I like to think myself a pretty traditional guy, having things you can depend on year-in and year-out.
That being said, can someone in the NFL please do something about the stink that is the traditional Thanksgiving schedule?
Oh, sure there has been hubbub in the past over exactly why the Lions get the annual 12:30 time slot, particularly since they were last compelling when Wayne Fontes was at the helm. But this year takes the pie. We’ve got the potentially undefeated Titans at the probable winless Lions next Thursday afternoon. Trap game, it ain’t.
It gets worse. We follow it up with Seattle at Dallas. Seattle. Have you watched the Seahawks this season? Have you in any way wanted to watch the Seahawks this season? I mean, it will be nice for Norfolk’s Hasselbecks, and Plainville’s Mosi Tatupu (by the way, still waiting for that jersey, Pats Pro Shop), but beyond that, well, even fantasy geeks have given up on anything to do with Seattle.
Arizona-Philadelphia isn’t a bad game, but since it’s on the NFL Network, four percent of the country will see it.
I know the NFL wants to protect this “tradition” as an annual event, but shouldn’t there be a loophole that if your team is, oh, I don’t know, the worst football team in the world, you might want to shake things up a bit?
It astounds me that in a landscape where the almighty advertising dollar is king, the league wouldn’t take a shakeup a bit more seriously. At least put the Lions on probation until they fix things a bit. Green Bay or Chicago is a nice option for a Thanksgiving game, no?
There’s even a threat that Thursday’s game will blacked out in Detroit. Imagine that embarrassment for the NFL. Though the Detroit Free Press’ Steve Schrader has an idea: “Show it in Detroit and black it out every place else.”
Whom they’re picking
Our roundup of pundit picks for Sunday's Patriots-Dolphins showdown:
- Jim McBride, Boston Globe: Patriots. “There's panic in the streets of Patriot Nation as fans wonder how the Dolphins will implement the dreaded Wildcat offense. Fear not. I have it on good authority that Bill Belichick is ready to unveil the new Cougar defense, guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of opposing runners.”
- Boston Globe staff picks: Patriots across the board.
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 27, Dolphins 23. “Oh glory be, a late-November Dolphin game with playoff weight! But wait. Just when this was getting good, Miami's winning streak hits a dead-end at four in (officially, but not really) a minor upset. Dolphins ripped apart NE with Wildcat claws 38-13 earlier this year, humiliating a team not used to being beaten, let alone embarrassed, and that's high-octane fuel to drive the Pats here. Hunch a loud game by a quiet Randy Moss. Plus, Bill Belichick with extra days to prepare has not stopped being a scary thing. No surprise with the Wildcat now. No surprise here, either: Pats, if only by a little, are still better.”
- Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 27, Dolphins 23. “It's not nice to embarrass Bill Belichick. He plays a team Sunday that rubbed his nose in the dirt at home with trick plays he should have been able to handle at Wesleyan, and he walks into a place with one of his football godfathers, Bill Parcells, watching down on him from a suite. You don't often see Belichick under pressure, embarrassed.”
- ESPN.com staff: Five of eight pick the Patriots (of those who have picked).
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 30, Dolphins 20. “Can you believe how big this game is this late in the season? Amazing. The Dolphins blew out the Patriots earlier this year, but that won't happen again. The Wildcat formation worked the first time. It won't this time. The Pats don't lose two in a row and they lost last week.”
- CBS Sports staff: Four of six pick the Dolphins to cover.
- Cold, Hard, Football Facts: Patriots 24, Dolphins 23. “In the first meeting between these teams, the Dolphins unveiled their Wildcat formation to smashing success, routing New England 38-13. Since then, the Patriots have largely been much better on defense, as they sit at No.8 in Bendability – one spot behind Miami. With a chance to reclaim a share of first place in the AFC East if Tennessee holds serve, New England gets revenge with a tough road win.”
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 20, Dolphins 17. “Belichick can still expect a tough defensive effort from Parcells' and Tony Sparano's team, but the renewed confidence and playmaking skills of Matt Cassel will help the Pats earn a season series split.”
- USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
- Yahoo! staff: Dolphins across the board.
- Peter Schrager, FOXSports.com: Patriots 28, Dolphins 16. “The last time these two teams played, Ronnie Brown accounted for five TDs (four rush, one pass) and the Dolphins put an end to New England 's NFL-record 21-game regular-season win streak. But that was against the old Matt Cassel, not the guy we've seen over the past month. Hey, Angrees4X, this one's for you.”
- Nancy Gay, San Francisco Chronicle: Patriots. “A huge divisional matchup with important playoff implications - both teams are a game out of first. The Dolphins are winning with trick plays and Joey Porter, but Randy Moss and Matt Cassel will wear them out.”
- Sam Farmer, LA Times: Dolphins. “The Wildcat offense isn't going to catch the Patriots off guard this time. Even without the element of surprise, though, the Dolphins will pick up their fifth consecutive victory for the first time in three years.”
- T-Bone: Patriots.
- Our pick: Dolphins 33, Patriots 30. The last time the Patriots lost back-to-back regular season games was Nov. 5-12 of 2006, coincidentally enough to the Colts and Jets, two teams they also lost to in a three-week span this season. After running off three wins in a row, that edition went down to Miami and had the snot kicked out of them, 21-0.
It’s no secret the Patriots have had their troubles in Miami, even during their dominant era earlier this decade, most memorably the 29-28 loss there during the Super Bowl-run season of ’04.
New England is a better team than it was the last time these two faced off, but it’s now Week 12 and we have little idea how good the Patriots actually are. In a more established world, it would be easy to predict Belichick not letting up the reins in a payback rout. But despite what we might want to believe, nothing about this injury-depleted crew is stable right now.