It’s that time of year again where we get 3 games on Thanksgiving and this year looks to be particularly special with 2 key divisional games which will have huge implications on the NFC North and NFC East; and then finally is a big AFC matchup between two teams desperate to get their season’s back on track.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions – 5:30pm UK Time
First up is a top of the table clash in the NFC North between the 6-4 Vikings, and the 6-4 Lions at Ford Field, with the victor finishing the week atop the division. Minnesota will be relieved after they managed to stop the rot with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, which ended a 4 game losing streak. Come Week 17 if the Vikings are in playoff contention, they could easily look back at Xavier Rhodes’ Pick 6 as the turning point in their season. If the Cardinals score and take the lead there, it would have been a completely different game; but instead the Vikings took a 10 point lead and got back on track this season.
The Lions on the other hand have been the most consistent side in the division (well, if you discount the Bears being consistently bad) and have gone a bit under the radar this season to the top of the NFC North. Matt Stafford is having a great season to the surprise of many after losing Future Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson to retirement this off-season. Instead of going all out to replace him with a stud, they managed to acquire Anquan Boldin and Marvin Jones, who combined have been able to replace the statistical impact of Megatron and keep the Lions offence ticking.
The Lions have yet to win or be beaten by more than a Touchdown this season, which sets this game up perfectly for a tightly contested matchup. I reckon Detroit just edge this one, but if the Vikings D plays well for a second consecutive week, then watch out.
Prediction: Lions win 20-16
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys – 9:30pm UK Time
In what will probably be the highlight of Thursday’s slate, it’s one of the oldest rivalries in the NFL when the Redskins travel to Jerry’s world to take on the 9-1 Cowboys. Dak and Zeke are the names on the tip of Cowboys fan’s tongues right now as the dynamic duo continues to wow everybody and assert themselves as the favourite for the NFC. After dispatching a potential banana skin in the Ravens on Sunday, beating a hot Redskins team will the biggest statement of intent yet; and all but seal the NFC East crown for the 2nd time in 3 years.
If anyone is going to beat the Cowboys right now, it would be the Redskins though; since losing to Dallas in Week 2, Kirk Cousins’ men have only lost 1 game since (and tied with Cincinnati) turning around what could’ve been a disastrous follow-up to the NFC East title last year. They also have a hidden gem in Rob Kelley who has transformed the Redskins running game since Matt Jones lost his role in Week 8, and could well be the key factor in this matchup.
It’s hard to bet against Dallas right now, but as a Redskins fan and knowing that this rivalry usually brings out the best in both teams; I’ll give the edge to the Redskins causing a shock in what is shaping up to be a shoot-out.
Prediction: Redskins win 34-30
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts – 1:30am UK Time
And for the hardiest of UK fans, we move onto the late game where the struggling Steelers face off against a Colts team that will likely be without star Quarterback Andrew Luck; and Scott Tolzien is expected to start for Indy. Tolzien who has been a career backup with the 49ers and Packers before arriving at the Colts earlier this year. His 1:5 TD:INT record won’t inspire much confidence in his arm at the NFL level and probably means that we’ll see a heavy dose of Frank Gore and Robert Turbin on Thursday Night. This may not be as big a disadvantage as it sounds, with the Steelers one of the worst teams against the run this season.
After essentially a practice match last week against Cleveland, the Colts are going to be a bit more of a test for the Steelers; but a game they must look to win if they have serious hopes of any kind of run towards the Superbowl. Tipped for success in pre-season with what appeared a potent offence, this team now appears to be relying on Le’Veon Bell to be the backbone of the team. Their offence is still to be feared, but as some teams such as the Eagles and Dolphins have proven, they are beatable.
This game will be closer than it may first appear with Tolzien at QB, but I fully expect the Steelers to still come out on top in this one with Bell and Brown having big days respectively.
Prediction: Steelers win 28-20