Thanksgiving Football Preview - Week 13
Thanksgiving is such a great day for football fans. There’s a good chance you have the day off from work, you get to spend time with family and/or friends, eat copious amounts of delicious food and enjoy football for most of your waking hours. The NFL did a great job making sure Thanksgiving stalwarts like the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions were all playing today, which is a tradition much older than myself.
Despite a combined 31-34-1 record between the six teams playing today, two teams are division leaders and every single one of them is still in playoff contention. Lets take a brief look at each of today’s matchups below.
Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
This game could go a long way in deciding the division in the end. If Green Bay wins, they will move a half game ahead of detroit in the NFC North standings, thanks to the tie against the Minnesota Vikings last week. If the Chicago Bears win, Green Bay will find themselves in second, but a Bears loss would allow the Packers to pull even with them for the division lead. Green Bay also will have Swept Detroit, which gives them the ultimate tiebreaker over the Lions, should things get messy. Detroit on the other hand, had a strong lead in the division before losing two-straight games and now they absolutely must win this game to avoid having to rely on too many outside factors to steal the division. One thing is for sure though: there’s only one team making the playoffs from the NFC Norse this year, so you’re completely out of luck if you don’t win the division.
While some of the luster of this game is gone with Aaron Rodgers standing on the sidelines, it should still be a good game. Matt Flynn proved that he can still be successful in this offense, coming off the bench last week against the Vikings and moving the offense downfield when Scott Tolzien couldn’t. Let’s also not forget Flynn’s last start for the Packers also came against the Lions, when he put up six touchdowns and over 400 yards. The Lions currently are the last pass coverage unit with a positive grade at +1.1, but have given up nearly 3,200 yards through the air and 21 touchdowns, the third most in the league. The Packers’ pass-coverage unit is even worse, sporting a -29.9 grade and has given up just two less touchdowns and a little over 300 less yards through the air. We could be in for a shootout of epic proportions once again.
Look for Reggie Bush to be the Fantasy X-Factor in this one. While Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will surely have big days, Bush could have a huge performance in store as well. Last week, Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart combined for 237 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries, shredding the Packers run defense – which has had quite a slide in recent weeks. Bush is the seventh best fantasy ‘back in standard leagues after all, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, with over 1,000 total yards and four touchdowns.
Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys
It’s crazy to think about, but the 4-7 Raiders are actually still right in the thick of things for the last AFC Wild Card spot and desperately need to win this game to keep their postseason hopes alive. On the other side of the ball, Dallas is tied atop the NFC East at 6-5 and really needs a win to keep their division-title hopes intact. As volatile as that division has been, losing has the potential to cost them the division for good at this point – depending on how the other teams do, obviously.
It looks like things are in Dallas’ favor today though, as they’re 4-1 at home this season and Oakland is 1-4 on the road. The Raiders had actually lost their last eight road games before beating a hapless Houston Texans squad away from home two weeks ago. This could turn into a bit of an offensive shootout, as both teams are ranked in the bottom eight in overall defense, with Oakland sporting a -37.3 grade and Dallas an even worse -60.4. Oakland will benefit from the return of Darren McFadden and left tackle Jared Veldheer, but Tony Romo and company should still be able to put up better numbers than Matt McGloin.
Despite the return of McFadden, Rashad Jennings should actually be the Fantasy X-Factor in this one. He’s been eating up opposing defenses at will this year and has better numbers across the board than McFadden. Dallas is ranked second-to-last in run defense with a -56.2 grade and are allowing 115.18 rushing yards-per-game and have given up 13 total touchdowns to opposing running backs.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
The last game of the day, the official Thursday Night Football matchup between bitter divisional rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, is sure to not disappoint. With both teams at 5-6 they’re tied for second in the AFC North and are jockeying for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot – but are also just two games away from overtaking the division, something that is certainly possible still at this point, with a little help from the Cincinnati Bengals anyway. Needless to say, this is definitely a must-win for both teams.
Pittsburgh is one of the AFC’s hottest teams coming into tonight’s contest, having won three-straight games, all by double digits. Ben Roethlisberger has been in top form over that stretch, completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 788 passing yards, seven touchdowns and a 99.73 passer rating – with only one interception. The bad news for Pittsburgh is that Baltimore is the third defense, sporting a +91.0 grade and are also ranked in the top-five in run defense and pass rush and in the top-10 in pass coverage. If they can be on their A-game, it could be a long day for the Steelers. Conversely, Pittsburgh is in the bottom-half in every defensive category, which will open up a lot of chances for the Ravens’ offense.
Even with Baltimore’s defense being so good, the Steelers are on quite the hot streak and if they continue to play well, Antonio Brown will definitely be the Fantasy X-Factor in this one. He has 24 receptions in the last four games, with 414 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He’s creeped steadily up the fantasy rankings over that time, and currently sits as the fourth-best receiver on the season. Despite being ranked 10th in pass coverage with a +5.0 grade, Baltimore has surrendered nearly 1,800 yards and 10 touchdowns to opposing receivers on just 128 receptions and are giving up 21.0 fantasy points per game.