If it weren’t for Thursday’s trifecta of super-duper games, this week would suck. Hope you’re able to find a television on Thanksgiving (Americans) or during your work day (Canadians), because three of the week’s top five games take place on Thursday…
(Team rankings are based on our latest power rankings.)
1. No. 2 49ers at No. 4 Ravens (Thursday, 8:20 ET on NFL Network)
It was already one of the most notable games on the 2011 schedule, since it marks the first time in NFL history that brothers have head-coached against one another in a game. And how poetic of the league to schedule the family affair on Thanksgiving night, right? Who knew the 49ers would start 9-1 under Harbaugh? Now, even without the family storyline, this is one of the best matchups of the year. I’d say we’ll be watching the NFL’s two best defenses Thursday night.
2. No. 1 Packers at No. 10 Lions (Thursday, 12:30 ET on Fox)
The league’s top two teams have to travel on short rest to play top-10 teams. But while the Niners are a three-point underdog in Baltimore, the Packers are still favored by nearly a touchdown in Detroit. That indicates just how dominant Green Bay has been this year. But the Lions are the last NFC team to beat the Packers, who are riding a 13-game winning streak against conference foes dating back to their game in Detroit last December. Sure, the Pack didn’t have Aaron Rodgers in that game, but the Lions didn’t have Matthew Stafford either.
3. No. 8 Bears at No. 12 Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 ET on Fox)
Two teams currently in playoff positions breaking in new quarterbacks, although the Raiders are a little further along in the process than Chicago is. The Bears have won five straight overall, while the Raiders have lost three of their last four home games. Carson Palmer faces his toughest defense yet, while Caleb Hanie faces his first defense as a starter — one that has 11 sacks in its last two games.
4. No. 7 Patriots at No. 19 Eagles (Sunday, 4:15 ET on CBS)
Super Bowl XXXIX rematch. They’ve only played once since that game, and it was in New England. You’ve got the desperate Eagles at home, trying to keep their season alive with injuries affecting three of their top offensive weapons (Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) against a very beatable Patriots defense. This could come down to the wire. Hopefully Vick (or Vince Young) won’t get sick.
5. No. 17 Dolphins at No. 11 Cowboys (Thursday, 4:15 ET on CBS)
On paper, it’s not that special, but there have been quite a few connections between these teams in recent years, and you can imagine Tony Sparano will be fired up to coach against his former team for the first time. Plus, the Dolphins are the first team in NFL history to win three straight games after starting 0-7, which is why they’re ranked so high in our rankings despite their poor overall record. The Cowboys have also won three in a row, but they haven’t beaten an opponent as good as Miami at home all season.