DK Note: Jacson added on to his Thanksgiving day picks by including his NFL weekend picks below. Originally posted on Thursday morning, updated with the weekend picks on Saturday night.
Well guys, I hope last week's 11 wins were enough to pad your pockets a bit. If you've been taking this column's advice all year, you're sitting pretty at 107-51-1, good for a 67.7% success rate, topping Vegas' 64.9%. My Thanksgiving Day picks (2-1) posted Thursday morning. They are below, along with the rest of this weekend's Winners.
Both teams enter this game on a short week (obviously), with the visitors coming off of a win and the hosts reeling from a loss. That said, the case can be made that the Lions, in their losing effort to Green Bay, played better than the victorious Texans, who needed a manic comeback to beat a wretched Jaguars team in overtime. The Lions have been playing better over the last two months than they did during the first month, and the synapses between Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have re-melded. The Lions now boast the league's #1 passing attack and will get to host a secondary that got torched by Chad Henne(?) only four days ago.
Lazy Simple analysis would suggest that a red-hot passing offense like the one Detroit possesses would tear such a shaky defense asunder, but a more realistic view reveals that the NFL is not quite so linear. Even after their, ahem, underwhelming performance vs Jacksonville, Houston's defense is still third-best in the NFL by DVOA. You see, much of the Texans' defensive success this season has come as the result of Wade Phillips' ability to make adjustments. Remove one of the best defensive ends on the planet in Mario Williams? Design new ways to get JJ Watt involved. Jonathan Joseph loses a step? Roll linebackers into the flat to give him more margin for error.
We haven't even touched on the fact that Houston has one of the most efficient offenses in football and that Detroit's defense, for all we hear about Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, is ranked 24th in DVOA. STafford and Johnson may get there's this morning, but I doubt it will be enough.
THE PICK: TEXANS
Troy Aikman will probably be unbearable to listen to during this one, as we'll all get to spend our afternoon being regaled about the glory days of the NFL and all the historic moments in this oh-so-important rivalry. Now Robert Griffin III is coming off of one of the most ridiculous stat lines you'll ever see. I'll give you the abridged version: four touchdowns, one incompletion. He's a rookie.
The Redskins are, undoubtedly, feeling good after their assault on the Eagles last week, but the strength of their game has been passing the ball and Dallas still claims one of the very best pass defenses in the NFL. The real fulcrum of this game, I believe, is how well Dallas' banged up backfield (DeMarco Murray doubtful, Felix Jones questionable) can navigate Washington's top ten run defense.
I tend to hold Tony Romo in higher regard than the general public does, and with Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten all reclaiming their respective grooves, I think Romo will be good enough to help the Cowboys prevail.
THE PICK: COWBOYS
The primetime tilt will certainly garner a lot of attention and, while I find myself naturally inclined to assume a Pats romp, I can't kick the fact that the Jets came thisclose to beating New England in Foxboro earlier this year. The Jets defense has acclimated to life after Darrelle Revis and are back to playing very well. The Patriots just lost their most dynamic weapon in Rob Gronkowski and with Aaron Hernandez questionable, may have to abandon the tight-end-centric passing attack that has made them so difficult to stop in the past.
There are a lot of reasons to think the Jets can win this game, home-field advantage included, but the gap in total DVOA (#2 vs #24) is too large to ignore. Bill Belichick is much better at making adjustments than rex Ryan seems to be, and I expect the combination of superior preparation and superior talent to be enough to win the day for New England.
THE PICK: PATRIOTS
THE PICK: BEARS
It's kind of bizarre just how much better the Oakland run game has been since Darren McFadden went down. That's not a shot at McFadden either, cuz I think he's an excellent running back. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with their schedule, and I'm sure their line has gotten better as the season goes along, but I don't think Marcel Reece gives the gig back easily when McFadden is healed.
None of that really matters as far as this game goes, however, as the Raiders bring the worst pass defense in the NFL to AJ Green's house. Expect him and Andy Daulton to dine well in this one.
THE PICK: BENGALS
I'm picking the Browns to win this one and, while it may initially look like this is my big pay-attention-to-me-upset-pick-of-the-week, the argument for Cleveland is pretty simple: I don't trust Charlie Batch to win a road game. I don't expect that this game will be very pretty and I'll be taking whatever the under is, but I still think Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson will muster enough offense to make kicker Phil Dawson (19/19 on field goals, including 5/5 from 50+) matter.
That's right, I actually think this game will low-scoring enough to hinge my bet on the team with the best kicker in the NFL.
THE PICK: BROWNS
Forget the fact that the Bills and Colts have a combined ten wins, these are two bad teams (22nd and 28th in DVOA, respectively). And one of my main tenets when it comes to picking winners is that when two bad teams play each other, default to the home team unless there's a super compelling case for the contrary. The Bills, even with CJ Spiller, don't make such a case.
THE PICK: COLTS
As long as the Chiefs are these Chiefs, they'll never stand a chance against a team as good as Denver, regardless of location.
THE PICK: BRONCOS
The Seahawks are, without question, one of the ten best teams in the NFL right now. They're 9th in the standings, 4th in DVOA, and at least #2 in your hearts. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have reverted to performing like the scattered herd of vertigo-stricken cats that we all saw on hard Knocks. The East Coast home-field advantage is a real thing, but the difference in ability between these two teams is even higher than their mere two game separation in the standings.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS
The one team that continues to complicate things for the Seahawks playoff chase is Tampa Bay. Written off (by me, at least) early in the season, Tampa Bay has been playing almost as well as anyone in the league. Josh Freeman is emerging as a steady producer and the things that Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin have done to open that offense up have made them a team that's always within range. Backing up the 10th-ranked offense is a surprisingly not-terrible 15th-ranked defense. They're a significant threat.
Fortunately for us, they've got to deal with the 9-1 Falcons. Now, I am among the Falcons strongest critics, and I think there are plenty of flaws that bely their record (only 12th in DVOA, after all), but I think the Falcons' efficient offense will keep the Bucs' offense off the field enough to take the skip out of Tampa's stride.
THE PICK: FALCONS
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Remember my bad teams/home team rule? Well, it applies here. You may be thinking that Jacksonville, owners of the worst record in the NFL, are so much worse than the four-win Titans that are coming off a bye and a shellacking of the Dolphins. Vegas sure does, marking Tennessee as a four-point favorite, but the 4-6 Titans are only one spot higher on the DVOA chain (29th) than the 1-9 Jaguars (30th). I'm banking on home-field advantage being enough to oversome that small discrepancy.
THE PICK: JAGUARS
The Ravens aren't a terrific team this year, but they're pretty good and they do play in the AFC. San Diego still has Norv Turner as their head coach. SAN DIEGO STILL HAS NORV TURNER AS THEIR HEAD COACH.
THE PICK: RAVENS
As much as I want to make a case for the white-hot and uber-trendy Saints to beat our hated rivals and bring the 'Hawks closer to the division title, I just can't. I like the Saints, I think their offense is damn near as good as it's ever been, but the Niners' O might be even better from an efficiency standpoint. The SF defense is a seeming millennium ahead of the Saint's tattered D and if the offensive disparity is minimal, there's no reason to think the Saints have much of a chance at all.
THE PICK: 49ERS
The Ryan Lindley era begins on Sunday, as the Cardinals defense should have no trouble handling a Danny Amendola-less Rams offense. Do you guys realize how lucky the Seahawks are that the Cardinals QB situation is the longest running joke in the NFL? Because one of the best receivers in history is at constant disposal and that defense is excellent. The Cards forced six turnovers at Atlanta last week, and if they're ever half as good this week, they should take care of St Louis.
THE PICK: CARDS
The Giants defense is predicated on quarterback pressure and when they're getting to the QB, they can mask just how terrible their secondary has been. If the front seven doesn't get to the quarterback, they're highly vulnerable. Well, Aaron Rodgers is about the best I've ever seen at avoiding sacks without sacrificing his downfield reads and the emergence of Randall Cobb, coupled with the return of Greg Jennings, should be enough to take advantage of the Giants' porous secondary.
With the New York offense sputtering of late, and the Packers believing in their smellf, I expect the Packers' ascent to the top of their division to continue.
THE PICK: PACKERS
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles
I just can't... I just can't keep doing this Andy. I'm sorry.
THE PICK: PANTHERS
Best of luck, and be sure to contact me on Twitter to see where to send my 5% cut of your winnings.