Sorry for being away for a few weeks. I had a post all planned for the Twins shortstop options, but when they acquired JJ Hardy (which would have been my #1 option) that sort of ruined that idea. I'll be back to posting routinely from now on, so keep checking back.
With 3 games on Thursday, here are my NFL Picks for the week. I do reserve the right to change these picks as some injury information becomes available later in the week. The home team is in caps, with the spread in parenthesis.
DETROIT (+10.5) over Green Bay
On paper, the Packers look poised to dismantle the Lions on Thursday. Matt Stafford likely won't play, and even if he does, his 5 TD performance last week was due more so to the Browns terrible defense than Stafford suddenly growing up. I like Stafford a lot, and I do believe he's going to be a very good QB for a team that has needed one for quite some time.
That said, I have a hunch the Packers are going to struggle for most of the game. Despite me wanting to cheer for Detroit, I simply believe the Lions will manage to keep this a one possession game throughout the game. At least that's what I'm banking on. If Stafford indeed doesn't play, hopefully Culpepper has some magic left in that right arm. Watching the Packers lose to Detroit would make my Thanksgiving perfect.
Final Score: Green Bay 23, Detroit 15
Oakland (+13.5) over DALLAS
This seems like too high of a spread for a team that has scored 7 points in the last two weeks. Oakland's pass defense is deceptively good, with Asomugha being the best corner in the World. I think Dallas will win, but would not be surprised at all if Oakland pulls off another surprising upset. Romo has looked terrible the last few weeks, Miles Austin has disappeared after his stretch of breakout games, and Jason Witten is going to be a game-time decision. Bruce Gradkowski hardly gives me confidence, but sadly he's a better option than former #1 overall pick Jamarcus Russell.
Final Score: Dallas 27, Oakland 17
New York Giants (-7.5) over DENVER
This was the toughest game of the week for me to choose. Before the year started, I felt Denver would be better than people expected, but I certainly didn't expect them to start 6-0. Being 6-4 at this point in the season is about what I expected, which I'm sure many people will doubt, but it's the truth. This is a game with two struggling teams, which makes it very tough to pick.
Denver's defense has had trouble stopping the run, and I think this week is the week Brandon Jacobs finally erupts for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Bradshaw likely out, that makes Jacobs that much more important, and the Giants seem poised to give him the ball and let him run it down the Broncos throats. Neither team seems destined for greatness after such promising starts, but this should be the most intriguing game of the three Thanksgiving Day games.
Final Score: New York Giants 34, Denver 20
HOUSTON (+3.5) over Indianapolis
The Colts have managed to escape four consecutive weeks with victories, and in at least three of those games they probably deserved to lose. That shows how valuable Peyton Manning is to that team, and honestly as long as he's playing I'll never feel safe about betting against him.
With the Texans still in the AFC Wild Card race, this is arguably the biggest game in Franchise history. I think Matt Schaub is going to have a sensational day, and he'll carry the Texans to an upset over the undefeated Colts. With Steve Slaton apparently getting back into the starting lineup, he should help the Texans passing game, and hopefully this week they give him more than 5 carries. Chris Brown looked terrible against the Titans, which made it that much more surprising that Ryan Moats was basically forgotten. If the coaching decisions are better this week, I expect the Colts to suffer their first loss of the season.
Final Score: Houston 37, Indianapolis 31
CINCINNATI (-14) over Cleveland
With or without Cedric Benson, the Bengals should dominate this game. The Browns are terrible, plain and simple, and their coaching is a major problem. I expect to see Brady Quinn throwing 95% of his passes shorter than 10 yards yet again this week against a real NFL defense, and the Browns will again have trouble scoring any points.
Final Score: Cincinnati 34, Cleveland 6
PHILADELPHIA (-9) over Washington
Washington is at home, and coming off a hard fought game against the Cowboys, which kept this game's spread under 10. I don't buy it, as I think the Eagles are going to embarrass the Redskins and become the frontrunners for one of the final NFC playoff spots. Without Portis or Betts the Redskins likely will have trouble scoring points just like they did last week, which makes a 9 point cover virtually guaranteed for the Eagles.
Final Score: Philadelphia 27, Washington 10
Miami (-3) over BUFFALO
T.O. played well last week, but there's no way I'm backing Ryan Fitzgerald and the Bills against a Dolphins team that seems destined to compete for an AFC Wild Card spot all season. I expect Ricky Williams to continue his fantasy dominance, and be the focal point of the Dolphins offense yet again, leading the Dolphins to a surprisingly close win.
Final Score: Miami 24, Buffalo 16
Seattle (-3) over ST. LOUIS
Marc Bulger's hurt yet again, and as bad as Seattle looked last week, they're offense excels against weak teams. With a win already over the Rams this year, I think the Seahawks will again have their way with arguably the league's worst team. Without Bulger, Seattle should probably just keep 10 guys in the box and use their lone remaining defender to cover the Rams 3 receivers, because Steven Jackson is going to need close to 50 touches this week if the Rams are going to move the ball at all.
Final Score: Seattle 31, St. Louis 9
ATLANTA (-12) over Tampa Bay
Matt Ryan has been frustratingly inconsistent this season, which makes me a bit worried to take Atlanta by double digits even at home. The Bucs have shown a willingness the last few weeks to fight on every play, and for that reason I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Tampa Bay keep this close. However, even if Michael Turner is injured this week, the Falcons offense should play well enough to put quite a few points on the board.
Final Score: Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 10
Carolina (+3) over NEW YORK JETS
Mark Sanchez seems lost, and while I don't think the Jets should bench him, I don't see anyway they're covering the spread against a talented defense like the Panthers. Carolina has underachieved quite a bit this season, especially on defense, but with the potential there and a QB making terrible decisions playing against them for once rather than for them, I expect Carolina to win this game rather easily. DeAngelo Williams is having a great season, and I feel fairly confident in him carrying the offense.
Final Score: Carolina 28, New York Jets 17
Jacksonville (+3) over SAN FRANCISCO
Another tough game to choose. Both teams have played inconsistent for most of the season, so all I did here was take the team with the best player in the game. If Jack Del Rio can finally get MJD more than 15 touches, Jacksonville should run away with the game. I think Del Rio finally figures it out and gives MJD 25 touches and he comes through with a huge game, leading the Jaguars to a double digits victory over the favored 49ers.
Final Score: Jacksonville 30, San Francisco 16
SAN DIEGO (-13.5) over Kansas City
Kansas City looked very good last week in upsetting Pittsburgh, but that was more Pittsburgh allowing them to hang around and then Big Ben getting hurt than Kansas City playing exceptionally well. San Diego is playing arguably the best football of any team in the league right now, and I think Philip Rivers will continue to carry the offense this week. Look for a rather easy cover, as I think San Diego crushes Kansas City.
Final Score: San Diego 38, Kansas City 13
MINNESOTA (-10.5) over Chicago
When the Vikings were 4-0 and the Bears were 3-1, a buddy of mine who is a Bears fan bet me $100 the Bears would finish with a better record than the Vikings. I agreed to the bet, and ever since then the Bears have looked terrible. This game means little in that bet, or for the division for that matter, but I expect the Vikings to cruise. Cutler should be forced into a lot of quick decision making with the great Vikings D-Line, and that usually results in plenty of turnovers for the "Franchise QB." Yes, I put those in quotes because I think a more appropriate term for Cutler with what the Bears gave up is "Franchise killing QB."
Final Score: Minnesota 41, Chicago 17
New England (+3) over NEW ORLEANS
I don't expect the game to come down to 4th and 2 with 2 minutes to go, but if it does, I'm guessing Belichick will go for it again, if for no reason other than to prove to his critics he does what he believes is best for his football team. I think the Patriots will have their way with a very talented Saints team, though, and I expect Tom Brady to have his way with a defense that to this point has been the biggest overachieving defense in recent memory.
Final Score: New England 38, New Orleans 30