Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NFL Picks for Thanksgiving: Special Homefield Advantage

This week I am not doing a full schedule of picks because I am going to be out of computer reach for the next few days. I also will be diverted from keeping track of every single injury report, practice and press conference this week. My record last week was 9-7, and the loss that bothered me the most last week was jacksonville allowing a late TD to not cover against the Titans. I blame myself for trusting in the quarterback for the Packers, who I will not name, because he is not the same person he was 5 years ago. Stupid stupid me.

I do have two quick picks in honor of the Thanksgiving NFL special holiday match-ups. In case you were wondering, the old format was that one team played a divisional rival while the other played an AFC opponent so that the AFC carrier could get a game on national TV with big ratings. They did away with that last year as the Lions faced the Colts while the Cowboys played the Bears. This season neither team plays a divisional rival (Dallas hosts Denver; Detroits hosts Atlanta), but the same magic will apply, one team will cover if not win. Go ahead, look back through to 2001, in each year at least 1 team covered. Dallas has covered in 3 of the last 4 games, winning as an underdog once. Detroit covered 2 of 4 games and was a home dog winner once.

The Thanksgiving game is such an advantage to home teams besides the obvious home field advantage because of the short week. Think about the travel involved and lack of rest, and compress those advantages by 3 more days. The short week with travel works to the Lions and Cowboys advantage, especially if either team wants to employ a ground game to wear down an opposing defense. This year one team will cover, and I predict they will win outright.

DETROIT (+3) over Atlanta
I don't trust Atlanta at home against quality teams, and I will not for the rest of the year. They've given up serious points to back to back marginal offenses on the road. While the Lions are waffling on their QB, I feel whomever they put in will manage the game enough to beat the Falcons. The Lions defense is better than people think, and this will give the Falcons problems on the road after 3 days rest & 700 miles in the air.

Denver (-2) over DALLAS
Dallas is coming off of 3 straight victories, and will be playing their third game in 11 days. They also are playing the number 2 team in the league right now. Do they have the horses to stuff the Broncos rushing attack and force Jake Plummer to throw the ball? Despite great defensive line depth, I don't think they do. I also think that the Broncos defense is good enough to stuff the line, then blitz Drew Bledsoe to hell. The Broncos secondary is good enough to go one on one with the Cowboys receivers, if they all play and are 100%. I hate going against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but the Broncos have a great approach to the game this year. Rather than ask Plummer to throw the ball a lot and put the pressure of sustaining drives on him, they are playing ball control football and limiting his pass attempts. Look at his stats, he has thrown over 30 attempts 3 times this year. They combine ball control with great defense, and only ask Plummer to make a few throws. It is a winning formula. I know it is because it is what Bill Parcells used in 2003 when he had Quincy Carter as his QB. It got the Cowboys to 10-6 and a playoff spot with not as much talent as this year's Broncos team.

With the way the NFL is this year, watch the Broncos go out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and lose to the Cowboys in the last minute, 20-17 on a long field goal.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all of you flying and driving for Thanksgiving meals.

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