It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving’s already here, but that’s what both the calendar and the NFL schedule say. There’s always at least one clunker among the traditional Thanksgiving Day football games, but at least now we have a game that features neither the Lions nor the Cowboys (and that’s an especially good thing this year, unless you’re a sadist). Here are my recommendations for Week 12 - all games are Sunday during the day unless otherwise noted:
New England at Detroit (Thursday early) - This has the potential to be an entertaining, high-scoring game, but there’s a 99.9% chance that Team Tom will triumph in the end. Let’s hope the Lions haven’t read the script. New England 31 Detroit 27.
- New England
- Yes (Should definitely be in your starting lineup): QB Tom Brady (Questionable-foot), RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Danny Woodhead, WRs Wes Welker & Deion Branch, TE Aaron Hernandez
- No (Should definitely NOT be in your starting lineup): TE Rob Gronkowski, DEF, K Shayne Graham
- Maybe So (Okay to start if you don’t have a better option): None
- Yes: QB Shaun Hill (Probable-quad), WRs Calvin Johnson & Nate Burleson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, K David Rayner
- No: RB Jahvid Best (Questionable-toe), TE Tony Scheffler (Questionable-ribs), DEF
- Maybe So: RB Maurice Morris, WR Bryant Johnson
New Orleans at Dallas (Thursday late) - Something’s gotta give: New Orleans’ post-Super Bowl hangover has worn off, and Dallas post-”we made the playoffs!” hangover has worn off. Expect the Saints to keep on marching and the Cowboys to get thrown off their horses. New Orleans 34 Dallas 17.
- New Orleans
- Yes: QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, TE David Thomas, DEF, K Garrett Harley
- No: TE Jeremy Shockey (Questionable-ribs)
- Maybe So: RBs Chris Ivory (Probable-shoulder) & Reggie Bush (Questionable-leg); WRs Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, & Robert Meachem; TE Jimmy Graham
- Yes: TE Jason Witten
- No: QB Jon Kitna; RBs Felix Jones (Questionable-hip), Marion Barber, & Tashard Choice; WR Roy Williams, DEF, K David Buehler
- Maybe So: WRs Miles Austin & Dez Bryant
Cincinnati at New York Jets ( Thursday night) - If you’ve recently jumped on the Mark Sanchez bandwagon, consider this: his completion percentage (55.1%) is comparable to those of Jake Delhomme (55.0%) and Jason Campbell (54.7%), and compares unfavorable to those of Vince Young (59.6%), and Brett Favre (60.2%). There’s no doubting Sanchez’ ability to maintain his composure and lead his team when the chips are down, but the hype is still outpacing the performance. In spite of that, the Jets will pull yet another rabbit out of the hat on turkey day. New York 27 Cincinnati 24.
- Yes: QB Carson Palmer (Probable-foot); WRs Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, & Jordan Shipley; TE Jermaine Gresham
- No: DEF, K Aaron Pettrey
- Maybe So: RB Cedric Benson
- New York
- Yes: RBs LaDainian Tomlinson & Shonn Greene, WR Santonio Holmes, TE Dustin Keller, DEF, K Nick Folk
- No: WR Jerricho Cotchery (Questionable-groin)
- Maybe So: QB Mark Sanchez (Probable-calf), WR Braylon Edwards
Jacksonville at New York Giants (Sunday early) - This game will be a clear indicator of which direction the Giants’ season is headed. If they can bounce back from two consecutive defeats to division rivals, they’ll be in good shape in the playoff hunt. If not, they may well wind up on the outside looking in. Here’s betting that the Giants get their season turned around against the (cough, cough) first-place Jaguars. New York 34 Jacksonville 17.
- Yes: TE Marcedes Lewis
- Maybe So: QB David Garrard, DEF, K Josh Scobee
- No: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WRs Mike Sims-Walker (Questionable-ankle), Mike Thomas
- New York
- Yes: QB Eli Manning, WR Mario Manningham, TE Kevin Boss, DEF, K Lawrence Tynes
- No: WR Hakeem Nicks (Out-knee)
- Maybe So: RBs Brandon Jacobs & Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Derek Hagan
Carolina at Cleveland - You may have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do of predicting the two quarterbacks that will start this game. Cleveland has the sore-ankled Colt McCoy and the sore-hamstringed Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace to choose from. Carolina has the concussed Jimmy Clausen and Brian “Mr. Mom” St. Pierre to choose from. One thing’s for sure no matter which quarterbacks start - this game will be hard to watch. Cleveland 20 Carolina 14.
- Yes: RB Mike Goodson, TE Dante Rosario, DEF
- No: QB Jimmy Clausen (Probable-concussion)/Brian St. Pierre (whichever starts), WR Brandon LaFell (Questionable-concussion), K John Kasay
- Maybe So: WRs Steve Smith & David Gettis
- Yes: RB Peyton Hillis, TE Ben Watson, DEF, K Phil Dawson
- No: QB Colt McCoy (Doubtful-ankle)/Seneca Wallace/Jake Delhomme (whichever starts, WRs Josh Cribbs (Questionable-foot) & Brian Robiskie
- Maybe So: WR Mohamed Massaquoi
Green Bay at Atlanta - This battle between two NFC Super Bowl contenders is one of the few games that will live up to the hype this weekend. Both defenses are solid, but the Packers’ offense will be just a little too much for the Falcons to handle. Green Bay 27 Atlanta 24.
- Green Bay
- Yes: QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Greg Jennings, TE Anthony quarless, DEF, K Mason Crosby
- No: WR Jordy Nelson
- Maybe: RB Fred Jackson, WRs Donal Driver & James Jones
- Yes: RB Michael Turner, WR Roddy White, TE Tony Gonzalez
- No: WR Michael Jenkins, DEF, K Matt Bryant
- Maybe So: QB Matt Ryan
Pittsburgh at Buffalo - Having won its last two games, Buffalo is on a roll. However, Pittsburgh is a far better team than both Detroit and Cincinnati, and the Bills will find that out early and often. Pittsburgh 30 Buffalo 21.
- Yes: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WRs Hines Ward & Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller, DEF, K Shaun Suisham
- No: None
- Maybe So: WR Emmanuel Sanders
- Yes: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Steve Johnson
- No: RBs Fred Jackson & C.J. Spiller (Questionable-hamstring), DEF, K Rian Lindell
- Maybe So: WR Lee Evans
Tennessee at Houston - The Vince Young soap opera has obscured the fact that the Titans trail the Jaguars and the Colts by just one game in the AFC South. Still, a team that’s starting Rusty Smith at quarterback at this point in the season has a bleak outlook at best. Expect the Texans to finally get back in the win column. Houston 34 Tennessee 21.
- Yes: RB Chris Johnson, TE Bo Scaife
- No: WRs Randy Moss, Nate Washington, & Justin Gage; DEF, K Rob Bironas
- Maybe So: QB Rusty Smith
- Yes: QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster, WRs Andre Johnson & Kevin Walter, TE Joel Dreessen, DEF, K Neil Rackers
- No: TE Owen Daniels (Questionable-hamstring)
- Maybe So: None
Minnesota at Washington - Brett Favre wanted the Vikings’ offensive playbook
dumbed down simplified, and he’s finally gotten his wish (along with a new head coach). Brad Childress will probably throw a brick threw his television when he sees how much better the “new and improved” offense works, but such is the life of an ex-coach. Minnesota 27 Washington 21.
- Yes: QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson, WRs Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DEF, K Ryan Longwell
- No: None
- Maybe So: RB Toby Gerhardt
- Yes: WRs Santana Moss & Anthony Armstrong, TE Chris Cooley
- No: RBs Clinton Portis (Out for the season - groin) & Ryan Torain (Doubtful-hamstring), TE Fred Davis, DEF, K Graham Gano
- Maybe So: QB Donovan McNabb, RB Keiland Williams
Kansas City at Seattle (Sunday late) - Will the real Seahawks team please stand up? Is it the team that’s gone 3-1 at home and leads its division, or is it the team that’s gone 2-4 on the road and looked awful doing so? A “healthy” Matt Hasselbeck gives Seattle a chance in this game, but if Mike Williams is limited or unable to play, then Kansas City will win this game decisively. Kansas City 28 Seattle 24
- Kansas City
- Yes: QB Matt Cassel, RBs Jamaal Charles & Thomas Jones, WR Dwayne Bowe, DEF
- No: WR Dexter McCluster (Questionable-ankle), TE Tony Moeaki (Questionable-concussion), K Ryan Succop
- Maybe So: WR Chris Chambers
- Yes: QB Matt Hasselbeck, WRs Mike Williams (Questionable-foot) & Deon Butler, TE John Carlson
- No: RB Marshawn Lynch, DEF, K Olindo Mare
- Maybe So: WR Ben Obomanu
Miami at Oakland Both teams would rather forget Week 11: Miami was embarrassed at home by the Bears, while Oakland came crashing back to earth on the road against Pittsburgh. The (potential) absence of Brandon Marshall and the presence of Tyler Thigpen will both hurt the Dolphins’ cause, but Ronnie Brown and the running game will save the day for Miami. Miami 21 Oakland 17.
- Yes: RB Ronnie Brown, WRs Brandon Marshall (Questionable-hamstring) & Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano, DEF
- No: QB Tyler Thigpen, K Dan Carpenter
- Maybe So: RB Ricky Williams (Questionable-knees)
- Yes: RBs Darren McFadden & Michael Bush, TE Zach Miller, DEF
- No: QB Jason Campbell; WRs Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, & Darrius Heyward-Bey; K Sebastian Janikowski
- Maybe So: None
Philadelphia at Chicago - Philadelphia may not be the best team in the league right now, but their explosive offense can compete with anyone. The underrated Bears’ defense will put up a good fight, but the Bears’ offense won’t be able to get much going on offense. Philadelphia 24 Chicago 14.
- Yes: RB LeSean McCoy, WRs DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin, DEF
- No: K David Akers
- Maybe So: QB Michael Vick, TE Brent Celek
- Yes: TE Greg Olsen, DEF
- No: QB Jay Cutler, WRs Devin Hester & Earl Bennett, K Robbie Gould
- Maybe So: RB Matt Forte, WR Johnny Knox
St. Louis at Denver - Though neither of these teams is likely to make the playoffs, both have enough weapons on offense to make this an entertaining game. Count on Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd to outshine Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson. Denver 27 St. Louis 21.
- St. Louis
- Yes: RB Steven Jackson, WR Danny Amendola
- No: DEF, K Josh Brown
- Maybe So: QB Sam Bradford, WRs Laurent Robinson & Brandon Gibson
- Yes: QB Kyle Orton, WRs Brandon Lloyd & Jabar Gaffney, DEF, K Matt Prater
- No: WR Demaryius Thomas (Out-ankle)
- Maybe So: RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Eddie Royal
Tampa Bay at Baltimore - In spite of the teams’ identical 7-3 records this game figures to be a mismatch in favor of the home team. Look for the Ravens’ defense to contain LeGarrette Blount; meanwhile, look for Ray Rice to have his biggest day of the season against the Bucs’ defense. Baltimore 27 Tampa Bay 17.
- Tampa Bay
- Yes: WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow
- No: QB Josh Freeman, RBs LeGarrette Blount & Cadillac Williams, DEF, K Connor Barth
- Maybe So: None
- Yes: RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin, TE Todd Heap, DEF, K Billy Cundiff
- No: None
- Maybe So: QB Joe Flacco, RB Willis McGahee, WRs Derrick Mason & T.J. Houshmandzadeh
San Diego at Indianapolis (Sunday night) - It’s rare when Peyton Manning’s the secod-best quarterback in a football game, but that may indeed be the case this weekend. While Philip Rivers hasn’t gotten as much publicity as his play warrants due to the Chargers’ slow start, he is quietly putting together a season for the record books. This in spite of the fact that he has no idea from one week to the next who he’s going to be throwing the ball to. This week he’ll be without Patrick Crayton (and possibly Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd), but he regains Vincent Jackson. Such is life when you lead a charmed existenece. San Diego 31 Indianapolis 27.
- San Diego
- Yes: QB Philip Rivers, RB Mike Tolbert, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates (Questionable-foot), DEF
- No: RB Ryan Mathews (Questionable-ankle); WRs Patrick Crayton (Out-wrist), Malcom Floyd (Questionable-hamstring), & Legedu Naanee (Questionable-foot).
- Maybe So: RB Darren Sproles
- Yes: QB Peyton Manning, WR Reggie Wayne & Pierre Garcon, TE Jacob Tamme, K Adam Vinatieri
- No: RBs Joseph Addai (Questionable-neck) & Mike Hart (Questionable-ankle), WR Austin Collie (Out-Concussion), DEF
- Maybe So: RB Donald Brown
San Francisco at Arizona (Monday night) - No need to watch this Monday night contest unless you absolutely, positively have nothing better to do (or are still to stuffed from Thursday’s dinner to move). San Francisco 28 Arizona 17.
- San Francisco
- Yes: QB Alex Smith/Troy Smith (whichever starts), RB Frank Gore, WRs Michael Crabtree & Josh Morgan, DEF
- No: TE Vernon Davis (Questionable-ankle), K Shane Andrus
- Maybe So: None
- Yes: WR Larry Fitzgerald
- No: QB Derek Anderson, WR Anthony Roberts, DEF, K Jay Feely
- Maybe So: RBs Bonzie Wells & Tim Hightower, WR Steve Breason
Good luck to your teams this week, and best wishes for a healthy Thanksgivig holiday to your friends and family!
Fantasy Football Sherpa
The Sherpa’s Fantasy Football Blog
@fantasy_sherpa on Twitter
Fantasy Football Sherpa’s fan page on Facebook
“4th & Inches with Jana and The Sherpa“, Wed. nights 9:30-10:30pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio