Almost every year on the fourth Thursday of November, we Canadians envy our American friends. It’s not just because we have to work and they don’t, or because they’re feasting over an inflated turkey swimming in warm gravy and complemented by an unhealthily-sized slice of pumpkin pie while we await our microwave as it takes its sweet-ass time with our boxed fish sticks, but also because it’s really the only day all year in which we’re robbed of the ability to watch the continent’s most popular professional sport live.
Usually, we can take solace in the fact that, knowing full well that a nation overdosing on tryptophan will watch whatever the hell you give them, the NFL has historically scheduled less-than-attractive games for Thanksgiving Thursday. And that usually meant anything involving the Lions, who have been a mainstay on this date since Thanksgiving became an annual holiday when New England-based pilgrims successfully invaded Chicago in 1848.*
Anyway, partly due to the Lions’ involvement, 14 of the last 15 Thanksgiving Day games have been won by the Vegas favorite. Denver upset the Giants as a 4.5-point underdog in 2009, but that was the only Thanksgiving upset we’ve had since 2005.
This year could be different, mainly because the Lions are suddenly pretty good. They’ll surely put up a fight at home against the unbeaten Packers, while the overachieving 49ers could challenge the feisty Ravens in Baltimore and the rising Dolphins have what it takes to push the Cowboys to the brink in Dallas.
From a football perspective, this Thanksgiving Thursday could be the best one America’s ever had. So suck on that, Canadians.
Here are our picks…
The game in which Joe Buck puts you to sleep before the turkey kicks in: The Lions are all about sending messages this year. In their first Monday Night Football game in over a decade, they dominated the Bears. They’ve struggled a bit since then, but are riding a wave of momentum after a lights-out second half against the Panthers. Considering that Green Bay is coming off its worst game of the year, I have a strange feeling about this one. The Lions have lost seven straight Thanksgiving games, almost all in blowout fashion. But they beat the Packers at home last December, and they’re much better now than they were then. This will go down to the wire, but I think the more experienced Packers gut it out. Packers 30, Lions 27
The game in which Tony Sparano combines stupidity with emotion: Sparano returns to Dallas, where he served as an assistant for five years before getting the Miami job. I don’t think that’s a huge factor, but it could play a minor role. Because I think Sparano’s one of the worst coaches in sports, I’m going to suggest that it hurts more than it helps. The Dolphins are red-hot and haven’t given up a touchdown on defense in three straight wins, but I can’t see them making it four in a row in Dallas. The Cowboys are just as hot, and they’ve dominated their last three opponents at home. Plus, Dallas has always been superb on Thanksgiving. Cowboys 20, Dolphins 13
The Harbowl: Jim Harbaugh’s team is healthier and hotter and has been more consistent than John Harbaugh’s team. Jim’s team is also a ridiculous 4-0 in the Eastern time zone. But John’s team is 5-0 at home, with wins over the Steelers, Jets, Texans and Bengals in Baltimore. Plus, Jim’s team is travelling cross-country on only three days’ rest. The 49ers have been impressive, but they’ve yet to play a team as stingy as the Ravens this season. I don’t trust Alex Smith against that defense, and I don’t have the guts to take San Francisco. Baltimore wins a close one. Ravens 20, 49ers 17
* Probably not historically accurate. They may need to do a better job teaching American history in Canadian schools.