Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there who realizes, like me, that Thanksgiving is meant to be for three things: Family, Food, and Football.  Once again this year, we get a triple-header to feast on (Well, as long as you have NFL Network or live in or around New York or Denver.). Then on Sunday and Monday Night, we get our usual helping for games from around the league, topped off by the big game this week as the Saints host the Patriots in the Big Easy.  So before you go into your tryptophan-induced comas, here are the Week 12 picks.  Last week: 11-5. Season: 84-73-1 (.535)

Thanksgiving Games
Packers (-11)
at Lions: The annual Turkey Day showdown between these two teams kicks off a real yawner of a holiday in terms of the matchups.  There’s a ton of concerns for the Lions with respect to the shoulder of Matt Stafford and the Packers need to keep winning if they expect to win the NFC Wild Card.  The Pack should win easy in Detroit.

Raiders (+14) at Cowboys: I fully expect the Cowboys to beat the Oakland Raiders, especially considering that they still have a full complement of running backs, unlike the Bengals who were stunned in the Black Hole last week.  However, I think Oakland will come out playing very hard in this one and Bruce Gradkowski is trying to earn himself a shot at an NFL job for next season.  It’ll be closer than you think.

Giants (-7) at Broncos: In a matchup of two teams that are in dire need of wins, the G-Men seem to have a lot more composure than the suddenly dysfunctional Broncos, who are looking to avoid their fifth-straight loss and completely erase a 6-0 start.  If the Giants’ pass rush is as bad as its been in recent games, expect Brandon Marshall to have a big day, but I would still expect New York to pull this one out easily.

Sunday
Buccaneers (+13)
at Falcons: There’s really nothing going right for the Atlanta Falcons right now. Matt Ryan has been less than stellar and Michael Turner is banged up.  Tampa Bay seems to have found some hints of life with Josh Freeman under center.  The Falcons win it, but Tampa stays with them the whole way.

Dolphins (-4) at Bills: Last week I figured that the Phins were basically done with the loss of Ronnie Brown.  This week, I think Ricky Williams is going to carry the load once again, especially against the porous Bills run D.  Miami is on the cusp of being in the playoff mix.  They should get into the thick of the discussion after this one.

Browns at Bengals (-14): The Browns mustered 37 points last week in their loss to Detroit.  I’d be surprised to see them score 37 points in all of their remaining games combined.  Plus this week they get to face a very angry Cincy squad that’s coming off an unacceptable loss to the Raiders of all teams.  Cincy will reassert itself as the best team in the AFC North this week.

Seahawks at Rams (+3): This game is a complete pillow fight, but I’ve liked what St. Louis has done the last couple of weeks. It’s amazing that, even though the season is over, they keep playing so hard. I think they’ll be rewarded with win #2 on Sunday.

Panthers (+3) at Jets: Has anyone been watching the Jets the last two months? They’re playing they way a rookie coach and QB combination should be expected to play.  They might not win another game for the rest of the season.  Maybe Rex Ryan will cry about that, too.

Redskins (+10) at Eagles: Two reasons to take Washington this week. The first is that they almost beat Dallas in Dallas last week (should have won, too). The second is that this is an NFC East game, and how often are these games actually blowouts?

Colts (-4) at Texans: After their loss to the Titans on Monday Night, I’m beginning to cool on the Houston Texans, who now really need a win to hang in the playoff race.  Unfortunately, they face Peyton Manning & Co, who will not lose in Houston this time around.  Way too hard to pick against Indy right now.

Chiefs at Chargers (-14): San Diego is riding one heck of a high right now after routing Denver last week.  I don’t expect them to do anything less than run away with the AFC West now, and it starts with a big win over the lowly Chiefs.

Jaguars (+4) at 49ers: Jacksonville suddenly finds itself in 2nd place in an AFC South that most expected them to finish dead last in.  San Francisco is quickly realizing the importance of needing a viable passing game in order to make the playoffs.  Jacksonville will take this one and continue it’s unlikely playoff push behind another stellar performance by Maurice Jones-Drew.

Cardinals (+2) at Titans: I know that Vince Young has lit a spark under the Tennessee Titans, but they haven’t faced an offense like the Cardinals during the winning streak.  Plus, the Cards are 5-0 on the road this year and can basically wrap up the non-competitive NFC West with a win on Sunday.

Bears at Vikings (-11): The Bears are basically in crisis mode at this point of the season, and the calls for Lovie Smith’s head have begun.  The Vikings remain one of the hottest teams in the NFL this season and a frontrunner in terms of Superbowl contenders.  The Vikes should cruise and continue on their march towards the NFC North crown and playoffs.

Steelers at Ravens (pick ’em): Interesting stat- Troy Polamalu has missed 4 games this season. In those games, Pittsburgh is 0-4.  Also remember that one hard hit could end Ben Roethlisberger’s day and force Dennis Dixon into action. Dixon has thrown 5 career NFL passes.  Against the Ravens’ D? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Monday Night
Patriots (+3)
at Saints: I really want to take New Orleans in this game, but they have run into one of the teams I would least want to face in this part of the season.  In the last 10 years, New England in 52-10 in regular season games after Thanksgiving.  This is winning time and the Pats don’t lose very often in winning time.  It’ll be a battle, but Brady and Belichick will find a way to outwit Brees.

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The Saints will be tested again by a team from New York on Sunday.  Can they handle the Giants the same way they did the Jets?

The Saints will be tested again by a team from New York on Sunday. Can they handle the Giants the same way they did the Jets?

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat unpredictable in the NFL and has left me with some spectacularly mediocre numbers.  An 8-6 record in Week 5 pushes the season record to 44-32 (.579).  Let’s take a look at the Week Six matchups (Picks in Bold, Home Team listed second):

Texans at Bengals (-5): This is a game between two teams that have gotten off to very different campaigns in 2009.  The Bengals might be one of the biggest surprises in the AFC this year, leading the North Division with a 4-1, which really should be a 5-0, overall record.  The Texans continue to be a first half disappointment, coming off of last week’s loss in Arizona, where they failed to punch it in from a yard out late in the fourth quarter.

Lions (+14) at Packers: Since when are the Packers one of the better teams in the league this year? The Steelers couldn’t cover an 11-point spread last week against Detroit and I think that Pittsburgh is better than Green Bay.  I also don’t think the Lions are THAT bad anymore.  This is a divisional game. Much like against the Vikings, the Lions will compete.   Alas, they will probably lose.

Ravens at Vikings (-3): I think it’s time we all realized that Baltimore’s defense is not the class of the NFL anymore.  This, combined with the struggles of the Ravens’ offense and the way the Vikes have played in their first five games, means this one might not be as close as some people think.

Giants (+3) at Saints: The Saints’ offense was somewhat exposed by the Jets’ defense two weeks ago.  I think the G-Men will have similar success containing New Orleans and that Eli Manning won’t make the same mistakes as Mark Sanchez, allowing New York to win this battle of the unbeatens by a touchdown margin. I think it’ll be 24-17 Giants.

Browns at Steelers (-15): I’m starting to buy back into Pittsburgh after they looked shaky when Troy Polamalu went down with his injury.  The offense seems to finally be clicking and they have a great young RB in Rashard Mendenhall, who holds onto the ball much better than Willie Parker, making it far less likely that the Browns’ very pedestrian offense will get the ball in scoring position more than a couple of times.

Panthers (-3) at Buccaneers: Carolina shouldn’t have much trouble with Tampa Bay, if only because no one else has really had an issue playing against Tampa Bay.  Neither of these teams are good at all, and it might come down to which starting QB, either Jake Delhomme or Josh Johnson, makes less mistakes to determine the winner.  There might also be more defensive TDs than offensive in this game.

Chiefs (+7) at Redskins:  Giving the Washington Redskins 7 points is an absolute crime considering they just lost to Carolina and Detroit earlier this year and look like they can’t put 7 points on the board most of the time.  I actually don’t think it’s unrealistic to say Kansas City will pick up their first win this season over the ‘Skins, plummeting Daniel Snyder’s group of over-payed and under-talented football players into further disarray.

Rams at Jaguars (-10): Jacksonville seems to be like two teams in one.  Either they will play you very tough and look very competitive, or they will throw up a complete goose egg like they did last week against the Seahawks.  The Jags will come out looking to put that game behind them, and shouldn’t have much trouble doing that against the lowly Rams, who might be the worst of the winless teams in the league.

Cardinals at Seahawks (-3): It’s amazing how much different Seattle looks when Matt Hasselbeck is under center.  Their performance against the Jaguars last week was nothing short of dominant, and they now look to make another big statement by beating one of the favorites in the NFC West in ‘Zona.  The Cards survived at home against Houston last week, but still look like they might be experiencing some of that Superbowl hangover from last year.  This might be a rude awakening for Kurt Warner and Co.

Eagles (-15) at Raiders: After last week’s 44-7 loss to the Giants, New York LB Antonio Pierce noted that playing the Raiders felt like “a scrimmage.”  The Eagles should win this game by at least 3-4 TDs if the Raiders are as bad as Mr. Pierce is suggesting.  Plus, Philly needs to keep winning as long as the G-Men are unbeaten.

Titans at Patriots (-10): Have you seen the Tennessee Titans lately? They are a complete and utter disaster.  Going up against a New England team that doesn’t lose back-to-back games ever, I highly doubt that Tennessee will prove to be much of a road block.  Expect to see Vince Young make an early appearance in this game. Should be a blowout.

Bills at Jets (-10): The Jets have gone from 3-0 and Superbowl contenders to 3-2 and really needing to win this one at home against a Bills team that just cannot do anything offensively, being held to just 3 points by the Cleveland Browns last week.  I expect the Jets to get back on track this week by taking care of business before heading out to play Oakland.  As for Buffalo, maybe they’ll actually get Terrell Owens involved in the offense, but he’ll be up against Darrelle Revis, so it won’t be easy.

Bears at Falcons (-3): I really have no idea who to pick in this game. Two pretty good teams in a game that they could both use to keep up with the undefeated team that’s ahead of them in their respective divisions, and both coming off of solid victories.  When all else fails, take the home team and hope for the best, plus Matt Ryan is my fantasy QB so I would like it if the Falcons won a high-scoring game.

Broncos (+3) at Chargers: After five weeks of mocking them, I can deny it no more. The Broncos have a good football team, as unjust as it may be, they are good, and probably the best team in the AFC West, especially with the Chargers struggling so far this season.  Here’s the chance for the Broncos to separate themselves from the rest of the division.  Now that I’ve stopped saying they aren’t that good, they’ll probably get killed, but that’s football, right?

Cutlers effort in Sunday Nights loss to the Packers dropped me to .500 last week. Guess what team I didnt pick this week?

Cutler's "effort" in Sunday Night's loss to the Packers dropped me to .500 last week. Guess what team I didn't pick this week?

I thought after Sunday afternoon’s games last week that I had finally broken the cycle of incredibly mediocre picks on my part.  I was 8-5 with three games left I felt fairly confident about.  Then Jay Cutler decided to throw 4 picks, the Patriots refused to put the ball in the end zone until the 4th quarter, and the Raiders looked like a competent football team.  So, as I’ve grown accustomed to, I finished a very modest 8-8 in Week 1.  Let’s see if Week 2 is any better. Here’s the picks (Pick in Bold, Home Team listed second):

Panthers at Falcons (-6): I’m a little shocked to see that the Falcons are only getting six points after the way these teams played in Week 1.  Atlanta looked very sharp in a 19-7 win at home over the Dolphins while Carolina looked like a deer caught in headlights in its 38-10 smackdown at the hands of the Eagles.  If Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, or A.J. Feeley looks that bad again this week, this one could be ugly.

Vikings (-10) at Lions: OK, I made the mistake of picking the Lions last week, thinking that they might be better than expected and come out and play an inspired game.  After their 45-27 loss in New Orleans, they come back and have to try and figure out a way to slow down Adrian Peterson and Co.  Plus the Vikes D is far better than the Saints’ D.  Vikings win this one easy.

Bengals (+9) at Packers: Yes, I’m aware the Bungles only managed 7 points against a very suspect Broncos defense.  Yes, I’m also aware that the Pack looked very good against the Bears on Sunday night.  However, I think that the Bengals were finally starting to find the right mix on offense late in that game and will put up more points.  Also, I think that Cincy’s D is slightly better than advertised.  The Packers will win, but it’ll be closer than you think.

Texans at Titans (-7): After seeing the Texans muster no points on offense at home last week against the Jets D, I really struggle to see how they could possibly do any better at Tennessee, who looked very good in their loss in Pittsburgh.  Tennessee is going to be fire up for this one, especially with all the hype surrounding Houston this year. Titans could win by 2 TD’s.

Raiders (+3) at Chiefs: Both of these teams surprised me last weekend, in spite of the fact that they both lost.  However, the Raiders pushed the Chargers to the brink whereas the Chiefs were allowed to hang around by the Ravens.  Kansas City also might be without Matt Cassel again, leaving it up to Brody Croyle, who still is winless as an NFL starter. Expect it to be an ugly win for whichever side comes out on top.

Patriots (-4) at Jets: The war of words began months ago in the lead up to this one, but the Jets just don’t seem to know when to shut up.  All-Pro safety Kerry Rhodes’ comments earlier today should light quite the fire under a New England offense that really shouldn’t be prodded like that.  It’ll be a hard fought, gritty, old school kind of game, but the Pats will prevail by a TD.

Saints (pick ’em) at Eagles: Not surprised to see that the line is even on this game based off of what these teams did last weekend.  The tipping point for me is solely the uncertainty surrounding the status of Donovan McNabb combined with the fact that the Saints won’t turn the ball over 7 times.  Saints take this one.

Rams (+10) at Redskins:  The Rams are awful.  Just terrible.  Fortunately they go into a place like FedEx Field and play a team that doesn’t light up the scoreboard.  The Rams will keep it close but lose by a TD in one of the more forgettable games in Week 2.

Cardinals (+3) at Jaguars:  The Cardinals are an underdog in this game solely based off of last week’s flop at home against the 49ers.  The Jaguars are not the 49ers and if the Cards D stops Maurice Jones-Drew the way they did Frank Gore, then Arizona should come away with a victory.

Seahawks at 49ers (+2): In a battle for NFC West supremacy in the early season, both teams looked very good last week.  The thing that stands out though is who each team played.  San Fran gutted out a big win in Arizona while Seattle cruised against the lowly Rams.  I’m not sold on the ‘Hawks just yet, but I really like what Mike Singletary has done with the Niners.

Buccaneers at Bills (-5): If the Bills play anywhere near the level that they played at last week for the majority of the game in New England, then this one won’t even be a contest.  The Bucs looked atrocious in their loss at home to Dallas, and the Bills are looking to bounce back after their Monday Night letdown.  Expect to see big numbers from Terrell Owens in this one.

Steelers (-3) at Bears: Both of these teams are like wounded deer coming into this battle without the hearts of their respective defenses.  However, I think as an overall unit, the Steelers are far more prepared to play without Troy Polamalu than the Bears are playing without Brian Urlacher.  If Jay Cutler looks anything like he did last week, Chicago might get shutout.

Ravens at Chargers (-3): Both of these teams were very unconvincing in their Week 1 triumphs, with the Ravens allowing the Chiefs to hang around and the Chargers needing a late drive to stun the Raiders.  I think the Chargers will work out the kinks in their offense and slow down Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense enough to win this one by a TD.

Browns at Broncos (-3): I really don’t think much of either of these teams, but the game is in Denver, the Broncos have traditionally owned the Browns, and I don’t see the Browns moving the ball very well in this one.  So, congratulations to Denver for having the easiest first two weeks in the league this year!

Giants at Cowboys (-3): They had to set the line at 3 points.  These games are decided by a late FG way too often, which makes the odds of the one being a push fairly high.  However, I think Dallas pulls this one out and opens up the new Texas Stadium with a fantastic game.  I’m thinking 20-17 ‘Boys on a game winning 40+ yard FG by Nick Folk…as long as he doesn’t hit that Jumbotron, in which case all bets are off and Jerry Jones will have some ‘splaining to do.

Monday Night

Colts (-3) at Dolphins:  A battle between two teams that made the playoffs last year at Dolphin/Land Shark/Pro Player/Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium on Monday Night.  I like the Colts to look a bit more grounded in their offensive strategy in this one and win it comfortably over the Fins.  Look for Dallas Clark to be a bit more involved in the passing game and for Joseph Addai to get some receptions out of the backfield.