Happy Thanksgiving Week! I hope you all were able to enjoy celebrating with your loved ones and now rested, are ready to gear up for a huge Sunday slate. For the new readers, thank you for hanging out with me; for the original readers, your support is appreciated. I think my parents are the only two who followed my first entry here, but hey, it’s really growing now, thanks to you!
I am most grateful for your time and feedback, especially those who comment under the articles or send me messages. I read them all.
I started my own Thanksgiving Day on Get Up! before I spent the rest of the day in Philly with my in-laws watching the games. I was 1 for 3 on my game predictions, not very impressive at all. I knew Buffalo would dominate because the Saints are missing too many key players. Without running back Alvin Kamara, they essentially have no offensive weapons. For the Bears, I thought this past week’s drama involving head coach Matt Nagy would be too distracting, but they powered through. The poor Detroit Lions just can’t get a victory. Then we have the Dallas Cowboys, who looked like they had every advantage headed into this game yet lost to the Raiders at home. The Cowboys wanted to run the ball more against the Raiders because the Raiders’ run defense is awful. They just couldn’t get it done.
This is why predictions are infuriating, because it doesn’t matter how much you know about the sport, the injuries, the weather -- it’s always a tossup. But that will not stop me from sitting on this plane right now headed to a very cold Green Bay, Wis., and talking about some of the games I can’t wait to watch.
This is “Separation Sunday” around the league. Three of the top contenders in the NFC will be in action when the Rams play the Packers in Green Bay. The Bucs will be in Indy facing the hot Colts. In the AFC, the Patriots play host to the Titans, and it’s a huge AFC matchup between the Browns and Ravens in Baltimore. Both starting quarterbacks are playing, too. Overall, seven of the 11 games are between teams that are .500 or better.
I’ll start with the game I have been assigned to for ESPN. (Don’t forget to watch Sunday NFL Countdown at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN.)
Rams at the Packers
QB Aaron Rodgers has a fractured pinky toe that he says is very painful. It’s going to be in the low 30s with 19 mph winds at Lambeau Field, and the chances of him being uncomfortable are pretty
high. The Rams believe Rodgers still is pretty mobile but expect the Packers’ game plan will be to run the ball. We’ll know more Sunday if All Pro running back Aaron Jones will be active; Green Bay’s ground game could use him.
The Rams lost the last two games and have never lost three in a row under head coach Sean McVay. They are rested coming off a bye week, though something to watch is the health of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Stafford is dealing with back issues and a sprained ankle, and his protection has been awful. Stafford has been sacked seven times the last two games. That’s his total number of sacks the first eight games of the season.
Weeks 1-8: 13.2 yards/completion
Weeks 9-10: 9.4 yards/completion
Stafford probably was league MVP through Week 8 because of the Rams’ downfield passing game. The past two weeks he’s been more like … the Lions’ Jared Goff.
Also, during the bye, Odell Beckham Jr. obviously was able to use the time to keep learning the playbook.
Bucs at the Colts
After seeing RB Jonathan Taylor dismantle the Bills’ defense last week, finishing the day with five touchdowns, it is very hard to believe Indy isn’t going to keep feeding him. Here’s the challenge: Tampa Bay has one of the best run defenses in football. If this defense can force Colts QB Carson Wentz to throw the ball and shut down the run game, the Bucs can dominate this one.
Big Ben and Joe Burrow:
The Steelers are expected to get outside linebacker T.J. Watt, cornerback Joe Haden and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick back this week, which is great news for a defense that should start to go back to its ways. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for three touchdowns last week, the most he’s had this this season in a game. The Steelers are trending up and I think this is the kind of game head coach Mike Tomlin dominates.
Titans and Patriots
Mike Vrabel vs. Bill Belichick
If the Titans had some form of health on their roster, this would be an incredible game, but with the Titans, not limping but rolling up in a wheelchair to Gillette Stadium against a red hot Patriots team, they just won’t have enough in the end. The Titans need to figure out how they are going to get through December. Their top three pass catchers are all on IR. Will the Titans fight and play smart situational football and pull this off? I don’t think this will be their day.