One of the best weeks in the regular season for die hard NFL fans is the week of Thanksgiving. There are three games where you can fully concentrate on every play without flipping back and forth to other games and wondering what you are missing. You can watch the teams and develop your own opinion on how the teams are doing, not having to trust the highlights or what the media reports to you.
I thoroughly enjoyed this week's games so far and that includes the rivalry games in college that took place Thursday thru Saturday. It's a great time to be a football fan in general. I'm not going to go into the NFL CBA, we'll have all offseason to talk about that. Let's enjoy the rest of this week's games and watch the cream rise to the top as seen in the NFL Power Rankings (Net Points). I enjoyed reading the Thursday's game breakdowns by my colleague Hank Koebler and so I'll pick up where he left off, with the 1pm EST games coming up later today. Enjoy the rest of Week 11 and I hope you and your family had a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills
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Pittsburgh has gotten back to their identity of playing tough D and pounding the ball. That game plan bodes well for Pittsburgh this week as they are playing against the worst rush defense in the NFL. Rashard Mendenhall should have a field day against Buffalo and this should open up the passing game for Mike Wallace to keep up his amazing average of 23 yards per catch.
Buffalo has its own young and very talented wide receiver in Steve Johnson. Pittsburgh hasn't been good against the pass this year and Ryan Fitzpatrick has an impressive 18 TDs. Buffalo has found ways to keep games close and score rapidly and often. New England embarrassed the Steelers 'D' a few weeks ago by throwing all over them and Fitzpatrick to Johnson will be called quite a few times this week. In the end I still like the philosophy of a stronger 'D' and strong run game against a weak defense. The Steelers will keep Buffalo's offense on the sideline and it'll make it hard for Fitz to get in rhythm. - Steelers Win 27-23
Carolina Panthers vs. Cleveland Browns
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Mike Goodson is less than 100 yards away from being the Panthers leading rusher this year, that pretty much tells you how the Panthers season has gone. Not that Goodson isn't talented, but the fact that he's seen the field enough to be the leading rusher over Deangelo Williams / Jonathan Stewart. John Fox is gone at the end of the year and Bill Cowher who lives in Raleigh, would be a great fit to take over the team in Charlotte. Looking back at the 2010 draft, the Panthers had some really good picks and a lot of the young defensive players would fit well in a Cowher 3-4 system.
Cleveland is really close to being a playoff caliber team. They are two plays away from having a 4 game winning streak over New Orleans, New England, New York Jets, and Jacksonville. Jake Delhomme will likely get the start against his former team after Colt McCoy was injured last week. It's not going being a factor because he'll just give the ball to his workhorse back, Peyton Hillis. If he needs to pass he'll drop it down to Hillis instead of taking shots at this 7th ranked pass D. - Browns Win 28-10
Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans
A month ago, this would have been the game of the week, now it's more like a soap opera. I would have given this game to the Titans easily, before what happened last week. Now, Jeff Fisher has decided it's more important to give up on this season and prove a point then working things out with Vince Young and go to the playoffs. Rookie QB, Rusty Smith will get his first start.
Somebody has to win this game. Tennessee is on a 3 game losing streak and Houston has them beat with a 4 game streak of their own. The Texans have the worst pass defense but have they improved enough to hold their own against a rookie in his first start. You would expect to see the Texans stack the box against Chris Johnson but can they afford to leave these weak corners on an island. This game pits two of the top backs against each other in Arian Foster and Johnson, but Matt Schaub will have to link up with Andre Johnson if they want any chance to win. I have to tip the scale to the home team. - Texans Win 31-23
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Giants
The Jags win games against mediocre teams. They have a great running back in Maurice Jones-Drew and they keep feeding him the ball and that's about all they have going for them. David Garrard can't get you the wins against the top tier teams. Jacksonville's defense will struggle to get the Giants offense off the field; well except by letting them score quick.
New York has one of the top offenses in the NFL but they have played sloppy of late and let lesser teams hang around. Don't mistake losses to Philly and Dallas as a weakness and expect Jacksonville to come into New York and have their way with the Giants defense because they squeaked out miracles wins over Houston and Cleveland. - Giants Win 38-13
Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
Father time has had a rough go of it this season, but now he has Sidney Rice back with a week under his belt. He also has the leading player with yards from scrimmage in Adrian Peterson and is facing the worst defense in the NFL, giving up 411 yards a game. Brett Favre will also have a new head coach on the sideline this week and hopefully one that he respects a little more. If he can't get it going this week and pull out a win, then maybe he needs to show his maturity and turn the reins over to Tavaris Jackson and see if they have a future with him. Knowing Favre's ego, it won't ever happen.
Redskins' fans shouldn't panic about the Redskins' offense this year, it takes a little while for Shanahan to get the pieces in place for the running game. I really like James Davis and Andre Brown for the zone running scheme, they both might get a little action this week and in the long run. I think both of them will eventually jump Keiland Williams on the depth chart. The three headed monster of Torain, Davis, and Brown should be huge in 2011. The Defense on the other hand, I would be extremely worried about. Shanahan isn't known for stellar defensive play. Back in 2010, this team isn't good on either side of the ball. - Vikings Win 24-10
Miami Dolphins vs. Oakland Raiders
The Dolphins will have their work cut out for them on this game as they will trot out 3rd string QB Tyler Thigpen without a #1 receiving target to throw to as Brandon Marshall is out due to injury. The Dolphins rushing attack has really fallen off this year and this puts more pressure on Thigpen.
Oakland had a huge let down last week but the reality is that they were vastly over matched. This game should fall into their wheel house. The silver and black should be able to get the running game going early and not have to ask much of Bruce Gradkowski. If Gradkowski does have to drop back, then there could be some trouble because of the Cameron Wake led pass rush attack. - Raiders Win 23-13
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks
Dwayne Bowe started out the season horrifically dropping balls but he's been quietly putting together an All Pro season. Ractor that in with the running duo of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones and one can see how the Chiefs are leading the AFC West.
Matt Hasselback is an average NFL starter at best. Factor that in with an average running game and a slightly above average defense and it's hard to see how the Seahawks lead their division; but then again, it's the NFC West. Chiefs are far better than Seattle. - Chiefs Win 32-16
St Louis Rams vs. Denver Broncos
These could be the two most bi-polar teams. One week they will come out and beat a team that they shouldn't and then the next fall off the face of the earth. St. Louis is a team of the future and Denver is a team...barely.
Denver is dangerous because of their high flying passing attack but they usually allow teams to hang around. Knowshon Moreno will be the difference maker in this game. If he runs like he did 2 weeks ago, then Denver takes this is a blowout. I think he will. - Broncos Win 37-28
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Why can't they use flex scheduling for Monday Night Football? If they could, this one definitely would have been changed. These two teams are bad, but the sad part of it is that both of them are alive and well in the NFC West divisional hunt.
San Francisco has a ton more talent than Arizona, but they have played down to their opponents, almost all year. This game begins and ends with how well Troy Smith plays. All he has to do is manage the game and make a few throws for the 49ers to pull out the win. - 49ers Win 26-17
"Water Cooler" Games
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Tampa Bay is a legit team but they have weaknesses that Baltimore doesn't. All the Bucs can hope for, is that Baltimore comes out with a bad game plan and has Joe Flacco try to test Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber.
I'm confident that the Ravens will be smart enough to rush Ray Rice / Willis McGahee all day on the 29th ranked rush defense of Tampa Bay. The Bucs can stay in the game but the young Josh Freeman will make some bad decisions against Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and crew. - Ravens Win 20-16
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears
Michael Vick is having a MVP type season. The Eagles are in the peak of their hot streak but every year we watch as almost every team in this division catches fire and then goes through a slump. Philly is facing a team that has won games just by how outstanding the defense played.
The Bears showed that they can win games where Jay Cutler doesn't do anything impressive at all. This isn't one of those games though. Cutler will have to keep his picks to a minimum and make some plays to keep his D fresh against Vick and his dogs. Cutler doesn't have the weapons to match Vick TD for TD. - Eagles Win 23-21
San Diego Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts
It's the second half of the season and San Diego is hitting its stride as usual. Philip Rivers is playing better than any QB in the NFL and his favorite receiver, Vincent Jackson will be back for his first game all year. Antonio Gates might be back as well.
Peyton Manning hasn't been as lucky. His tight end, Dallas Clark is out all year and his receivers are all still banged up. Both teams have injury concerns at the running back position but the main deciding factor here will be the defenses. San Diego's defense is far better than the backups Indy is sending out there to play. Just too much for Peyton to overcome. - Chargers Win 31-27
Game of the Week
Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
If flex schedule was possible for MNF, this would be the game they would sub into its place. Both of these teams are scorching hot right now. All throughout the year fans love to ask who has the best team in the AFC and NFC. These two teams are getting mentioned as the answer to that question quite a lot.
Green Bay is coming into this game with a QB that seems to be able to tell what his receivers are going do before they know. They also have a defense that is led by the NFL's sack leader, Clay Matthews...they same Matthews that was rumored to fail steroid tests at USC with former teammate Brian Cushing (I'm just saying).
Most of you who follow this column weekly, remember what I said about Matt Ryan being the new Peyton Manning. Ryan shows no fear in the pocket as it collapses around him. He's going to need that facing this Packers pass rush. He'll have Michael Turner and a dependable 'D' to relieve some of the pressure. - Falcons Win 27-24
I'll be back next Sunday morning week for Week 12 of NFL GameDay. Don't forget to check out NFL Rage mid week where I vent my frustrations at some of the dumbest calls and decisions from this week's games. NFL Gameday - It's easy like Sunday Morning! - Jayson Braddock
Jayson appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com.
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