Thanksgiving is going to look a little different this year, that’s for sure.
We’ll go ahead and assume that (in most parts of the country) celebrations will be subdued. And the NFL is no different.
Instead of jam-packing stadiums for the annual Turkey Day tripleheader, we’ll have just two games on Thanksgiving, with COVID-19 forcing the NFL to move this week’s Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup to Sunday.
Such is life in 2020.
Before ducking out to get turkey, NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian will make their against-the-spread picks for not just Thanksgiving but all of Week 12.
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First, here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 7-7 (74-83-3)Ricky Doyle: 7-7 (75-82-3)Andre Khatchaturian: 6-8 (72-85-3)
Now, here are their Week 12 picks, with all lines via consensus data.
THURSDAY, NOV. 26(-2.5) Houston Texans at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ETMike: Texans. I don’t care if this is a square pick. The Lions look like they’ve quit on Matt Patricia, and the bigger issue might be their injury issues, as they are rudderless offensively without D’Andre Swift and Kenny Golladay. It doesn’t look like either plays Thursday.Ricky: Lions. Just can’t bring myself to lay points on the road with a three-win Houston team that’s only beaten Jacksonville (twice) and New England. On Turkey Day, no less! Feels like the Texans are being overvalued after last week’s victory over the Patriots, while the Lions are being undervalued after being shut out by the Panthers, making for a decent value play despite Detroit’s flaws.Andre: Texans. Despite their record, the Texans have a positive yards per play differential. They’ve lost a ton because of their brutal schedule, which featured losses to Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Green Bay. Their biggest weakness is their run defense, but Detroit averages just four yards per carry, and Swift is banged up.
Washington Football Team at (-3) Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m.Mike: Washington. The Football Team has moved the ball since Alex Smith took over, ranking third in the NFL in early-down success rate. Turnovers have been a killer, but only Houston has fewer takeaways than Dallas.Ricky: Washington. Smith is serviceable, as Mike mentioned, but here’s a bigger question: Is Washington a good QB away from being legit? Of course, you could say that about several teams given the importance of the position. But the Football Team is well coached and excellent defensively, featuring a strong pass rush, great coverage and sure tackling that limits opposing rushing attacks. Offensively, Ron Rivera’s group offers a solid running back tandem and decent enough line play.Andre: Washington. Washington’s elite pass rush (third in sacks) will dominate Dallas’ banged-up offensive line. The Football Team sacked Dallas QBs six times in the first meeting between these teams. Washington also has the second-best yards per play differential in football over the last five weeks.
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SUNDAY, NOV. 29Baltimore Ravens at (-5) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:15 p.m.Mike: Steelers. The Ravens are severely undermanned and could be traveling day-of due to COVID-19. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has been a challenge for Lamar Jackson, who has completed 58 percent of his passes with a 59.2 passer rating in four career games against the Steelers. He’s also struggled against the blitz this year, and the Steelers are known for their blitzing attack.Ricky: Ravens. Love the circumstances more than anything. Road underdogs coming off a loss are 73-50-5 ATS this season, largely because the public tends to steer away from those teams, in turn affecting the market. Baltimore checks all three boxes, with the pick being even more attractive because it’s a divisional matchup, on a short week, in a revenge spot after the Ravens barely lost the teams’ previous head-to-head matchup in Week 8.Andre: Ravens. The Ravens aren’t getting much love after dropping three of their last four. In the previous meeting, Jackson had four turnovers and the Ravens still only lost by four points. The Steelers’ rush defense is strong, but they allowed 265 total rushing yards to Baltimore in that game. If Jackson cleans up his act just a little bit, Baltimore should be able to cover.
(-2.5) Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots, 1 p.m.Mike: Cardinals. As Ricky astutely pointed out last weekend, the Patriots are now bad. New England’s defense looked borderline unprepared and unmotivated last week against the Texans and now faces an even stiffer test against an offense with all kinds of weapons.Ricky: Patriots. As Mike astutely pointed out that I astutely pointed out, yes, the Patriots are, in fact, a bad football team. Sometimes, bad football teams beat good football teams, though, and would anyone be shocked if Bill Belichick somehow slows Kyler Murray in the QB’s first career start against New England?Andre: Patriots. New England faced the NFL’s worst rush defense in terms of yards allowed per carry last week and ran the ball just 24 times, the second-fewest rush attempts for the Patriots this season. That needs to change because the Pats are 4-0 when rushing the ball more than 35 times in a game and 0-6 otherwise. Arizona allows the third-most rushing yards to quarterbacks and the seventh-most yards per carry.
Carolina Panthers at (-4) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.Mike: Panthers. Two teams going in very opposite directions here, as Matt Rhule has the Panthers playing a very competitive brand of football. Carolina should go into Minnesota and follow the same script Dallas just wrote: bully the Vikings on the ground. Mike Davis is among the league leaders in yards after contact per carry.Ricky: Vikings. Dalvin Cook should feast against a Panthers run defense that ranks 31st, according to PFF. And even if Teddy Bridgewater returns for Carolina, no one knows him quite like Minnesota, where the quarterback spent his first four seasons (2014-17).Andre: Vikings. Minnesota is on track to win the 2020 “Best Bad Team” award. The Vikings are ranked fourth in yards per play differential, lead the NFL in yards per play and are second in yards per carry. They have the NFL’s best yards per play differential over the last four weeks. Carolina has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in eight of its 11 games. Good luck against Cook.
(-6.5) Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.Mike: Browns. The Jags have been able to hit on some big plays with James Robinson, who is second in the NFL in runs of 10 yards or more. However, Cleveland ranks fifth in limiting explosive running plays, which more or less takes away the Jags’ one chance to keep it close.Ricky: Browns. According to CBS Sports, Cleveland’s minus-23 point differential is the worst by any 7-3 team or better through 10 games in the Super Bowl era. So, this isn’t a slam dunk. Still, for Jacksonville, Mike Glennon is starting at quarterback, something he hasn’t done since 2017.Andre: Jaguars. Cleveland faces Tennessee and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks after this game. One could easily see the Browns looking past the Jaguars. Jacksonville is in the middle of the pack when it comes to run defense, which will be key in slowing down the Browns’ rushing attack (third-most yards per game).
Los Angeles Chargers at (-5.5) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.Mike: Bills. If Buffalo has an issue here — at home, against a rookie quarterback with an extra week to prepare — it might be time to jump ship on the Bills being any good. Instead, I think they right the ship and cruise.Ricky: Chargers. The over might be the real play here, with both teams capable of putting up points while struggling defensively. Joey Bosa’s return last week is a good sign for Los Angeles’ pass rush moving forward, though, and that could help disrupt Josh Allen just enough for the Chargers to keep this game close.Andre: Chargers. I love getting points with the Chargers just because they play so many close games. They’re 3-0 ATS this season when getting more than three points, and all seven of their losses have been by one possession. The Bills’ biggest strength is their aerial attack, but LA has a top-seven pass defense, allowing just 6.8 yards per pass attempt. Defensively, the Bills have a solid pass rush, ranking third on PFF, but Justin Herbert has the highest passer rating when under pressure.
(-3) Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.Mike: Falcons. Atlanta had a hellacious time trying to block up the Saints’ pass rush last week, and Matt Ryan was sacked eight times. He’ll have much more time to carve up a shaky Raiders defense this week — a defense that has the 31st-ranked sack percentage.Ricky: Falcons. The Raiders might have wasted all of their bullets in their Sunday night loss to the Chiefs. On the one hand, it was a moral victory, seeing as Vegas pushed the defending Super Bowl champions to the brink. On the other, it was a huge missed opportunity, with the Raiders ultimately done in by their extremely inconsistent defense.Andre: Falcons. The Raiders have the worst-graded defense on PFF and Atlanta allows the most yards per play. I trust the Falcons at home getting points. They’re 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games as home underdogs.
(-7) Miami Dolphins at New York Jets, 1 p.m.Mike: Jets. New York has covered its last two games despite playing a pair of fairly decent defenses (New England and the Chargers), while averaging four touchdowns per game. Let’s stay with that for one more week, no?Ricky: Dolphins. Miami shut out the Jets, 24-0, the last time these teams played in Week 6, with Joe Flacco turning in an abysmal performance. And the Dolphins since have gotten better, last week’s hiccup in Denver notwithstanding.Andre: Dolphins. The Jets have the fifth-best rush defense on PFF and the Dolphins stink at running the ball. So can Tua Tagovailoa make up for that against the NFL’s worst coverage defense, according to PFF? I think so. He has yet to throw a pick in his first 97 pass attempts, and the weather (50 degrees and clear) shouldn’t be an issue for Tua, who struggled in his first cold weather game last week.
(-5.5) New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.Mike: Giants. Why don’t the Bengals have a better backup quarterback than Ryan Finley? That seems dumb.Ricky: Giants. Some injuries actually can galvanize a team, with players rallying around their fallen teammate. Joe Burrow tearing his ACL and MCL is not one of those injuries. It’s just crushing. Also, for what it’s worth, New York is 8-0 ATS in its last eight road games.Andre: Giants. The Giants’ pass rush has recorded at least two sacks in every game this season. That number should go up against a Bengals’ offensive line that has allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans at (-3.5) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.Mike: Colts. This might be the week the injury bug catches up to the Titans. They were down the entire left side of their offensive line in Baltimore, and center Ben Jones is playing with a knee brace. They survived against an equally limited Ravens front, but it’s a much stiffer test this week against a ferocious Colts front.Ricky: Titans. When these teams squared off two weeks ago, Tennessee led until opening the second half with serious special teams woes (a shanked punt, a blocked punt TD and a missed field goal). Not sure that happens again. Plus, the Colts (29th in third-down conversion percentage, 25th in red-zone scoring percentage) might fail to expose the Titans’ biggest weaknesses (32nd in opponent third-down conversion percentage, 25th in opponent red-zone scoring percentage).Andre: Titans. Tennessee boasts the second-best turnover differential in the NFL. That could be vital in a game featuring Philip Rivers, who is known to throw a pick or two and is dealing with a toe injury. The Colts have a strong rush defense, but it didn’t matter in the last meeting when the Titans rushed for 157 yards, the most Indy has allowed all season.
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(-5.5) New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m.Mike: Broncos. I’d be skeptical of taking the Saints in this spot, at that number, with Drew Brees under center. Taysom Hill on the road against a defense that ate up Tua Tagovailoa last week? This could be a frustrating afternoon for the Saints.Ricky: Broncos. The Saints seemingly have found their stride, rattling off seven straight wins. But we could see some regression from Hill in his second career start at quarterback. A road game in Denver is far more challenging than a home date with Atlanta.Andre: Broncos. Denver’s coverage defense ranks second on PFF. The Broncos are seventh in sacks and third in yards allowed per pass attempt. The Broncos also have the sixth-best yards per play differential over the last four weeks. New Orleans probably will win, but Denver will keep it close.
San Francisco 49ers at (-7) Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.Mike: 49ers. Do we have a little bit of a trap game here? The Rams should be feeling good after a Monday night win in Tampa, but now they have a short week to prepare for the 49ers (who are coming off their bye), and a huge Week 13 matchup with the Cardinals looming. Tough spot.Ricky: 49ers. Definitely smells like an opportunity for the Niners to catch a divisional opponent feeling all fat and happy. San Francisco also might get back offensive reinforcements, with wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Raheem Mostert trending in the right direction.Andre: Rams. I’m not buying the trap game narrative. The 49ers just aren’t very good on offense, especially with Jimmy Garoppolo out. They’ve turned the ball over eight times in the last three games. Defensively, San Francisco has an average pass rush and that won’t cut it against the Rams, who have allowed just 13 sacks this season. When Jared Goff is kept clean, he has the fourth-highest completion percentage (76.1) according to PFF. That number falls to 42.4 percent when he’s pressured.
(-3.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m.Mike: Bucs. Tom Brady has been an incredible bounce-back performer his entire career, going 45-21 ATS after a loss and 15-1 ATS as an underdog following a loss. That all happened in New England, sure, but the Bucs are 3-0 off a loss this season, winning those games by an average of 22 points. The Chiefs’ shaky run defense will allow Brady and the Bucs’ offense to find the balance they need to succeed.Ricky: Bucs. Tampa Bay’s defense ranks fourth in explosive run plays allowed and sixth in explosive pass plays allowed, so this is a challenging matchup for Kansas City’s quick-strike offense. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs rebound this week with an outright upset.Andre: Bucs. All four of Tampa’s losses have come against top-10 rush defenses in terms of yards allowed per carry. Tampa usually needs to run the ball in order to be successful. The Bucs had eight rushing yards collectively in their most recent loss to New Orleans and 42 total rushing yards on Monday night against the Rams. They’ll have an easier time running the ball against the Chiefs, whose biggest weakness is their rush defense.
Chicago Bears at (-8.5) Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m.Mike: Packers. Green Bay’s ridiculous stretch of 12 straight covers following an ATS loss ended in Indy, which might mean the Packers are double-due here? With Nick Foles nursing a hip injury, it appears the Bears don’t have a healthy quarterback — or a good one, for that matter.Ricky: Packers. Perfect get-right spot for Green Bay at home in primetime. Chicago’s offense is in bad shape, starting at the QB position, where the Bears should turn back to Mitchell Trubisky if he’s healthy.Andre: Packers. Green Bay’s pass defense has been a liability this season, allowing 7.7 yards per pass attempt. But Chicago’s anemic offense likely will struggle to take advantage of that. The Bears also haven’t cracked 100 yards rushing in seven straight games and rank 27th in yards per play differential over the last four weeks.
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MONDAY, NOV. 30(-5) Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m.Mike: Seahawks. It’s a tough matchup for Philly, considering the Eagles’ best chance to get going on offense is to find success on the ground. Stopping the run is the only thing Seattle does relatively well on the defensive side, and not even the Seahawks’ pass defense can get Carson Wentz going.Ricky: Seahawks. Love a good bird battle. A fitting end to Thanksgiving week, really. Anyway, Chris Carson figures to rejoin Seattle’s backfield, which is a nice little development for the Seahawks, who can butter up the Eagles’ defense on the ground before soaring through the air.Andre: Eagles. The Eagles have the second-most sacks in football. Their offensive line is terrible, but Seattle has the 28th-ranked pass rush on PFF. The Eagles control the battle in the trenches at home and keep this one close.
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