This NFL season has gone by very quickly, as the Thanksgiving games are upon us. One team in particular has really opened eyes across the NFL world, but in a good way. The Cleveland Browns are 6-4, and very much in the playoff chase in the AFC. The Browns were expected to be mediocre at best, with some yound talent expecting to emerge at some point. But it wasn't expected to be this fast. They have been very competitive in just about every game, and surprisingly have one of the league's best offenses. Derek Anderson has developed into a very good quarterback, and it might make number one draft pick Brady Quinn expendable. They have good receivers, led by Braylon Edwards, and a defense that is very decent. Head coach Romeo Crennel should be a candidate for Coach of the Year, but he would never win it. There certainly is no guarantee that the Browns make the playoffs ( as of right now they would be out ) but they finally have something to cheer about in Cleveland, at least someone not names Lebron. They are easily one of the league's biggest surprises this year.
As for the games this week, there are three Thanksgiving games offered, but only one game looks like it will be decent. These games will be listed first.
As always, home team in CAPS.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Green Bay 3 1/2 DETROIT
This Thanksgiving game is also the Game of the Week. It is probably the best game on the board this week, and it should be a pretty good game. Both teams have been a surprise, especially the Packers, who have lost only once. The Lions have been a surprise too, but they have appeared to have slipped a bit. Even though the game is in Detroit, I think the Packers are the better team, and a win here should virtually lock up the division title. I like Green Bay here.
DALLAS 14 New York Jets
The Jets pulled off a stunner last week, but they still stink. Being bad is one thing the Cowboys are not, and they should be able to roll right through the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets this week. They need to win to keep pace with Green Bay, and I don't see any problems here.
Indianapolis 11 1/2 ATLANTA
The Colts are reeling with injuries, and were lucky to pull out a win last week. The Falcons have improved slightly, but still are a lousy team. The Colts might not advance very far in the playoffs under their current state, but if they get healthy enough ( everybody won't be back this year ), they are still going to be a very tough out. I think they need a big game and an easy win to get some confidence back. The Falcons might be their answer this week.
CHICAGO 2 1/2 Denver
This is a game between two teams that have a Jekyll and Hyde mentality. One never knows what team is going to show up, and both are very inconsistent. Neither team is playoff bound, though the Bears do have a chance in the weak NFC with a late run. They need to play better though. A win this week might launch them to a strong finish, but I won't hold my breath. I will take them here though.
Tennessee 1 1/2 CINCINNATI
The Titans are right in the thick of the chase in the AFC, and amazingly, the Bengals are not. I have no idea what has happened to them. They are underdogs at home this week for a reason. They have been terrible this year. The Titans, though, continue to surprise, and as of right now are in the playoffs in the AFC. Even in Cincinnati, I think they will beat the Bengals this week. Take them here.
JACKSONVILLE 7 1/2 Buffalo
The Jaguars are in the playoffs if the season ended right now ( of course it isn't ), but barring a major collapse they should make it when the regular season does end. The Bills got crushed last week, but had been playing well prior to that. If this game was in Buffalo I would take the Bills, but unfortunately for them it is not. The Jags should be able to cover the points at home.
KANSAS CITY 6 Oakland
Neither one of these teams are very good, especially the Raiders, though they haven't been playing all that badly. The Chiefs got off to a surprising starts, but as the season progressed, their weaknesses started to show. I don't think the Chiefs are a six point favorite over anybody, even at home and against the Raiders. I'll take Oakland here in this near Stinker of the Week.
CLEVELAND 3 1/2 Houston
The surprising Browns are favored again, this time over a team that has really struggled. I thought Houston would be better, but they have had some injuries. The Browns are fighting for a playoff berth in the AFC, and can't afford a loss here, certainly not at home. This is pretty much a must win for the Browns, and I think they will come through.
Seattle 3 ST. LOUIS
The Seahawks are on their way to another division title, but that isn't really saying much this year. They have been playing better lately, and at the right time. The Rams have finally won, and their offense is playing better. But it is way too little, way too late. Seattle should be able to win this game, and not have too many problems. But they haven't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard either.
NEW YORK GIANTS 7 Minnesota
The Giants are on the way to the playoffs, barring anything drastic happening. The Vikings looked bad last week, and it tells how much of a difference Adrian Peterson makes. They weren't very good anyway, and now they are really struggling. The Giants are not. New York will be a tough out in the playoffs if they are clicking on all cylinders, but that is a big if and several weeks away. They will win easily here though.
New Orleans 2 CAROLINA
I don't know how New Orleans is favored here, but neither team deserves to be favored over anybody right now. Both have been major disappointments, especially the Saints, who were picked by many to compete for the NFC Championship. The Panthers have had a ton of injuries, but were not playing great when everybody was healthy. I will take the Panthers here but only because they are at home.
TAMPA BAY 3 1/2 Washington
The Buccaneers are another big surprise, and are in the playoffs if the season ended after this week. The Redskins are another team that can't decide when to show up, but even when they do they aren't great anyway. The Bucs being at home is the key here, so that is why I will take them.
ARIZONA 10 1/2 San Francisco
Hard to believe that the Cardinals are double digit favorites over anybody, but they are playing San Francisco, who suddenly might be the worst team in the NFL. That is great news for Patriots fans, as New England owns their number one pick. Too bad for the 49ers, who need all the help they can get. I don't like Arizona as a big favorite, even at home, but in this game I have to take them.
SAN DIEGO 9 1/2 Baltimore
The Chargers have no right being favored by this many points over anybody right now, at home or otherwise. The Ravens do deserve to be big underdogs though, as they have really struggled this year. I am not sure if the problem in San Diego lies strictly with the coaching, but that is certainly a big part of it. I don't want to take either team here, but I will take the Ravens only because the Chargers are so inconsistent that I can't trust them with a big spread.
NEW ENGLAND 21 Philadelphia
This is the most ridiculous point spread I have ever seen for an NFL game, but I guess it is justified. The Patriots are rolling and running up the score on everybody they play, and I am not sure that the Eagles can stop them in any way, shape or form. If Donovan McNabb plays, they might be able to beat the spread, but even that is unlikely. The points are absolutely absurd, but right now it is hard to go against New England. I will take them and the very high point spread.
STINKER OF THE WEEK
PITTSBURGH 16 Miami
I picked this game as the Stinker of the Week for two reasons: Miami is really bad, and the Steelers got stunned by the Jets last week. I don't see the Steelers having two bad games in a row, and though I think the Dolphins will win a game this year, this isn't going to be it. Pittsburgh needs to get back on track, and the Dolphins are the team to help them get there.
Record for Week 11: 6-9-1 ( 10-6 without spread )
Record Through Week 11: 67-84-1 ( 97-63 without spread )
Game of Week Record: 7-4
Stinker of Week Record:5-6
Jim Poore has been a long time contributor to Patriots Insider with his weekly picks column. Let him know what you think. Email him here: