By John Jastremski
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There’s no doubt the week of Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. The food is tremendous, it’s great to see family and of course my favorite part — the football overload! Make sure that when you’re eating the turkey, the stuffing and the pumpkin pie that you are locked into the football action. Don’t let the kiddies try to flip on “March of the Wooden Soldiers” or some other garbage!
There’s nothing I love more than working an overnight, playing the Turkey Bowl football game in the morning on minimal sleep and then pigging out and watching a triple header of NFL football.
That’s as American as it gets! What makes this year even better is that the slate of Thanksgiving games is simply fantastic.
Bears-Lions, Eagles-Cowboys and Seahawks-49ers. You’re talking about three juicy matchups with a lot on the line when it comes to the playoff picture.
So before we preview all three of the Turkey Day games, I think it’s a good time to reflect on some of my favorite games of Thanksgivings past. And no I don’t mean my annual Turkey Bowl at Royal Oak Field.
Here are four of my favorite Thanksgiving moments:
1998: Steelers At Lions
This was one of my first Thanksgiving football memories. The Steelers and the Lions head into overtime. Jerome Bettis calls tails for the coin toss and yet referee Phil Luckett tells the audience in Detroit that heads was the call.
Even a 10-year-old JJ couldn’t believe that nonsense!
Of course as we know the coin landed on tails, the Lions won the toss, scored on the opening possession of overtime and won 19-16. Imagine if Twitter was around back then?
1998: Vikings At Cowboys
Randy Moss and the Minnesota Vikings were in the midst of a regular season for the ages and the rookie displayed his talents in a big way in his first ever Turkey Day performance. Moss only caught three passes, but all three were for touchdowns of 51, 56 and 56 yards.
Right then and there, a star was born.
2003: Dolphins At Cowboys
I can’t remember a happier Thanksgiving day! The Dolphins took Bill Parcells’ Cowboys to the woodshed. It was a 40-21 victory where Jay Fiedler did his best Dan Marino impression. I’ll never forget the lasting image of Chris Chambers getting into the end zone and then eating the Phil Simms turkey leg in the process.
2012: Patriots At Jets (“The Butt Fumble”)
A day that for many Jets fans that will live in infamy. I will never forget hosting JJ After Dark on WFAN on Thanksgiving night in 2012. The Jets were in the middle of getting demolished by Tom Brady and the Patriots and before you can even reassess the damage, you see Mark Sanchez run into his own lineman’s butt, fumble the ball and see it returned for a Patriots touchdown.
I’m not gonna lie, I probably laughed for a good five minutes on the air re-watching the play over and over again.
The “Butt Fumble” summed up the 2012 Jets season and was the beginning of the end for Sanchez with Gang Green. Get ready for multiple replays of the butt fumble over the next couple of days as Sanchez gets set to play yet again on Turkey Day.
Sorry, Jets fans.
Turkey Day Triple Play
The Appetizer: Lions At Bears
This game has picked up some juice over the past couple of days. The Bears are playing a little bit better. They’ve won two in a row, they are hanging on by a thread in the NFC Playoff Picture at 5-6. One thing you know this season about the Chicago Bears, their defense is atrocious, but can the Detroit Lions take advantage?
The Lions have been a mess on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve struggled over the last couple of weeks even with the return of Calvin Johnson. You would think an offense with Matthew Stafford, Megatron and Golden Tate would be able to put points on the board, however the Lions haven’t scored a touchdown in consecutive games.
The Lions record is 7-4, but they need this game in the worst way to right the ship in the hotly contested NFC playoff picture. Even against the lousy Bears D, I have no reason to believe the Lions will be able to figure out their problems offensively.
The pick: Bears +7
The Main Course: Eagles At Cowboys
I can’t wait for this football game. Division rivals, both with 8-3 records and first place in the NFC East on the line! Where do I sign?
Both the Eagles and Cowboys are very similar. They are both very explosive offensively and have very good skill position players. Defensively, both leave a lot to be desired.
However, there are two main differences that will separate these teams on Thursday and throughout the final five games of the regular season.
The Dallas Cowboys are vastly superior at the quarterback position and on the offensive line.
Think about it. Tony Romo or Mark Sanchez? Is that even debatable?
And then you look at the Cowboys’ offensive line compared to the Eagles’ offensive line that has had all sorts of issues; advantage Dallas on both counts.
The Cowboys will win Thursday and they will win the NFC East.
The pick: Cowboys -3
Dessert: Seattle At San Francisco
This is a game you circled on the calendar at the start of the year. A rematch of a classic NFC title game from a season ago, but as I mentioned a few weeks back, there is a distinct possibility only one of these teams is getting back to the postseason.
I’m really disenchanted from what I’ve seen from the San Francisco 49ers. They continue to struggle offensively, they barely beat the hapless Washington Redskins. Not a good sign of things to come.
Conversely, the Seattle Seahawks showed you some of their championship DNA against the first-place Arizona Cardinals. The Seattle defense was dominant in shutting down the Cardinals 19-3. That will be the biggest key for the Seahawks in their quest to get back to the postseason. They need that defense to find the “Eye of the Tiger.”
They will on Thursday.
The pick: Seahawks +1
Now let’s tie up some loose ends:
JJ’s Studmuffin Of The Week
Josh Gordon – WR – Cleveland Browns
In his first game back off drug suspension, Josh Gordon showed you why he is one of the best wide receivers in the sport. He caught eight passes for 120 yards in a 26-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Gordon’s presence will make the Browns a much more dynamic team down the stretch as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Now, can he just stop hanging out with James Franco?!
Charlie Brown Of The Week
The New York Jets
The Buffalo Bills had to play a home game in Detroit. They have been digging out of snow for days, and you lose to that football team 38-3 after an extra week of preparation. Shame on the New York Jets!
It’s time for Woody Johnson to get rid of all the rats on this sinking ship. The Jets better be looking for a new GM, coach and quarterback in the offseason. If not, there is a major problem.
Game Of The Week:
Patriots (9-2) At Packers (8-3)
I can guarantee there are quite a few executives at CBS very happy about this matchup in the late afternoon slate on Sunday. At the moment, these are the two best teams in football.
The Patriots are on a roll, they’ve won seven games in a row and have the best defense since their Super Bowl days. The key to this game on Sunday is very simple as far as I see it. Can Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner neutralize Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and the rest of Aaron Rodgers’ weapons?
I fully expect an instant classic on Sunday and would not be surprised at all if we see this matchup again in early February.
JJ’s Sucker Bet Of The Week: (1-3)
Cleveland +1.5 At Buffalo
You’d think getting points with the Browns at 7-4 would be intriguing here, but guess again.
Even though the Browns won on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Brian Hoyer’s three interceptions against that dreadful defense raises some serious red flags.
The Bills have one of the most opportunistic defenses in the NFL and I expect that stout front four to make life miserable on Hoyer.
Don’t get suckered in on the Cleveland Browns.
Take the Bills!
JJ’s Lock Of The Week (4-0)
Dolphins -4.5 At Jets
I know laying points on the road in a division game is always dangerous. I know when it comes to the Dolphins and the Jets you always expect the unexpected. But let’s face facts. The Jets are a dead football team and the Miami Dolphins have everything to play for come Monday night.
After a tough loss to the Broncos on Sunday, the Dolphins need a 4-1 stretch over their final five games to make the postseason. Ryan Tannehill is playing the best football of his career and the Jets’ secondary is a nightmare.
Look for Mike Wallace and rookie standout Jarvis Landry to have big days.
Throw in the fact that the Jets may have to turn back to Geno Smith. Where do I sign?
John Jastremski was the winner of Fantasy Phenom in 2011 and can be heard on his program, “JJ After Dark,” on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. This week: Thursday 2-6 a.m. (CBS Sports Radio), Thursday 6-10 p.m. (CBS Sports Radio), Friday 3-6 a.m. (WFAN), Friday 6-10 p.m. (CBS Sports Radio) and Sunday 2-6 a.m. (WFAN). Follow him on Twitter — @john_jastremski.
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