Thanksgiving and football — can you think of a better combination?
All across the country Wednesday night and Thursday morning high school kids will take center stage on the gridiron, continuing one of the best sports traditions. Then, they’ll go home and feast while giving way to the big boys.
And what a slate of Thanksgiving games we have this season. NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian all made their Thanksgiving picks, as well as their picks for all of the Week 12 NFL games, below.
First, the records.
Mike Cole: 5-7-1 (63-92-6): Another “meh” week for Mike, who also likes Greenfield (+20) over Turners Falls this week.
Ricky Doyle: 7-5-1 (71-84-6): Ricky’s in the midst of a well-deserved week off, leading as we enter the stretch run.
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-6-1 (70-85-6): His Cowboys might be the best team in the NFL, so who really cares how he does here?
And now, the Week 12 picks, with lines courtesy of our buds at OddsShark.
THURSDAY, NOV. 24
Minnesota Vikings at (-2.5) Detroit Lions, Thursday, 12:30 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. The Vikings should have won their first meeting with the Lions, but Blair Walsh missed a PAT and a field goal. Even if Detroit leads late — that’s a big if — the Lions don’t have a running game (3.6 yards per carry) to put the game away.
Andre: Lions. The Lions have won five of their last six and they’ve done it thanks to great defense and ball security. They have a turnover differential of plus-5 during that span. The Vikings’ rushing attack continues to be non-existent (2.7 yards per carry), which means they likely won’t be able to get Matt Stafford (11 TDs, 1 INT over his last six games) off the field.
Ricky: Lions. The Vikings’ inability to run the football — they’re averaging an NFL-worst 64 rushing yards per game on the road this season — will allow the Lions to hang around. And we’ve seen what this Lions team is capable of doing as long as they stay within striking distance.
Washington Redskins at (-7.5) Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. Andre called me out two weeks ago for calling the Cowboys’ secondary banged up, but in the three games since losing Barry Church and Morris Claiborne to injury, Dallas is allowing 8.1 yards per pass attempt, which would be second-worst in the NFL. Washington might not win, but that offense can keep it close.
Andre: Cowboys. If the Cowboys averaged nearly five yards per carry against the Ravens’ potent run defense, what will they do against a Redskins run defense that allows 4.6 yards per carry? Dak Prescott has completed 24 of his last 26 passes in the fourth quarter/overtime in the last three games.
Ricky: Cowboys. The Redskins’ rushing defense ranks second-worst in the NFL. That’s going to be an issue against Dallas’ dominant rushing attack.
(-9) Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts, Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. There’s usually one Thanksgiving blowout, and with Andrew Luck unlikely to play, this game is it. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 10 (!!!) touchdown passes in his last two games vs. Indy.
Andre: Steelers. Roethlisberger’s sack percentage this year is 3.8 percent — more than three percent fewer than his career average. The Colts’ pass rush isn’t exactly the scariest and neither is their secondary (they allow 7.7 yards/play — 7th) and they have the fourth-worst yards per play differential.
Ricky: Steelers. The Colts have the worst pass defense in the NFL, allowing 284.5 yards per game through the air. Roethlisberger is going to carve up that secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey.
SUNDAY, NOV. 27
San Francisco 49ers at (-7.5) Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 1 p.m
Mike: Dolphins. As smarter people already have pointed out, the Dolphins have found success on the ground due in large part to a zone running attack. That will be on full display Sunday against a San Fran defense allowing a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry.
Andre: Dolphins. The 49ers have done a great job at getting blown out this year, losing by an average margin of 15.2 points this season. Jay Ajayi will have no problem running all over the 49ers’ rush defense, which allows a league-worst 179.5 yards per game.
Ricky: 49ers. Five of Miami’s six wins have come by seven points or fewer. Between that and the Dolphins dealing with some injuries along their offensive line this week, I think the Niners can keep this close.
(-5.5) Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. The Titans can’t afford to play from behind like they did last week at Indy, and they should be able to avoid doing so this week against a hapless Bears team that lacks firepower.
Andre: Titans. Falling down 21-0 early to the Colts forced the Titans get away from their game, which is very run-heavy. I don’t see the Bears getting the same start the Colts did. Marcus Mariota (19 TD, 3 INT in his last seven games) also shouldn’t have any problems against the Bears’ defense.
Ricky: Titans. Matt Barkley probably is going to play quarterback for the Bears this Sunday. Whoof.
Arizona Cardinals at (-4.5) Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. Atlanta is getting healthy and there are just too many questions about Arizona’s offensive line to go against the Falcons in this spot.
Andre: Cardinals. Believe it or not, the Cardinals have allowed the fewest yards per play this season. Julio Jones is going to be banged up if he plays and I think the Cardinals’ secondary will do an exceptional job in limiting Matt Ryan. I think the Falcons ultimately win a close one, but the Cardinals do enough to cover.
Ricky: Falcons. I really thought the Cardinals would show significant improvement as the season progressed. They haven’t. And this is a difficult matchup that’s made more difficult by head coach Bruce Arians’ quick stint in the hospital.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-4.5) Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Poor Andy Dalton. All of his weapons are gone. The Ravens’ offense is garbage, but their defense should keep the toothless Bengals in tact.
Andre: Bengals. I know the Bengals are banged up and the Ravens’ defense is superb, especially against bad teams. But I’m going to throw the numbers out the door for this one and say the Bengals will keep it close and cover, even if the Ravens win.
Ricky: Ravens. Baltimore knows a thing or two about overcoming injuries. Now, it’s Cincinnati’s turn to show it can do the same. However, I don’t like the Bengals’ chances.
(-7) New York Giants at Cleveland Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. The Browns are 2-9 against the spread this season and 0-5 ATS at home. That should change at some point, I guess, but I’m not going to believe it until I see it.
Andre: Browns. Neither team is good at ball security — both teams have a combined minus-14 turnover differential — so the Browns might have some good field position in this one. It’ll be beneficial for Josh McCown to start a full game rather than fill in for Cody Kessler. In both of McCown’s starts this season, the Browns lost by less than a touchdown, so I think the Giants win, but the Browns make a pesky backdoor cover.
Ricky: Giants. The Browns aren’t just winless. They haven’t covered in five straight weeks. It’s hard to imagine them bucking that trend this week given all of their problems, despite the Giants winning their last five games by a touchdown or less.
Los Angeles Rams at (-7) New Orleans Saints, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Get this: New Orleans is 0-6 ATS in its last six home games as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points. I think the Saints win this game, but I also think they’re a little overvalued.
Andre: Rams. Jared Goff had a pretty solid debut considering it was raining in Los Angeles and they were up against a pretty legitimate Miami pass rush. The New Orleans pass defense is trash (seventh-worst) and the Rams’ is one of the best (allow 6.3 passing yards per play, third-best). Playing in a dome environment also should help the rookie.
Ricky: Saints. Maybe Goff will breathe new life into the Rams’ offense this week. Maybe not. Either way, the Saints have too many weapons. So while I still have concerns about New Orleans’ defense, I just can’t see the Rams keeping pace in a shootout.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-7) Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Only Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco have been outscored worse than Jacksonville this season. The Bills should win this by at least two touchdowns.
Andre: Bills. Buffalo’s pass rush (31 sacks, first) will be too much for Blake Bortles to handle. Jacksonville also has a league-worst minus-15 turnover differential. I predict two defensive touchdowns for the Bills.
Ricky: Jaguars. LeSean McCoy’s availability — or lack thereof — is concerning. Although the Jags stink, they’ve managed to keep things close over the last three weeks against clearly superior teams.
San Diego Chargers at (-1) Houston Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. You’re asking a lot of the Texans to play a physical game Monday night in Mexico and then come home to take on San Diego, which is coming off a bye. The Chargers are good against the run, and if you can make Houston one dimensional on offense, you’ll take your changes with letting Brock Osweiler try to beat you.
Andre: Chargers. The Texans continue to get inefficiency at the quarterback position, as Osweiler has yet to have a 300-yard game and the team has the lowest passing yards per attempt in the NFL. Its pass rush isn’t what it used to be, either (19 sacks — T-22nd), and if Philip Rivers has time to throw, he’ll shred this defense to pieces.
Ricky: Texans. Houston is 5-0 straight up and 4-0-1 against the spread in its last five games at home. I still don’t like the Texans against good teams, but I’ll take my chances against the Chargers, who are about as inconsistent as they come.
(-5.5) Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Seattle is banged up in the secondary, which isn’t ideal, but Tampa Bay has its own injuries on the offensive line. If the Seahawks can pressure the quarterback, it should negate those secondary issues. Also, expect a big game from Jimmy Graham, as Tampa has struggled against bigger receivers this season.
Andre: Seahawks. Seattle looks like it’s found its rhythm. The Seahawks have turned the ball over just once in the last seven games, which is ridiculous. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has been playing well, but it has the third-worst yards per play differential. That won’t fly against Seattle, which has the second-best yards per play differential.
Ricky: Seahawks. Russell Wilson is playing terrific of late, and that should continue against a shaky Bucs defense. Thomas Rawls could be in line for a breakout performance against a Tampa Bay run defense that ranks 25th in the NFL.
Carolina Panthers at (-3.5) Oakland Raiders, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. The Luke Kuechly injury makes all the difference in the world. The Panthers will be able to move the ball on Oakland, but even so, I’m not sure they’ll keep pace with an Oakland offense averaging 6 yards per play.
Andre: Raiders. What am I missing here? Sure, the Panthers pride themselves on having a strong pass rush, but Kuechly is injured and the Raiders are excellent at protecting Derek Carr, who’s only been sacked a league-low 11 times. He also doesn’t turn the ball over much as he’s been picked off just four times.
Ricky: Raiders. Expect Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to tee off on Cam Newton, and for the Raiders’ offense to roll against a Panthers defense now without its leader.
(-9) New England Patriots at New York Jets, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. New England’s defense might be an issue, but not against bad offenses like the Jets. Even more troubling for New York is its inability to tackle receivers — 29th in the league in yards after catch allowed — which should mean a field day for Dion Lewis, James White and Julian Edelman.
Andre: Jets. The Patriots will win, but the last six meetings between these two teams have been decided by one score or less — and a few of those Jets teams have been bad.
Ricky: Patriots. Darrelle Revis might want to stay home Sunday because Tom Brady probably is going to pick on the struggling, aging cornerback all day.
Kansas City Chiefs at (-3) Denver Broncos, Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Honestly, a lot of this hinges on whether Marcus Peters and/or Dee Ford are able to go for KC. But even if they can’t, it’s hard to see where the Chiefs are able to score points here.
Andre: Chiefs (under one condition). Peters and Ford have to play. Peters’ absence was noticeable in the Chiefs’ loss to Tampa Bay. Now, Ford is hurt and it might take Justin Houston to return to his old form after missing the whole season due to injury. If the defensive duo plays, I’ll take the Chiefs. If they don’t, Alex Smith better play one hell of a game.
Ricky: Broncos. I’m still high on the Chiefs, but they’re coming off a huge letdown against the Bucs and their offensive issues — the Chiefs have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in seven of their 10 games — will be problematic against the Broncos’ star-studded defense.
Green Bay Packers at (-3.5) Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Call me crazy, but I actually think this is a decent matchup for the Packers. Sure, their defense is miserable, but the Eagles either have injuries or a lack of talent up and down their offensive roster. Philly’s also susceptible to big plays, especially on the ground (allowing 36 rushes of 10 yards or more), which might be enough to spark a relatively nonexistent Packers rushing attack.
Andre: Eagles. The Packers have allowed 38.3 points per game over the last four games and they’ve been outscored 52-17 in the first quarter in those four games. Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter of those four games: 57.9 completion percentage with just two touchdowns. In fact, on the season the Packers allow 6.9 points per game in the first quarter, the most in the league. I see the Eagles jumping on top early and the Packers falling in the same old hole.
Ricky: Packers. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles both suffered injuries last week, so there are questions regarding the Eagles’ weapons. The Packers have a whole bunch of problems, but this smells like a game that will be decided by a late field goal.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Images