Thanksgiving is upon us, and with that comes an attitude of gratitude for the three Fs: family, food, and football. As far as the latter goes, just the right amount of greed can also be good, so let's get to it.
Turkey Day Team Total: Washington Under 26.5 Points vs. Giants
A proper Thanksgiving feast isn't cheap, so what better way to recoup the cost than a wager on the nightcap? While the sides and totals for the Turkey Day tripleheader don't offer much apparent value, a derivative in D.C. presents a potentially profitable preferred path.
As touched on last week, Kirk Cousins has performed admirably this season, maximizing the offense's output with patchwork pieces surrounding him. But there's only so much he can do. Just as an offensive line once in shambles has started to return to health, the other pieces have crumbled, with last week's loss of RB Chris Thompson a crippling blow. Thompson entered Week 11 as the team leader in both rushing yards and receptions; with fellow RB Rob Kelley already on IR, the Washington backfield has been reduced to Samaje Perine and little else. With star TE Jordan Reed continuing to battle injuries and prized offseason acquisition Terrelle Pryor joining the scrapheap on season-ending IR, the cupboard is bordering on bare for Cousins' supporting cast at the skill positions.
On the other side of the equation, the Giants' defense is in position to bring one of the better efforts we could expect to see from a 2-8 team. While their offense stunk and extreme winds helped to curtail the Kansas City offense last week, the bottom line is that the Giants stunned the football world by winning outright as double-digit underdogs, and that could work wonders for their frame of mind. Not to be overlooked is that the defense has legit talent in place, by and large remaining intact on the heels of the unit ranking #2 in the NFL last season according to Football Outsiders. When they're focused, they can be formidable.
Factor in the crushing fashion in which Washington fell in New Orleans last weekend, and all but fell out of the NFC playoff picture in the process, and it could be a grind in the nation's capital for fans of the home team.
Tennessee/Indianapolis Over 45.5
When this total sat at 44 earlier in the week, it may have been "best bet" material. The surge to the current number calls for a reduced investment, but an investment is justifiable nonetheless.
Three of the most important factors to a high-scoring game are good offense, bad defense, and clean playing conditions. Starting with the latter, the dome over Lucas Oil Stadium ensures the elements won't be an issue. Neither defense should put up much resistance, either - according to the Football Outsiders DVOA charts, the Titans' defense ranks 23rd overall, not to be outdone by the Colts coming in at 26. Both units rank below average against both the run and the pass, so while neither offense brings anything special to the table, at this number and in this environment it shouldn't take good offense to make big plays.
Pick of the Week: Teaser - Cincinnati -2 vs. Cleveland, Baltimore -1 vs. Houston
After a proper Thanksgiving feast on Thursday, the pick of the week calls for feasting on bad teams for the duration of Week 12. In the Bengals and Ravens we get clearly superior teams, playing at home, needing to do little more than win outright in order to cash.
Starting in Cincinnati, while the home team brings plenty of limitations of its own, this is more about the beleaguered Browns. At 0-10 for a second straight season and 1-25 overall under Hue Jackson, Cleveland has demonstrated repeatedly, and often quite creatively, that winning isn't its forte. Yards per play and turnover differential would indicate positive regression is coming, but all the logic and line value in the world has only been a bankroll breaker for Browns backers over the past couple years.
In the second leg, the home favorite once again comes in with its own limitations, but the Ravens defense vs. the Texans offense should make the wager worthwhile. Baltimore's defense has been the league's best according to Football Outsiders, and ranking #2 against the pass and #10 against the run doesn't leave much to exploit for an inept Texans offense led by Tom Savage. While the Ravens haven't been special on offense, like the Titans and the Colts, they don't need to be in this one - it doesn't take much to see the mismatch on the other side of the ball.
Last Week: 2-0-1
Picks of the Week: 7-3-1