don't have cable). Matt Hasselbeck is expected to be back, as is Shaun Alexander. Brett Favre should be none-the-worse-for-wear after his elbow injury. It's hard to pick against Brett on Monday Night, but I will this once. I expect the Seahawks to win with Hasselbeck back. There... I did it. I picked against Favre. Oh well. I still love you Brett, you the man!Robert "Ringleader" Gilbert is a columnist for PantherInsider.com and boasts a self-proclaimed 70% prognosticating average. Gilbert, a high school student that doesn't have cable television, loves Brett Favre and hopes to attend UNC in the near future.