It's that time of year again. A time for family, giving thanks, love, laughter, life, friend-- oh whatever. Today is a day of FOOTBALL.
One would think that the tradition of playing a Thanksgiving game of football is relatively new, perhaps dating back to the days of Howard Cosell and Vince Lombardi, but it's actually much older than that. The first Thanksgiving day football game was played in 1887 between Boston Latin High School and Boston English High School, and if it wasn't for the fact that BE won, we'd all be speaking Latin instead of English!
Games at all levels would continue to be played every year, and original Detroit Lions owner G.A. Richards started scheduling his team on Thanksgiving day, using any gimmick he could to get people to go to Lions games. Luckily, he knew he was tapping into a massive demographic: people that want to get the hell away from their families on Thanksgiving.
In 1966, the Cowboys joined the Lions as teams that would start playing on Turkey Day every single year, balancing out having one terrible team and one great team to distract us from family arguments, political discussions, and how Susie likes school this year.
Knowing two games was not enough, the league gave us a third game between two non-Detroit, non-Dallas teams starting in 2006. Now we've got from 9:30 in the morning until 8:00 at night to keep our eyes on the television instead of on grandma's veiny complexion.
Mike Gallagher and I will preview all three games, with me covering the night game between Baltimore and San Francisco, while Gallagher previews Detroit-Green Bay, and Miami-Dallas. But first, here's a Thanksgiving game you can try out.
A tradition as old as pigskin on Thanksgiving, drinking games have kept people equally distracted from life's problems since the dawn of man. Rather than encourage copious amounts of drinking from our viewers of all ages, here are a set of Thanksgiving themed rules while watching the days games:
- Every time Detroit turns it over, tell your parents you won't be meeting them/going with them for Thanksgiving.
- Every time Keiland Williams touches the football, hide a family members car keys.
- Every time Aaron Rodgers throws a touchdown pass, prank call your least favorite uncle.
- If the Lions win, hide the turkey in a closet.
- Every time Matt Moore throws a touchdown, refuse to eat.
- Every time Tony Romo throws a second half interception, eat a mound of mashed potatoes or stuffing using only your hands.
- If the Dolphins win, tell your youngest relative that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
- If the Cowboys win by more than 21 points, tell your youngest relative that Christmas was cancelled this year.
- If anyone on TV mentions Brett Favre, tell your parents that you're quitting your job/quitting school in order to become a magician.
- If anyone on TV mentions Turducken, tell a sibling that they were adopted.
- If Baltimore scores the first rushing touchdown of the year on San Francisco, eat all of the leftover turkey in a single sitting.
That's it! Some pretty simple rules if I do say so myself. Now, onto the games:
Green Bay at Detroit
It seems like we've grown accustom to the Detroit game being the worst game of the day with the dearth of star power and lackluster team they usually have in Detroit. This year, however, it is arguably the best game of the day and it is without question most likely to be a shootout and have fantasy points a plenty all around. Green Bay leads the league in scoring with 35.5 PPG and Detroit is third with 30.1 PPG.
A-Rod is having the best season ever based on the most telling statistical category for quarterbacks: QB rating (also known as passer rating). Rodgers is sporting a ridiculous 130.7 and shows no signs of slowing down. It's pretty much a waste of time to talk about Rodgers because there is no way in the world you're going to sit him. Instead, let me familiarize some of you with how passer rating works. It is based on four areas: touchdowns per attempt, interceptions per attempt, yards per attempt and completions per attempt (completion percentage). 158.3 is the perfect passer rating and in order to acheive that a QB needs to hit all of the follow: a TD on 11.875 percent of his attempts, 12.5 yards per attempt, a 77.5 completion percentage and no picks. Only one person has achieved that game so far this year (Shane Lechler
with his TD on a fake punt). Over the course of a game, most quarterbacks fail to hit the 158.3 because of the 12.5 yards per attempt. Enjoy your monster A-Rod game. Prediction:
29-of-39 for 386 yards, four scores and no picks (that's a 139.8 passer rating).
James Starks- Starks is dealing with issues involving his right knee and ankle. It sounds like he is going to play though. Technically, he is questionable for the game and should be a game-time decision according to Mike McCarty. McCarty did tip his hand a bit by saying that Starks would not be limited if he is in fact active. Starks has done nothing to prove worth starting for most leagues with only one rushing TD on the season and only 541 yards on the season. He is playing well with his allotment of carries though with an impressive 4.5 YPC. If Starks goes, he gets the nod over Grant (more on the rushing situation in Grant's section). Prediction: 14 carries for 62 yards, two receptions for 18 yards and no scores.
Grant has been a disaster since his 92-yard game against the Bears in Week 3
. The Golden Domer has not eclipsed 30 yards rushing in any game since then and lowered his YPC to 3.7. The Lions are 27th against the rush and this would be a nice matchup for most backs in an offense that packs the punch of Fat Man and Little Boy combined. This guy? Notsomuch
. The only circumstance where Grant should be in your lineup is if the Pack pull a fast one and sit Starks. That's not going to happen in their biggest game of the season and Grant should be placed firmly on your bench. Prediction
: Eight carries for 35 yards and no scores.
You know which running back leads the Packers
in rushing scores? Yup. KUUUUUUUUUHHNN! J.K. has three scores and is coming off his third on Sunday against the Bucs. He only has nine carries on the season, so he has a .333 scoring average (better than Ryan Braun's batting average). You're obviously not playing Kuhn, but we'll say he scores to make it interesting. Prediction
: Two carries, three yards and a score.
Jennings had laid an egg in standard scoring leagues with only two catches for six yards. Although G-Jen is still in the midst of a monster season putting him close to top-five in production in standard leagues. He figures to draw Eric Wright
on most of the snaps with a little Chris Houston
mixed in as well. Wright is the worse corner of the two and is vulnerable for the double move and Jennings is a good bet to hit him deep for a score. There's no way you can bench Jennings in this one. Predicition
: Nine catches for 145 yards and a score.
Jordy Nelson has gone from a hit-or-miss guy to a player that is hitting unsuspecting humans like Ike Turner. Nelson is on a tear since the bye with 97 yards per game and 1.7 TDs per game in those three. He is getting more targets in the red zone than he used to and is really becoming a complete receiver. He's another guy that you won't be benching. The Detroit safeties, Louis Delmas
and Amari Spievey
, should be very busy in keeping the Jordy fly routes in check. He'll probably hit them for one though. Prediction
: Five catches for 72 yards and a score.
The emergence of Jordy has taken a huge hit for James Jones. Jones has failed to top a fantasy point in his last two games by being held without a catch last week and just one catch for nine yards two weeks ago. His snaps are down and he is giving way to Donald Driver
a little bit as well. However, the Lions playing so much man-to-man defense could really help Jones score on a post route in the slot. Prediction
: Two catches for 59 yards and a score (don't play him, just a hunch).
Donald Driver- Driver has a season-high 74 yards last week on his four catches against the Bucs.Although his knees might not be feeling to great on the short week and he probably won't be as big of the part of the offense. Bench him. Prediction: Two catches for 23 yards and no scores.
Cobb was thrown in here for those of you in return-yardage leagues. He should be a busy man in this one and if your league counts 10 yards per point, it might be worth starting him. Prediction
: One catch for 19 yards and 154 return yards.
Finley has been a bit of an afterthought in the tight end discussion and justifiably so. J-Mike has really become the third option on his team and now that Jordy is getting more red-zone targets, he's not scoring as much. This week though, the Lions don't really have anyone to stick him. Yes, the Lions are seventh best in allowing points to tight ends, but they haven't faced a TE like Finley. DeAndre Levy and Arami Spievey figure to handle most of the duties and he should have no problem beating them all game long. Prediction
: Seven catches for 68 yards and a score.
Mason Crosby- Prediction: Five extra points and two field goals.
Packers D/ST- There are going to be too many points scored in this game to trust the Packers D.
Matthew Stafford- Stafford got off to a bumpy start last week with a couple early picks and a few poor decisions against the Panthers. In case you were under a rock, Stafford busted loose in the second half to finish with five scores and the Lions put up 49 points. The former top pick in the draft has really hit his stride this year and has already hit season highs in all the positive passing stats (yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, completion percentage and passer rating). The Packers have been beatable in the passing game and are ranked 31st in passing yards allowed.They play a lot of soft coverages and it should allow him to get his big targets, Johnson and Pettigrew, going throughout the game. Dom Capers is going to be coming up with ways to put pressure on Stafford, but if he can get some time back there, expect him to have another big game. Prediction: 30-of-45 for 412 yards, three scores and a pick.
Silent Bob struck back in a big way on Sunday with a whopping 201 yards from scrimmage and finding the end zone three times. This week has is taking reps with the first team and is expected to be close to a featured back. The Pack does a fair job against the run as the 12th-best team, but they are 26th in YPC allowed. The Lions will want to have some balance in order to keep Mr. Rodgers from carving up their D like turducken (if you're playing the game, this isn't TV, so no need to tell someone they're adopted). Smith also has skills in the passing game, too. I might be jumping the gun early here, but Smith should be in almost all lineups. Prediction
: 16 carries for 82 yards, three receptions for 34 yards and a rushing score.
- Morris has been leapfrogged. While it sounds like fun to be leapfrogged (that's what she said), it's certainly not in the world of running backs. Morris saw just seven carries compared to Smith's 16 last week. He is likely just going to spell Smith now that Smith has about two weeks with his new-old team. Smith could be an injury risk, so don't be quick to cut him in deep leagues though. Prediction
: Six carries for 27 yards and no scores.
It's Megatron. You're starting him. He has been very cold lately and Stafford hasn't been targeting him nearly as much as he should in the red zone. The Yellow Jacket has failed to score in back-to-back games after his record-setting pace to start the season. Besides Charles Woodson, the GB corners are a bit undersized and Megatron is a damn good bet to have another monster game. Prediction
: 10 catches for 167 yards and two scores.
Nate Burleson- It's hard to believe, but Burleson has 15 catches in his last two games. What's even more amazing is that he has caught all 15 of his targets, which is impressive in every sense of the word. Burleson has done a phenomenal job in busting zones and catching first downs for the Lions as a wonderful complement to the best receiver in the league. He should have no problem putting up decent numbers. Prediction: Six catches for 83 yards and no scores.
The Boise State Bronco caught a nice little quick slant last week against the Panthers. He is becoming a bigger part of the offense and it's pretty easy to see just by watching the game that he and Stafford are close to getting on the same page. Young had seven catches two weeks ago when the Lions had to play catch-up and there's certainly a chance they may need to do the same against Rodgers and co. It'll be tough to start Young especially with Burleson playing so well. Keeper leagues should take notice though. Prediction
: Three catches for 48 yards.
Pettigrew hasn't done much after his blistering stretch from Week 3 to Week 6. The Oklahoma State product did hit pay dirt last week and caught four of his five targets. Expect the Packers to stick Morgan Burnett
on him most of the time and this matchup should be one of the toughest Burnett has seen all year. Prediction
: Five catches for 67 yards and a score.
Scheff did the lamest TD celebration of the year by doing the flash-mob dance last week. He gets no analysis as punishment (I'm sure he's devastated). Prediction
: Three catches for 41 yards.
Detroit D/ST- YOU NEED TO PLAY THE LIONS D AGAINST THE PACKERS!...
Jason Hanson- Prediction:Four extra points and three field goals.
Miami at Dallas
Most people would agree that this is the worst game of the day. That seems a bit odd considering that Dallas is in first place and Miami is one of the hottest teams in the league coming off three blowouts. Both teams have some clear strengths and weaknesses and should not have problems putting points on the board. Miami has surprising held its last three opponents to just 6.7 PPG and allowed just one TD in that span as well. Dallas has a hard-fought win against Washington on Sunday and they'll get a better offense with the way Miami has been moving the ball on their opposition. Yeah, the other two games are fantastic, this one is still one of t best games of Week 12.
Do you know which AFC East QB has two games with a passer rating above 130? It's not Tom Brady. It's not Mark Sanchez (SHOCKER!). It's Matt Moore. Moore put up a surgeon-like game against Kansas City with 147.5 (which is higher than any passer rating that Aaron Rodgers has posted this year) and is coming off a tidy 133.3 against the Bills
. The Dolphins have utilized a wide variety of throws and are taking more shots down the field than the vast majority of teams. Dallas hasn't done much to assert themselves in the passing game and their far from 100 percent in the secondary (more on that later). Moore should be a good bet efficient numbers and there's a chance he racks up the stats to keep pace with Dallas. Prediction
: 23-of-39 passing for 278 yards, two scores and a pick.
What in the Wide World of Sports has got into Reggie Bush lately? Bush is on a scoring binge lately with four TDs in his last three games. He hasn't been all that productive in producing yards with just an average of 57 yards per game on solid 4.1 YPC. Bush does have 3.8 receptions per game over his last four and he is likely going to be a weapon in the passing game. Prediction
: 13 carries for 49 yards, five catches for 38 yards and a score.
Thomas got to kill some clock on Sunday which allowed him to account for 15 carries for 52 yards. He has been a ghost for fantasy owners since he returned from his hamstring injury three games ago. The Dolphins have used him in the second half quite a bit in his last two games and he actually has 16.0 carries per game in those two. Those were blowouts though. Thomas has been much better in pass protection and he has stopped blitzing linebackers in their tracks on several occasions. The Cowboys will blitz a lot, so Thomas could be a piece the Dolphins would like to use on the football field. Dallas is 11th against the run and the Dolphins could try to slow down the tempo with 30 or more carries as a team. Prediction
:12 carries for 46 yards and two catches for 19 yards.
It's hard to imagine that a fullback caught a bomb for 46 yards, right? Well, that happened on Sunday. Clay ran a wheel route and had a full-extension grab in the longest pass play of the day for Miami. He finished with a team-high 69 yards receiving. That won't happen this week. Prediction
: One catch for 18 yards.
Brandon Marshall- Marshall abused his fantasy owners last week like the way he used to abuse ol' lady. B-Marsh was a no show against Leodis McKelvin, a weak CB, with just one catch for five yards. This week should be different though. The Cowboys are without their most physical corner in Michael Jenkins and they should have a really tough time pressing Marshall at the line. They don't have the personnel to guard Marshall on just about any route and he might have himself a big game on the national stage. Prediction: Seven catches for 93 yards and a TD.
Bess has been a Welker-like presence for the Dolphins with his short routes and serving as a safety valve for Matt Moore. Bess did score last week and does have a seven-catch game this year against the Denver Tebows. He might be a desperation play this week. We're talking 16-team leagues where that team is dealing with a multitude of injuries. Prediction
: Three catches for 39 yards.
Brian Hartline- Hartline figures to draw Orlando Scandrick on the plays were the Dolphins line up in two-wide sets. He doesn't get a lot of targets and his best bet is to try and score on a fly route. The Cowboys will pay a lot of attention to Marshall and Hartline could beat single coverage for a score or at least a 40-yard game. Prediction: Two catches for 53 yards.
Anthony Fasano- Fasano has really picked up his play since Moore took over (which I called; for what it's worth). He has four scores in his last five games and has multiple-catch games in four of those five. The Cowboys will likely be using many edge rushers in their 3-4 scheme which should allow Fasano to get a free release in several situations. If you're in a two-TE league, you could do worse. Prediction: Three catches for 31 yards and a score.
Dolphins D/ST- Cameron Wake and company could be able to get some pressure on Romo. However, their 25th-ranked pass D makes them essentially useless.
Dan Carpenter- Prediction: Three extra points and two field goals
Tony Romo- Tony Romo is a ridiculous 18-2 in November in his career and last I checked, Thanksgiving is in November. There's a good chance he will be 19-2 when he faces one of the most suspect groups of corners in the league. The Dolphins are are a roll right now on D, but that could probably be thrown out the window with three sub-par offense in Kansas City, Buffalo and Washington. Romo has been the opposite of those offenses with sterling lines that yielded passer rating of higher than 112 in all three games this month. Romo hasn't thrown any picks in that span and even completed a remarkable 88.5 percent of his passes two weeks ago against the Bills (probably the worst CB tandem in the league). Dallas has advantageous matchups all over the place and they should have no problem clearing 30 points as a team. Prediction: 23-of-35 passing for 302 yards, three scores and one pick.
DeMarco Murray- Felix Jones
is not going to hurt Murray's value, folks. The Sooner didn't exactly boom, but he did have himself 31 touches on Sunday. He is the workhorse and will find ways to produce even though the Dolphins are rolling on defense right now and are ranked seventh against the run. The Cowboys will need figure out a way to get blockers at the second level to stick MLBs Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby
in order to have success in running the football. It's worth noting that their fullback, Tony Fiammeta, is not going to play in this game. Nevertheless, Murray is a must-start RB1. Prediction
: 23 carries for 117 yards, three catches for 34 yards and a score.
Jones is questionable for the game with his ailing ankle. He is fully expected to play though. The Cowboys said they will ease him into his backup role and the short week is not going to help his cause for work against the Dolphins. He had five carries for 18 yards against the Redskins
last week and showed a lot of hesitation in hitting the hole. While he shouldn't be starting, he's worth owning in deeper leagues in case Murray is befallen with an injury. Prediction
: Six carries for 21 yards and two catches for 17 yards.
The Dolphins are actually equipped to limit Dez Bryant a bit with 6-foot-3 Sean Smith
lining up at LCB against Bryant on most snaps. Bryant does have a speed advantage though and is a bit more physical than Smith. As much as breaking this down makes sense, some of the most nonsensical stuff in the football world is the way Dez falls off in the second half. Only one of Dez's six scores have come in the second half and Romo doesn't look to him as much as he probably should. He's still way too good to sit. Prediction
: Seven catches for 112 yards and a score.
L-Rob has been a pretty luck guy with the timing of the Miles Austin
injury. The Cowboys have been going up against weak corners in every matchup since Austin pulled his hammy and this week is no different. Robinson should draw Vontae Davis
this week. Davis is very prone to giving up the deep ball even though he's a decent corner from within 20 yards and an above-average tackler. This might be the last chance Robinson owners could cash in, so enjoy it and start him as a WR3. Prediction
: Five catches for 82 yards and a score.
Witten gets a tougher matchup against the hard-hitting strong safety Yeremiah Bell. Bell is more know for his run-stuffing prowess even though he has shown some flashes as a pass defender. The Dolphins are 23rd in giving up fantasy points to tight ends and with the way Romo trust Witten in the red zone and on third down, that number should be going up. Prediction
: Eight catches for 79 yards and a score.
Dan Bailey- Prediction:
Wade Phillips should be a very busy man this week in trying how to exploit Jake Long
and Matt Moore's blindside. The Dolphins do have former Cowboy Mark Columbo on the right side and Dallas should be blitzing his side as well a blitzes in the A and B gaps. They are home and should have a few sacks and a couple turnovers.
Four extra points and two field goals.
Baltimore at San Francisco
How many fantasy points are scored in the night game will be very interesting to watch, as Baltimore and San Francisco feature the #4 and #8 total defenses in the league, respectively. Per Advanced NFL Stats
, looking deeper at the numbers than just the flawed stat of "Yards Allowed" then Baltimore is number one and San Francisco is number four. Basically, these are two of the top defenses in the NFL.
San Francisco is number one against the run and has yet to allow a rushing touchdown after ten games. They are 23rd against the pass, but they are tied for 2nd in the NFL in interceptions (15) and have only allowed 10 passing touchdowns.
Baltimore is also one of the top rushing defenses in the league, but they've allowed over 100 yards on the ground in four of their last five games after allowing over 100 in only one of their first five. The key injury to watch will be whether or not Ray Lewis is able to return after missing the last game.
Joe Flacco - Flacco is having the worst season of his four year career, finally putting up good fantasy stats last week against a good Bengals defense with 270 yards, 2 TD/1 INT. It was his first game with a QB rating above 100 since week 3. The Niners have given up considerable yards in the air this year, but mostly because they are the most passed against team in the league. What else would you do against a defense that completely shuts you down on the run? Flacco threw the ball over 50 times against Arizona and Seattle, 48 times against St. Louis, and 47 times against Pittsburgh. Expect Flacco to top 300 yards passing on 50 attempts, but at what cost? On 150 attempts over a three week stretch, he totaled 2 TDs and 2 INTs. That's not much production, and the Niners allow few touchdowns and have a lot of interceptions. Prediction: 28 of 50, 300 yards, 1 TD/1 INT.
Ray Rice - As said with Flacco, teams rarely try to run against the Niners, and they are the least rushed upon team in the league. Rice is averaging just under 16 carries per game and that could be closer to 10 on Thursday. Against another top rushing defense, Seattle, Rice carried the ball just five times. Rice will still have value catching the ball and he's on pace for a career-high in catches, but it should be a slow day for him. (Trying to hold back on "stuffing" puns) Prediction: 10 carries for 40 yards, 5 catches for 50 yards, 0 TDs.
Ricky Williams - It seems like Williams is finally getting old. He's 34 and a half now, and how much longer will Ricky keep going? He has carried the ball eight times in the last two games and he gained 11 yards. Against the top run defense? 3 carries, 5 yards, 0 TDs.
Anquan Boldin - Boldin has been targeted 84 times this season, but he's catching his lowest amount of targets (52.4%) since 2006. The emergence of Torrey Smith, or at least the inconsistent emergence, could limit what Boldin does against a tough defense on Thursday night. Prediction: I expect him to be targeted 9-10 times, catch 5 passes for 60-80 yards and 0 TDs.
Torrey Smith - Smith was targeted 24 times in his first four games, but has been targeted 33 times in his last four. He's turned that into 17 catches for 321 yards and 2 TDs. No other Baltimore wide receiver outside of these two has more than four catches on the season. Prediction: 5 catches for 70-90 yards and possibly a TD
Ed Dickson - Every week Dickson should be a very low-end desperation play at TE. Yes, he had a huge game against Seattle, but in 10 games this season he has topped 10 fantasy points just twice. He is far too inconsistent. He should only be counted on for 2 catches and 20 yards. Every once in awhile he'll have 50 yards and a TD, but its rare.
Dennis Pitta - Even more rare.
DEFENSE - Baltimore is 6th in turnovers forced and San Francisco has turned the ball over fewer times than any other team in the league. This should be a low-scoring game, but Baltimore will have a tougher time scoring points on defense than the Niners will.
Alex Smith - He seems to finally be putting it together as an NFL quarterback, but he's a desperation move in fantasy still. Smith has not topped 20 fantasy points (standard formats) once this season. The good news is that he's consistent, and Smith has fallen below an 80 QB rating only once in 10 games. He's almost a lock for 15 fantasy points, which is good that you know what you're getting, but bad that you know you're not getting much. Prediction: 190 yards, 1 TD/0 INT.
Frank Gore - Despite being limited with injuries, the Niners gave the ball to Gore 24 times against Arizona on Sunday, his second-highest total of the year. Against Baltimore, he's facing a defense that's tough against the run, but getting softer and a lot will depend on the health of Ray Lewis. Backs had success against them recently with Cedric Benson scoring twice in the game on Sunday and Marshawn Lynch had 109 yards and a TD in the game before that. Rashard Mendenhall had 52 yards and a TD in the game before Seattle and Beanie Wells had 83 yards and a TD in the game before that. And in the game before that, Maurice Jones-Drew had 105 yards on 30 carries. Gore had a string of five straight 100-yard games snapped against Arizona, but I think he can get back to the century mark today. Prediction: 20 carries, 100 yards, 0 TDs.
Kendall Hunter or Anthony Dixon - I had Hunter as a sleeper last week. I don't anymore. Not because I don't think the Hunter and Dixon will get a few touches, but which one? How many? Not even a good deep play for me, but keeping your finger on the button in case Gore aggravates his injury.
Michael Crabtree - He has only scored one TD this year and he just had his first 100-yard game of the season. He has done better of late, but two weeks ago against the Giants he had 1 catch for 21 yards. He's risky, especially against a Baltimore defense. Potentially catches 4 or 5 balls for 40-60 yards.
Other SF WRs - Why?
Vernon Davis - He had a season-high 10 targets against the Cardinals last week and caught a TD for the 2nd straight week. He has 52 targets, 39 cathes, 446 yards, and 5 TDs on the year. It's not as much as we expected, it's mid-level TE production. He has not had one explosive game this season, and I predict he may grab a TD with 40-50 yards.
DEFENSE - You have got to like one of the top d's playing against Joe Flacco, a player with 10 fumbles and 8 INTs against the team that has forced the most turnovers in the league.
Thanks for reading! We hope you have a great Thanksgiving!