Thanksgiving Day games have been a long tradition for me, and I get to break down three games in celebration. We’ll go ahead and do the SuperContest picks real quick, but then right to it!
Luigi’s overall winner picks are Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Cleveland, Indy, Kansas City, Chicago, Miami, Philly, Carolina, Buffalo, San Fran, San Diego, New England, Washington, and Seattle. Luigi’s SuperContest picks are Kansas City +4.5, Houston +7.5, Oakland +9.5, Green Bay +6.5 (getting the usual Rodgers corollary), and Miami +2. One game not on the list that could be is Buffalo-Atlanta. Buffalo is getting three point as the ‘home’ team, but the game is actually in Toronto. Thinking that Buffalo is a real home team, Luigi only has them as tiny favorites. If you take away a few points for not actually having home field advantage, Atlanta +3 would be on the list. That would also be the next game in if you wanted to leave the Packers out because of Rodgers’ injury.
Yoshi 1’s SuperContest picks are Oakland, Jacksonville +7, Green Bay, Pittsburgh +3, and Miami. The next game in would again be Atlanta. Yoshi 2’s picks are Houston, KC, Oakland, Green Bay, and Washington +1. That lone Jacksonville pick might be a good one since the models don’t know that Cleveland is going to be rolling out Brandon Weeden again.
The biggest news in the Lions-Packers game is that Aaron Rodgers is not going to be able to suit up. With the mix of Rodgers and leftovers that have generated the Packers’ stats for the season on the whole, Luigi thought that the Lions would be small favorites. With Rodgers still out, you have to assume the Lions will be bigger favorites. Since Rodgers has gone down, the Packers have lost by 7, 14, 14, and tied with the Vikings. On the other hand, the Lions have dropped two straight to crappy teams that seem somewhat resurgent, but are still crappy teams. So who knows. With any luck, this will be the year the Lions break their Thanksgiving losing streak. But I can’t tell you what to expect.
Dallas and Oakland doesn’t seem like much of a contest, with the Cowboys almost favored by double digits, but Luigi has it a little closer than that. The Raiders have been surprisingly feisty this year with either Pryor or McGloin passing the ball. They’ve had four double-digit losses, but two of those were to Denver and Kansas City (definitely forgivable) and another was to the Eagles (somewhat forgivable). In terms of yards per play on offense, the Cowboys are barely ahead of Oakland, and the Raiders have a sizable advantage in the run game (although that’s mitigated a bit with Pryor being out). The Cowboys would have a big sack and interception advantage, except that’s helped by Pryor being out. So the offensive sides of the teams are fairly evenly matched.
And if anything, Oakland might have the defensive advantage. Dallas has the worst run defense in the league in terms of yards per rush. Oakland is actually 7th best. The Raiders aren’t great at getting sacks, but Dallas is bad. The Cowboys do get more picks, but aren’t especially great at it. And the two teams are about even at pass yards per attempt. This really kind of sounds like a toss-up. Dallas is at home, and is probably the better team, but I don’t know if it adds up to double digits.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh have put on a standard slugfest the past few years. Their last four games have been decided by exactly a field goal, Baltimore had a big win, the previous two regular season games were decided by a field goal, Pittsburgh won a playoff game by 7, both games in 2009 were decided by a field goal…. you get the picture. Thus it makes complete sense that Baltimore is at home and favored by about a field goal. Given the mess that is the middle of the AFC pack, this is actually a very important game in terms of playoff implications. But it’s an ugly match-up. If I asked you who was tied with the Jaguars for worst yards per play in the league, would you have guessed the Ravens? Pittsburgh is only 21st. They are 30th and 31st in yards per rush. They are the 6th and 9th most-sacked teams in the league. Pittsburgh has a below-average interception rate and an above-average yards per pass attempt, which are the only nice things you can say about them.
Both the Steelers and Ravens are above-average in terms of defensive yards per play, but not by much. Both teams are below-average at getting interceptions and Pittsburgh doesn’t get a lot of sacks, although Baltimore is 3rd-best in the league. Both teams are about average in terms of defensive passing yards per attempt and Pittsburgh is about average at yards per rush as well, but the Ravens have an ok run defense. So just to sum up that whole mess: Pittsburgh is decent at passing and Baltimore is good at run defense and getting sacks. Everything is average or worse. I expect an ugly game and don’t care who wins, as long as they don’t make the playoffs.
I had hoped to do another playoff race update, but with the two big divisional games tomorrow, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to jump the gun. We’ll do it right next week, and in the meantime enjoy some turkey!