Scott Shapiro's Thanksgiving NFL preview
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there. I hope you have a great holiday.
It was a poor Week 12 for me, despite a win Thursday night in Houston. Hindsight is 20/20, but I probably deserved to lose when I endorsed Jeff Driskel and the Lions as a road favorite. I also gave out an Under in a contest that saw 65 points scored and endured a dismal display from a playoff team Sunday night, when the Packers appeared like they just wanted to leave Northern California after they fell behind 23-0 to the 49ers.
Hopefully I can get back to my winning ways on Turkey Day, where once again pigskin fans will get three NFL games to feast on in 2019.
The Thanksgiving slate starts with an NFC North clash between teams that have disappointed in 2019.
The Bears defense has not been as dynamic as it was in 2018, but it has still been very good. The stop unit is allowing just 17.1 points per game through their first 11 contests and has given its offense a chance to win just about every week.
Unfortunately the Chicago offense has taken a significant step backward in 2019, in large part because of the poor play from third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The second overall pick from the 2017 NFL draft has been inaccurate and has struggled to read defenses. He is unlikely to be the Bears' starter in 2020, unless he really picks things up over the last five games.
In addition to inefficiency from their quarterback, the Bears have gotten poor offensive-line play and head coach Matt Nagy has made a plethora of bad decisions. The good thing for Nagy and his squad is they'll meet a Lions team that is without quarterback Matthew Stafford, has lost four consecutive games and has at least as many issues as the Bears.
Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel was serviceable in his first couple starts, including a 20-13 defeat at Solider Field in Week 10, but he was awful Sunday in Washington. Things are not likely to get easier for Driskel, even though the Lions are back home. The Chicago defense has seen him already and should be in position to hold Detroit to fewer than 17 points.
It is not easy to have faith in Trubisky and the Bears' 29th-ranked rushing attack on the road, but their defense should lead them to a second consecutive win to start the holiday slate.
Pick: Chicago -3
The lone inter-conference game on the Thanksgiving schedule offers fans an intriguing matchup between teams that are likely to make the playoffs.
The Bills head to Dallas at 8-3 and have won most of their games with defense, but they have not exactly faced a murderers’ row of opposing offenses. Since their bye week they completely shut down the Broncos with Brandon Allen at the helm, held down the Redskins with Dwayne Haskins and did a fine job against the Browns, but they gave up more than 20 points twice to the Miami Dolphins and had no answer for the Eagles rushing attack in Week 8. Buffalo will face its toughest assignment of the season against a Cowboys offense that is in a bounce-back spot after it was shut down in poor weather by the Patriots.
Dak Prescott is having his best year as a pro and a lot of the credit goes to him, but it also does not hurt that he has a loaded cast of skilled players around him and has been sacked a league-low 1.1 times per game. His No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper has a tough matchup against Tre’Davious White, but look for Prescott to find Randall Cobb and Michael Gallup regularly and get a ton of production from Ezekiel Elliott in the running game.
The Dallas offense should come out swinging and find the end zone multiple times in the first half. This should open the game up and lead to more points than many expect.
Pick: Over 46
These teams met in Week 10, and it was one of the biggest upsets of the season. The Falcons defense was terrible through eight games, but held Drew Brees and the Saints to just nine points. That game probably caught the Saints by surprise, but do not expect history to repeat itself Thursday night. Look for the Saints defense to dominate the Atlanta offense this time around.
The Falcons running game is a mess, wide receiver Julio Jones is banged up and quarterback Matt Ryan has not been the same since he returned from a ankle injury. Their offense will struggle all night long in Mercedes-Benz Stadium against a New Orleans defense seeking revenge.
The Saints should make a few big plays in the passing game, but do not expect them to light up the scoreboard, either, with both left tackle Terron Armstead and left guard Andrus Peat out of the lineup.