Expert NFL team bloggers from around the web give three reasons why their team and its bettors should be thankful heading into the Thanksgiving Day schedule.
Houston Texans at Detroit Lions (+3, 50.5)
THREE REASONS HOUSTON IS THANKFUL
Michael Wood writes for Texans 101. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @Texans_101.
Coaching staff and front office
This probably gets overlooked too often, but the Texans have excellent structure and personnel throughout their organization. They have a competent owner in Bob McNair and a GM in Rick Smith who has displayed a knack identifying talent. The Texans have a dynamic one-two punch in head coach Gary Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who have implemented their offensive and defensive schemes, respectively, to much success.
DE J.J. Watt
The Texans’ defense has been solid all season, but the only consistent force has been Watt. Currently with 11.5 sacks, Watt has been the driving force for the league’s No. 4 defense. Regardless of how the rest of the defense plays, you can always count on Watt to play strong against the run, put pressure on the quarterback, and deflect a few passes at the line of scrimmage.
Schaub to Johnson
The Texans are a team that prides itself on their ability to run the football and play defense. Not too long ago, that wasn’t the case. For years, the only thing the Texans had going for them was the Schaub-to-Johnson connection that saw both become Pro Bowlers. This past Sunday, when the team struggled to run the ball effectively and play defense, Schaub and Johnson came to the rescue to put forth the best statistical games of their careers. The Texans are vastly improved from a few years ago, but it’s nice to know that if all else fails, Schaub and Johnson are still there to make big plays and win games.
THREE REASONS DETROIT IS THANKFUL
Sean Yuille is the managing editor for Pride of Detroit and SB Nation Detroit. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @PrideOfDetroit.
Megatron hasn't found the end zone as much this year as he did in 2011, but he is still putting up ridiculous numbers. Injuries slowed him down a bit earlier in the season, but he has battled through them to continue playing at a very high level. The rest of the offense continues to have its issues, but Megatron is still Megatron.
Emergence of Nick Fairley
After dealing with injuries during his rookie season and two arrests this past offseason, Fairley has put together a very strong sophomore campaign so far. He has 4.5 sacks to go along with 22 tackles, and he is finally starting to look like a first-round pick. This past Sunday against Green Bay, Fairley was a menace for the Packers, getting to Aaron Rodgers twice and forcing one fumble.
Healthy Mikel Leshoure
The Lions waited a long time to get a look at Leshoure in action because he tore his Achilles last year, but the wait proved to be worth it. Leshoure has excelled as the Lions' starting running back, rushing for 502 yards and five TDs in eight games this season. The Lions' run game as a whole still needs a lot of work, but Leshoure should be an important part of the offense for years to come.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5, 48)
THREE REASONS WASHINGTON IS THANKFUL
Kevin Ewoldt is the managing editor for Hogs Haven. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @HogsHaven.
Cowboys Offensive Line
It looks like something Vinny Cerrato and Matt Millen assembled after a peyote binge. With Tyron Smith out, the likely starting Dallas o-line is Jermey Parnell, Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Derrick Dockery and Doug Free. Vomit. Dallas running backs could only manage 63 yards on the ground with that line and gave up seven sacks and 10 hits on Tony Romo versus Cleveland. CLEVELAND! Oh, and that was at home too.
The Cowboys are 0-4 against the spread at home this year while the Redskins are 2-0 ATS versus division opponents. Also of note, the Skins are 4-0 ATS against Dallas in the Mike Shanahan era. Mind you that was with McNabb and Grossman, which brings me to my next point…
You can disregard the stat with the Redskins being 0-6 on Thanksgiving games versus Dallas. Robert Griffin III makes so many plays and is the sole reason the Skins are in any game each week. The Redskins had a bye week before the Eagles game to rest up, so they should be relatively fresh still. There's a 100 percent chance America will hear "R-G-3" chants over the TV broadcast, which will pump up this team to victory.
THREE REASONS DALLAS IS THANKFUL
K.D. Drummond writes for Blogging The Boys and SB Nation Dallas. He can be followed on Twitter @KDP10For10 and @BloggingTheBoys.
Under Tony Romo's guidance, the Cowboys are now 21-3 SU during the month, an imaginable advantage. For some reason (OK, I'll concede it may be to help make America's Team relevant for the season's final month), the NFL schedule makers give Dallas an easy slate before giving them elite competition down the stretch. We'll take it. For his career, Romo is 5-0 on Thanksgiving Day games and over the history of the franchise, Dallas is 6-0 SU against Washington on Turkey Day.
The Cowboys should be thankful that Jerry Jones is finally letting his scouting department run the draft room. Recently, the draft classes have yielded amazing foundational talent for the future: Dez Bryant, Sean Lee and Sean Lissemore in 2010, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray and Dwayne Harris in 2011 and at least Morris Claiborne and Tyrone Crawford from 2012. All are nicely coming into their own and one can see potentially six Pro-Bowl caliber players from the group, something Dallas has failed to bring in since the Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware draft classes.
Tony tackled turnovers
Cowboys backers should be happy that “Romoception” looks to be gone. He has now played three consecutive games without throwing the ball to the other team. If it wasn't for the Cleveland secondary grabbing and clutching for a mind-boggling 10 penalties that gave Dallas first downs, Romo would have thrown for over 400 yards last Sunday. The Redskins secondary is no better than the Browns, despite what human target DeAngelo Hall seems to think about his abilities. Romo targeted Hall in every crucial situation in last season's two close victories and will likely do the same come Thursday.
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+7, 48)
THREE REASONS NEW ENGLAND IS THANKFUL
Joe Soriano is the lead editor for Musket Fire. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @MusketFire.
Neither team's secondary has been solid this season, but there are reasons to believe that the Patriots can do a better job at handling the Jets passing attack. The acquisition of Aqib Talib allows the Patriots to keep Devin McCourty at safety, and he has emerged as one of the best safeties in the league. Rex Ryan has already gone out of his way to praise Talib, who hopefully shook off some rust after allowing eight catches and getting burned a couple of times by T.Y. Hilton last week. He's going to continue to make big plays.
Edelman and Hernandez
The loss of Rob Gronkowski will be mitigated to a degree by the return of Aaron Hernandez, who is a better receiver than Gronk. In fact, Hernandez is a more difficult matchup for the Jets, because the Jets are better at covering the middle of the field. The Jets didn’t face Edelman in their first meeting this season, and he is yet another solid possession receiver on the Pats who can effectively move the chains. Ever since Darrelle Revis went down, the Jets secondary has lacked depth and is going to find it harder to cover Edelman on the inside with a nickel or dime corner.
Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder have been arguably the best offensive tackle duo in the league this season, with Vollmer clearly being the best right tackle in the league this season. Both of them shut down Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis last week, with Vollmer's effort on the right side being particularly impressive. Solder and Vollmer are actually at their best as run blockers, which is something the Jets have to be worried about.
THREE REASONS NEW YORK IS THANKFUL
Joe Caporoso is the Owner/Editor-In-Chief of Turn On The Jets. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @TurnOnTheJets.
Young defensive line
Last year’s first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson is starting to live up to his preseason All-Pro hype. As a 3-4 defensive end with zero pass rush support at outside linebacker, his stat line (47 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, two passes defended, one fumble recovery, one TD) is incredibly impressive. Rookie Quinton Coples is also improving and is consistently getting into the backfield to cause havoc against both the run and pass. Second-year nose tackle Kenrick Ellis was off to a terrific start this year before a knee injury slowed him up. Moving forward, the Jets are loaded with young talent on their defensive line. Once they find a pass rusher at linebacker - watch out.
Since Week 1, there is no player on the Jets offense who has come anywhere close to being the consistent playmaker that Jeremy Kerley has been. He leads the team with 38 receptions for 578 yards with an impressive 15.2 yards per catch average. Considering the issues this team has had throwing the ball, those numbers are that much more impressive. If Stephen Hill ever learns to catch a football and Santonio Holmes comes back healthy, the Jets will have a nice group of receivers to build around.
Only six games left of Tebow
By all indications, Tim Tebow is going to be cut or traded at the end of this season. He has brought nothing to the Jets offense except 29 carries for 87 yards at a whopping three yards per carry with zero touchdowns. Whenever he is awkwardly brought on the field, it immediately disrupts any type of offensive flow the Jets can rarely find. Worst of all, we are subjected to endless camera shots of him, announcers carrying on about him and the team beat writers interviewing him like he is a significant part of the team. The trade was a PR-stunt - an exhausting, failure of a PR stunt. Fortunately, it should only last for six more games.