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.
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.
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.
Baltimore at San Francisco
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!