It's Thanksgiving. It's your cousin's rum balls that are so bad even Carrie Nation wouldn't eat them. It's sitting at the kids' table and being forced to eat Brussel Sprouts. It's watching parades and reading the ads for Black Friday sales.
It's time for the annual National Football League Thanksgiving feast and by feast, we mean three games on the docket to start week 13. Traditional Turkey Day participants Detroit and Dallas start things in the afternoon and the defending Super Bowl champs play in prime time when the Ravens host Pittsburgh in an AFC North rematch from a few weeks ago. The Lions will play their 74th Thanksgiving Day game dating back to 1934, while the Cowboys will play in their 46th since 1966. All six teams playing on Thanksgiving are either in or within one game of a playoff spot.
It's an early start for pigskin and football Thursday. Better eat fast (even if it is the mashed potatoes your sister-in-law made... they're so lumpy even Bin Laden wouldn't touch them!) and you might want to keep an eye on your cousin Connie. She's the one that's been married twice that's just turned 55 and dates a 40-year old ex-Marine, who's now a football coach at the high school in your town. She's also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn't gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, "what the hell?"
So, without any further delay, here are Thursday's contests in week 13.
Green Bay (5-5-1) at Detroit (6-5), 12:30 p.m. on FOX. They meet again in the Motor City. When we last saw Green Bay and Detroit, it was in week five at Lambeau and the Lions were without WR Calvin Johnson (knee) and the Packers would go on to win 22-9. Green Bay held the Lions to 64 yards rushing in the win and sacked Matthew Stafford five times. The Packers racked up 354 yards of total offense and went 7 of 16 on third down tries, while Detroit was 7 of 15. Time of possession in the first contest favored Green Bay, who held on to the ball for 32:19, while the Lions held it for 27:41.
Both teams enter the contest with short weeks under their belts.
The Packers last week rallied from a 23-7 deficit against the Vikings last Sunday at Lambeau, scoring on a 6-yard TD pass to WR Jarret Boykin from backup QB Matt Flynn and a 27-yard field goal by Matt Crosby to tie things up in regulation at 23-23. Crosby and Vikings kicker Brad Walsh would trade field goals and the scoring stopped after that, resulting in the 26-26 tie. It was a battle of running backs as well as Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Green Bay's Eddie Lacy each cracked the 100-yard barrier rushing-wise. Peterson would finish with 146 yards and a TD, while Lacy ran for 110 and a TD of his own. Neither team did well on third down tries in the contest, as Minnesota was 6 of 16, while Green Bay was 3 of 16 (2 of 2 on fourth down). The Vikings did win the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 40:33 to Green Bay's 34:27.
The Lions managed to hold on to the top spot in the NFC North, despite losing to Tampa Bay last Sunday in the Motor City. Detroit trailed the Bucs 17-14 at the half but could not pull any closer, despite both teams scoring touchdowns in the final 30 minutes of action. Detroit did hold Tampa Bay to 22 yards rushing but Stafford was picked off four times in the contest. The one bright spot for the Lions was Johnson, who had seven catches for 115 yards in the contest. Detroit was 8 of 15 on third down tries (1 of 2 on fourth) and held the ball for 33:22, while Tampa Bay was 4 of 14, holding the ball for 26:38.
In the first contest in the land of bratwurst and cheese, the Packers were favored by 6 1/2 with the over/under coming in at 52. Green Bay won by 13, covering the spread but both teams did not match the over/under, scoring only a combined 31 points. That was then... this time, the Lions, who find themselves in first place in the NFC North (how strange is that?) are favored by 6 with the over/under coming in at 50. This is the first game of the day, so consider it the main meal. Just don't overstuff yourself, like your sister's wild rice stuffing (that stuff's good but not great). Lions have been playing some better ball of late but the Packers, even without Aaron Rodgers, hold the tiebreaker with Detroit as far as the playoffs go. Once again, the Lions will play a tough game at home on Thanksgiving but the Packers roar back to prominence in the NFC North. Green Bay wins on the road in the Motor City and covers the 6.
Oakland (4-7) at Dallas (6-5), 4:30 p.m. on CBS. Game two of the NFL Football Feast features Oakland traveling to Arlington to take on Dallas in Jerry's new house. Think of this one as going back for seconds of that pumpkin and chocolate cheesecake that your cousin Connie made (she can actually cook, you know!). The Silver and Black are in somewhat of a logjam in the AFC West, while the Cowboys reclaimed the top spot in the NFC East.
The Raiders blew a 19-16 lead against Tennessee last Sunday on the left coast and fell to the Titans 23-19. In that contest, Oakland was held to 93 yards on the ground and Raiders QB Matt McGloin, subbing for Terrell Pryor, threw his first interception of his NFL career in the loss. McGloin, who threw for 260 yards, was outpaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 320 yards and a pair of TDs. Tennessee was 10 of 18 on third down conversions, holding the ball for 35:48, while the Raiders were 3 of 10 and held the pigskin for 24:12.
Dallas went in the opposite direction of the Raiders last week and rallied late in their contest with Eli Manning and the New York Football Giants in the Meadowlands as Dan Bailey would nail a 35-yard field goal as time expired. Cowboys QB Tony Romo was sacked four times in the contest and the Dallas defense allowed Giants RB Andre Brown to run amok, tallying 127 of the Giants' 202 yards on the day. As far as third down tries were concerned, neither team had anything to write home about, as they failed to crack through the 50 percent barrier (Dallas was 4 of 11, New York was 3 of 12; the Giants were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and Dallas held the ball for 29:21, while the G-Men held the pigskin for 30:39.
Including contests when the Raiders were in Los Angeles, they hold a 6-4 series lead and the Cowboys have outscored them 225-198. Dallas' last win in the series came in 2009 in the Lone Star State, taking a 24-7, while Oakland's last victory over Dallas came in 2005 on the Left Coast by a final of 19-13. Dallas is favored by 9 1/2 with a 46 1/2 over/under. The spread's a bit low but the over/under makes a lot of sense. After all, this is Dallas at home on Thanksgiving and for Cowboy fans, they don't want a repeat of what happened to them last year with Washington on Turkey Day. Dallas may not cover the 9 1/2 but they'll take the win at home.
Pittsburgh (5-6) at Baltimore (5-6), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. For those of you that like leftovers (and there should be plenty if you kept your eye on Connie!), it's the final game of the day as a pair of AFC North teams, chasing Cincinnati square off in Charm City in a week seven rematch.
Both teams won their contests last Sunday and both teams are looking to improve their playoff hopes in the 2013 season. The Steelers led Cleveland on the road 13-3 at the half and then proceeded to outscore the Browns 14-8 in the final 30 minutes of action to take a 27-11 win. Neither team ran for 100 yards in the contest (Pittsburgh-85, Cleveland-55) and neither team reached the 50 percent barrier on third down tries (Pittsburgh 4 of 14 and 0 of 1 on fourth down, Cleveland 6 of 17 and 1 of 2 on fourth) but the Steelers managed to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, as he would throw for 217 yards and a pair of TDs and no sacks, while Cleveland signal callers Josh Campbell (twice) and Brad Weeden (3) were sacked a combined five times. Pittsburgh won the time of possession battle as well as the game, holding the ball for 33:39 to Cleveland's 26:21.
The Ravens also won their Sunday contest and did it at home against the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! in Charm City last weekend. Leading from start to finish against GangGreen, the defending Super Bowl champions took New York to the woodshed, holding them to three first quarter point en route to their 19-3 win. The Ravens scored the lone touchdown of the contest with five seconds left in the third when Joe Flacco connected on a 66-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones. Although New York did rush for over 100 yards in the contest, tallying 102, QB Geno Smith was sacked three times and picked off twice, while Flacco was sacked four times in the contest. Neither the Ravens or the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! did anything to write home about on third down, going a combined 4 of 25 (Baltimore was 3 of 13, New York was 1 of 12) but the Ravens came out on top in time of possession, holding the ball for 34:05, while GangGreen held it for 25:55.
The first meeting between Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the Steel City went down to the wire in the literal and figuarative sense of the word, as the Ravens rallied to tie the contest at 16-16 when Flacco and TE Dwight Clark connected on a 1-yard TD pass with 1:58 to go in the game before Pittsburgh kicker Sean Suisham connected on a 42-yard field with no time left to take the win at Heinz Field. The Ravens were outrushed 141-82 in the contest and they did manage to sack Roethlisberger four times. Both teams did well on third down tries in the first meeting (Baltimore was 7 of 14, 1 of 1 on fourth down; Pittsburgh was 7 of 12) and Pittsburgh held the ball for 31:01, which included the drive that ran the clock at the end of the contest, while Batlimore held it for 28:59.
In the first meeting in week seven, the Steelers were favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under came in at 41. The Steelers covered the spread with the 3-point win but both teams missed the over/under by 6, scoring 35 points. This time, the Ravens are the favorite at home and enter the contest on Thanksgiving evening as a 3-point favorite with a 40 1/2 over/under. It's not quite the "Harbaugh Bowl" of two Thanksgivings ago but it should be a pretty good ball game to watch in primetime. Steelers will play Baltimore tough away from Pittsburgh but the defending Super Bowl champs get revenge on Thanksgving night and win in Charm City, covering the three.
Thursday Broadcast Information (All Times are Eastern)
Green Bay at Detroit, 12:30 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver (Field reporter). Westwood One: Tom McCarthy, Rod Woodson, Hub Arkush (Field reporter).SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood 1), 92 (Green Bay), 86 (Detroit). XM: 88 (WestWood 1), 225 (Green Bay), 86 (Detroit).
Oakland at Dallas, 4:30 p.m. on CBS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, Mark Malone, Tim Brown (Field reporter).SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood 1), 92 (Oakland), 86 (Dallas). XM: 88 (WestWood 1), 225 (Oakland), 86 (Dallas).
Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 8:30 p.m. on NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Trent Green, Laura Okmin (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood 1) 92 (Pittsburgh), 86 (Baltimore). XM: 88 (WestWood 1) 225 (Pittsburgh) 86 (Baltimore).
Thursday Injury Report
Green Bay at Detroit
OUT: QB Aaron Rodgers (Collarbone), DE C.J. Wilson (Ankle), LB Jamari Lattimore (Quadricep), RB Johnathan Franklin (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Brandon Bostick (Concussion)
PROBABLE: DE Mike Neal (Abdomen), DE Jonnny Jolly (Groin), G Josh Sitton (Back), LB Nick Perry (Foot), T Marshall Newhouse (Shoulder), T Don Barclay (Knee), CB Sam Shields (Hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Travis Lewis (Non-Injury related)
DOUBTFUL: CB Chris Houston (Foot)
PROBABLE: DE Israel Idonije (Knee), S Glover Quin (Ankle), S Louis Delmas (Knee), WR Calvin Johnson (Knee)
Oakland at Dallas
OUT: S Tyvon Branch (Ankle), DE Jason Hunter (Foot), WR Denarius Moore (Shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Kevin Burnett (Quadricep), TE Mychal Rivera (Concussion), CB Mike Jenkins (Concussion), RB Darren McFadden (Hamstring), T Menelik Watson (Illness), LB Kaluka Maiava (Ribs), LB Sio Moore (Shoulder)
PROBABLE: DT Daniel Muir (Knee)
OUT: LB DeVonte Holloman (Neck), CB Morris Claiborne (Hamstring), LB Justin Durant (Hamstring), WR Dwayne Harris (Hamstring), LB Sean Lee (Hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Gavin Escobar (Hamstring)
PROBABLE: WR Dez Bryant WR (Back), DE George Selvie (Shoulder), S J.J. Wilcox (Knee), DT Nick Hayden (Ribs), DE DeMarcus Ware (Thigh), DT Jason Hatcher (Neck), WR Miles Austin (Hamstring)
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
OUT: DT Steve McLendon (Ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Stevenson Sylvester (Hamstring), S Troy Polamalu (Not Injury Related), LB LaMarr Woodley (Calf), DE Brett Keisel (Foot), T Marcus Gilbert (Ankle), TE Heath Miller (Not Injury Related), S Shamarko Thomas (Ankle)
OUT: S Brynden Trawick (Ankle)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (Shoulder)
Green Bay at Detroit: Game indoors.
Oakland at Dallas: Game indoors; if roof is open, Sunny and 51 degrees.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore: Clear and 36 degrees.
Broadcast information and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy USA Today and DonBets.com, weather courtesy The Weather Channel.