This week marks American Thanksgiving – or, as our friends to the south simply call it… Thanksgiving. The holiday means a Thursday triple-header, something football fans everywhere can be thankful for.
This year’s Thanksgiving slate features Bears-Lions, Raiders-Cowboys and Bills-Saints with Buffalo all of a sudden looking slightly up at New England in the AFC East standings.
All six teams playing on Thursday are coming off losses, so we should see some desperation and hopefully it leads to exciting games.
Sunday’s notable matchups include the Bucs visiting the Colts, the red-hot Patriots hosting the Titans, the Rams travelling to Green Bay and the Browns and Ravens meeting in an AFC North showdown. The Cardinals and Chiefs have an extra week to recover and rest up as the only teams with byes.
Here’s how things are looking heading into Week 12.
THANKFUL MURRAY DIDN’T NEED TO RUSH BACK
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2; Last week: 2)
Patience is a luxury most teams cannot afford — but the Cardinals, who have gone 2-1 in three games without starting quarterback Kyler Murray and top weapon DeAndre Hopkins, are not most teams.
Thanks to solid play from backup Colt McCoy, clutch running from James Conner, some crafty coaching calls and of course sound performances on defence, Arizona has managed to stay on top. That both wins came on the road against divisional opponents (at San Francisco and Seattle) makes this club even more impressive. Now, the Cardinals get a perfectly-timed bye after which Murray and Hopkins are both expected to be back just in time for the stretch run. – Sadler
THANKFUL FOR MOMENTUM, CUSHION IN STANDINGS
2. Green Bay Packers (8-3; Last week: 1)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3; Last week: 6)
4. New England Patriots (7-4; Last week: 8)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4; Last week: 10)
6. Dallas Cowboys (7-3; Last week: 4)
7. Baltimore Ravens (7-3; Last week: 9)
8. Tennessee Titans (8-3; Last week: 3)
New England and Kansas City have more momentum than the 30 other teams with the Pats winners of five straight and the Chiefs notching four consecutive Ws. New England is rolling on both sides of the ball, while Kansas City’s defence has allowed fewer than 12 points per game during their streak.
The Titans are two games up on the Colts and hold the tiebreaker, but the AFC South race is not yet finished, and they’ve got a daunting matchup against the Patriots to prepare for. – Johnston
THANKFUL THERE’S TIME TO GAIN GROUND, MAKE IMPROVEMENTS
9. Buffalo Bills (6-4; Last week: 5)
10. Los Angeles Rams (7-3; Last week: 7)
11. Los Angeles Chargers (6-4; Last week: 12)
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-5: Last week: 11)
13. Cleveland Browns (6-5; Last week: 13)
14. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4; Last week: 14)
The Bills hit another hurdle at the worst time on Sunday, their Week 11 loss to the Colts presenting the Patriots with sole possession of the AFC East’s top spot thanks to their win against Atlanta.
Let’s talk about those Colts, whose every thanks this U.S. Thanksgiving should be directed at none other than the incredible Jonathan Taylor. Winners of three straight games and five of their last six thanks to a string of absolutely dominant performances by the star running back (including a five-TD outing in Week 12!), the Colts are one of the hottest teams going right now. But unless Tennessee plays out the rest of the season like the Titans we saw in Sunday’s loss to the Texans, Indianapolis’ way into the playoffs is through the wild card considering they’ve twice lost to Tennessee already. Things should get interesting there… though, perhaps not quite as interesting as in the AFC North, where all four clubs are over .500 and Cincinnati is breathing down Cleveland’s neck. – Sadler
THANKFUL TO STILL BE IN PLAYOFF HUNT
15. New Orleans Saints (5-5; Last week: 15)
16. Minnesota Vikings (5-5; Last week: 16)
17. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6; Last week: 22)
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1; Last week: 17)
19. San Francisco 49ers (5-5; Last week: 19)
The Vikings appear to have the highest ceiling of any team in this group, coming off back-to-back wins over the Packers and Chargers and only losing to teams that are currently above .500. The Eagles are also better than their record indicates. Philly’s heavy ground attack was bolstered with Miles Sanders coming off IR and Jalen Hurts continuing to improve and use his legs to make plays. – Johnston
THANKFUL TO HAVE SOME LONG-TERM OPTIMISM
20. Washington Football Team (4-6; Last week: 21)
21. Carolina Panthers (5-6; Last week: 20)
22. Miami Dolphins (4-7; Last week: 24)
23. Las Vegas Raiders (5-5; Last week: 18)
24. Denver Broncos (5-5; Last week: 23)
“Optimism” isn’t something that’s thrown around a lot among these teams right now, but ‘tis the season of gratitude and that applies to these middling clubs, too. It just might take another season to see it all come together.
Let’s look at the Dolphins, for example. They’ve quietly registered three consecutive wins (albeit two have come against Houston and the Jets) and are showing glimpses of that strong defence we expected to see this season. Is that hope on the horizon? – Sadler
THANKFUL SEASON IS WINDING DOWN
25. Seattle Seahawks (3-7; Last week: 25)
26. Atlanta Falcons (4-6; Last week: 26)
27. New York Giants (3-7; Last week: 27)
28. Houston Texans (2-8; Last week: 31)
29. Chicago Bears (3-7; Last week: 28)
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8; Last week: 29)
31. New York Jets (2-8; Last week: 30)
32. Detroit Lions (0-9-1; Last week: 32)
You wouldn’t think the Seahawks would find themselves keeping this type of company and, sure, they’ve only lost to quality teams this season but this offence – even with Russell Wilson back from a finger injury – has been quite frustrating to watch.
Oh, speaking of things that are frustrating to watch, the Falcons lost again.
Atlanta’s 25-0 defeat to the Patriots last Thursday was perhaps the most predictable result of the season (random math question: what does 28 minus 3 equal?). That game was a not-so-subtle ego check courtesy of the cosmos directed at any Falcons fan possessing a shred of dignity and/or optimism about this football team. – Johnston