Week 12 of the 2021 NFL season is here, which means it’s time for Thanksgiving! Thursday features a decidedly mixed bag of games, with Bears at Lions looking like a snoozer but better matchups in Raiders at Cowboys and Bills at Saints later in the day. There’s also an awesome Rams at Packers matchup on Sunday to look forward to.
I rebounded last week with my strongest record to date of 9-6. That brings me to a still-mediocre but decidedly-not-bad 38-32-1 record on my (shortened) season. Let’s see if I can keep that winning record going with some spicy picks for Week 12.
Thanksgiving Noon: Chicago Bears (3-7) at Detroit Lions (0-9-1)
The pick: Bears (-155)
Spread: Bears -3 | Over/Under: 41.5 | Moneyline: Bears -155, Lions +135
All the possible intrigue in this opening Thanksgiving game pretty much went out the window with the injury to Justin Fields, who had at least been making the Bears offense somewhat watchable over the past few weeks. Now with Andy Dalton back at the helm and going up against one of the worst teams in the NFL, there’s not much to like here. This is probably one of the best opportunities for the Lions to get a win, but I can’t pick them after how they played last week.
Thanksgiving Afternoon: Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
The pick: Cowboys (-335)
Spread: Cowboys -7.5 | Over/Under: 51.5 | Moneyline: Cowboys -335, Raiders +260
The loss of both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb in the game against the Chiefs threw a wrench into my upset pick, but the Cowboys are still among the best teams in the NFC. Dallas now gets to face off with a collapsing Raiders team on Thanksgiving, which is a perfect opportunity to get back on track.
Thanksgiving Thursday Night Football: Buffalo Bills (6-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-5)
The pick: Saints (+190)
Spread: Bills -6 | Over/Under: 45.5 | Moneyline: Bills -235, Saints +190
My “kiss of death” has worked to perfection against New Orleans over the past two weeks, and I see no reason to stop now. I’ll gladly take the L in the picks if it hurts the Saints in any way. In truth, this is a game that does have upset potential. The Bills are one of the most indecipherable teams in the NFL right now, and are capable of blowing out anyone or losing in embarrassing fashion to anyone. New Orleans is reeling from a series of injuries to their RBs and OL, but their defense will give them a chance to win every single week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
The pick: Bucs -155
Spread: Bucs -3 | Over/Under: 53 | Moneyline: Bucs -155, Colts +135
The Buccaneers have suffered a few upsets lately, mostly due to their injury-plagued passing defense. A matchup with a very frisky Colts team awaits, who have been dominant on the ground in recent weeks. While Indianapolis is a threat to upset any team, Tampa Bay matches up well against their ground attack: the Bucs have the NFL’s top run defense, allowing just 78.4 yards/game and 3.8 yards per carry. This should be a good game, but I think Tampa Bay gets it done.
New York Jets (2-8) at Houston Texans (2-8)
The pick: Texans (-145)
Spread: Texans -2.5 | Over/Under: 44.5 | Moneyline: Texans -145, Jets +125
Are the Texans spicy with Tyrod Taylor healthy at QB? Probably not, but they’re at least a functional offense with a defense that is playing a little bit better. They also get to face the Jets, who will likely be forced into putting a still-recovering Zach Wilson on the field due to Joe Flacco and Mike White ending up on the reserve/COVID-19 list. This one could be a slopfest, but the Texans have shown a little bit of moxie to win those games in recent weeks.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at New York Giants (3-7)
The pick: Eagles (-180)
Spread: Eagles -3.5 | Over/Under: 45.5 | Moneyline: Eagles -180, Giants +155
The Eagles have come on strong in recent weeks with a reconfigured offense centered on a dominant rushing attack, featuring QB Jalen Hurts at the forefront. I don’t know why they didn’t do this sooner, considering it worked to perfection against the Falcons in Week 1. But they’ve been a much better offense since the switch, which has covered up a defense that is still struggling. The Giants, meanwhile, just fired their offensive coordinator after a miserable Monday Night Football performance. Maybe that will give New York a spark, but I still like Philly in this one.
Carolina Panthers (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)
The pick: Panthers (-130)
Spread: Panthers -2 | Over/Under: 41.5 | Moneyline: Panthers -130, Dolphins +110
Despite Carolina’s loss to Washington last week, the Panthers offense is undoubtedly better with Cam Newton at the helm. The defense had one of its worst games of the year, but I trust the unit to rebound...particularly against one of the worst offensive lines in the game. Miami has started to turn things around on the back of their resurgent defense, but the offense is still sketchy at best. Look for a low-scoring, defensive slugfest here. In that scenario, I like the Panthers.
Tennessee Titans (8-3) at New England Patriots (7-4)
The pick: Titans (+215)
Spread: Patriots -6.5 | Over/Under: 43.5 | Moneyline: Patriots -265, Titans +215
OK, so the Titans lost to the Texans. That’s obviously not great for them—but we’ve seen a bunch of teams have bad, nigh-inexplicable upset losses this season. After sitting atop the AFC and defeating contender after contender, the Titans are now...6.5 point road underdogs to the Patriots. Make no mistake, New England is playing terrific football and is one of the best teams in the conference at this point. But I think folks are overreacting to a bad week from Tennessee. The Titans have played their best football when the world seems to count them out, and I think they pull off another shocker this weekend.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
The pick: Bengals (-210)
Spread: Bengals -4.5 | Over/Under: 44.5 | Moneyline: Bengals -210, Steelers +175
The AFC North is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, and this divisional clash could have huge implications. A Bengals win completes the sweep over the Steelers, which gives them the tiebreaker and a two-game lead. Meanwhile, if Pittsburgh can pull off the upset, they remain squarely in the race for the playoffs. Cincinnati already showed they can handle the Steelers, and they did it in Pittsburgh. I’m sticking with the Bengals in this one.
Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
The pick: Falcons (-120)
Spread: Falcons -1 | Over/Under: 46.5 | Moneyline: Falcons -120, Jaguars +100
The Falcons are the narrowest of favorites on the road against Jacksonville—which I think is pretty fair considering their play over the previous two weeks. However, the Jaguars present a good matchup for Atlanta: they’re decidedly not a good defense, and they feature a rookie quarterback helming a talent-deficient offense. The Falcons defense has actually performed quite well against rookies this year, and has shown the ability to keep below-average units in check. Atlanta’s offense has to get back on track, however, and I think they do in this one...at least, to some extent.
Los Angeles Chargers (6-4) at Denver Broncos (5-5)
The pick: Chargers (-145)
Spread: Chargers -2.5 | Over/Under: 48.5 | Moneyline: Chargers -145, Broncos +125
This is a tough one to predict, as both of these teams have proven themselves as utterly untrustworthy from week to week. The Chargers have the more electric offense, along with the better quarterback. Denver, on the other hand, has been playing better defense lately and has a quality two-headed rushing attack. I’m going to go with the Chargers, because ultimately I trust Justin Herbert more than any other player in this matchup.
Los Angeles Rams (7-3) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)
The pick: Rams (-115)
Spread: Rams -1 | Over/Under: 47.5 | Moneyline: Rams -115, Packers -105
A true coin-flip matchup, this could very well be the game of the week between two of the NFC’s biggest contenders. The Rams are coming off a bye following two straight disappointing losses, while the Packers are reeling from a narrow defeat at the hands of the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers is playing well despite an injury, but it does make me nervous. Ultimately, this one is a straight pick ‘em, and I think the Rams bounce back in this one.
Minnesota Vikings (5-5) at San Francisco 49ers (5-5)
The pick: Vikings (+150)
Spread: 49ers -3 | Over/Under: 49 | Moneyline: 49ers -170, Vikings +150
There are a lot of confounding factors in this game. First off, never trust the Vikings. Second, the 49ers have tended to lose most of their games at home. Both teams appear to be ascending—each is on a 2-game winning streak. This a really close one, but I’m going to lean Minnesota here.
Sunday Night Football: Cleveland Browns (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
The pick: Ravens (-190)
Spread: Ravens -4 | Over/Under: 45 | Moneyline: Ravens -190, Browns +160
This is another huge game for the AFC North, as it could have far-reaching implications for both the division crown and the Wild Card race. Baltimore managed to steal a win in Chicago with backup QB Tyler Huntley starting, but they’ll need Lamar Jackson back to win this one. I expect the Browns to play better than their abysmal outing against the Lions, where they managed just a 13-10 win—but not well enough to take down the Ravens.
Monday Night Football: Seattle Seahawks (3-7) at Washington Football Team (4-6)
The pick: Seahawks (+100)
Spread: WFT -1 | Over/Under: 47| Moneyline: WFT -120, Seahawks +100
I’ve honestly been enjoying the Washington Football Team experience—they’re a frisky team with a hot-and-cold offense and weird defense, and they’re entirely unpredictable. Meanwhile, Seattle has been arguably the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season, and Russell Wilson still doesn’t look healthy. The line on this one is incredibly close for a reason, and I think I’ll take Seattle to pull off the narrow, ugly win.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.