It's Thanksgiving Week and we all know what that means around here: Instead of football picks, I'm going to spend the next 30 minutes listing off my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. Just kidding, I couldn't even fill 29 minutes talking about that. The only two side dishes I ever have at Thanksgiving are sweet potatoes and wine, and to be honest, I'm not sure that second one even technically counts as a side dish.
I'm not sure how many glasses of wine I'll be having on Thursday, but I do know how many football games I'll be watching: THREE. Normally, that number is closer to 2.1 because I generally only watch about five minutes of the Lions game, but this year, I'll be watching the entire thing since it's on CBS. Also, I should note that when I'm watching the Lions, I'll definitely be scarfing down one of my two side dishes and it won't be the sweet potatoes.
Alright, let's get to the picks, because if we don't do it now, there's a chance I might stop writing to go eat sweet potatoes and if that happens, I might not ever come back.
Actually, before we get to the Week 12 picks, here's a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. Also, as you may or may not have heard, I'm now in charge of the NFL newsletter here at CBSSports.com. If you can't be with your family for the holidays, just sign them up for the newsletter and then you can read it together every day and it will be like you're in the same room, except not really. To subscribe, all you have to do is click here and enter an email address.
Since I'm now running the newsletter, you might be thinking that I'll be way too busy to podcast, but nope. If there are two things I'm never too busy for, it's podcasting and eating sweet potatoes.
Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson have never invited me over for sweet potatoes, but they do join me three days per week (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) on the Pick Six podcast, which is our daily NFL podcast here at CBSSports.com. You can listen to Tuesday's episode below. The reason you're going to want to listen is because we spent way more time than we probably should have trying to figure out how many quarterbacks are better than Tom Brady this year, and spoiler alert, there are a lot of them.
I think I've babbled for long enough, let's get to the Turkey Day edition of the picks.
NFL Week 12 Picks
Who'll cover the spread in Week 12? Pete Prisco and R.J. White join Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break down every game; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Houston (3-7) at Detroit (4-6)
Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
If you didn't get to watch the Lions on Sunday -- and I'm guessing you didn't because I'm pretty sure their game was only shown to about .00001% of the country -- they got shut out by the Panthers. SHUT. OUT. BY. THE. PANTHERS. The reason I used capital letters there is because it's nearly impossible to get shut out in today's NFL, but the Lions still somehow managed to do it. Since Oct. 21 of last season, there have only been three games where a team scored zero points: The Lions gave us one and the Jets gave us the other two. When you're on a list that only includes one other team and that team is the Jets, you've already lost. Ironically enough, if you asked me to make a list of of teams that are probably going to have a new coach next year, I'd probably also list the Jets and the Lions. Like I said, being on the same list as the Jets is never a good thing.
I know the Lions didn't have Kenny Golladay in Week 11 and I know they didn't have D'Andre Swift, but I don't think things are going to get much better for Detroit this week since they're going to be playing on just three days rest. The other problem for the Lions is that they've given up the fourth-most points in the NFL this year, and now, they have to face one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league. Since Week 5, Deshaun Watson has thrown 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions while averaging 286.4 yards per game. If the Texans were any good, we'd be talking a lot more about Watson's brilliant run, but they're not. Also, did I mention Watson has never lost a game in his career on short rest? Because he's never lost a game in his career on short rest (7-0).
That being said, the fact of the matter is that I have to choose between two bad teams here. This is like choosing between green bean casserole and corn pudding as your main side dish at Thanksgiving. Corn pudding got shut out on Sunday, so I'm taking green bean casserole.
The pick: Texans 30-23 over Lions
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Washington (3-7) at Dallas (3-7)
Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET (Fox)
The oddsmakers in Vegas must've started pounding Thanksgiving tequila shots a few days early this year because that's the only way to explain why the Cowboys are favored in this game. I mean, it doesn't make any sense. They lost to Washington 25-3 just FIVE WEEKS ago. On the other hand, now that I'm thinking about it some more, this point spread actually makes perfect sense, because I'm CONFUSED and that's exactly what they want in Vegas: Confused gamblers. I'm pretty sure 50% of the money for the Raiders' new stadium came from confused gamblers who threw their money away on point spreads they didn't understand.
The last time we saw these two teams on the same field came back in Week 7 in a game where Andy Dalton almost had his head knocked off by Jon Bostic. This was back when the Cowboys offense was terrible and I have no idea how it's happened, but their offense actually looks somewhat competent now, which might not sound like much of a compliment, but it's one of the highest compliments you can pay a team from the NFC East.
The Cowboys were my preseason pick to win the division, and although I jumped off the bandwagon at some point over the past month, I'm getting back on. I mean, how can I not be on board with a team who has a head coach who is smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer to pump everyone up.
#Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy pulled out a sledgehammer during Saturday night’s team meeting and smashed watermelons like Gallagher to emphasize their objectives. Players roared, then responded with an inspired win in Minnesota. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/oiUThTYuYJ— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 23, 2020
I once tried that at home and it did not go well, so I'm glad to see it worked out well for McCarthy.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I'm going with the Cowboys.
The pick: Cowboys 26-23 over Washington
Baltimore (6-4) at Pittsburgh (10-0)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
The CDC is recommending that you shouldn't travel for Thanksgiving this year and although I originally thought that was a nationwide warning, I think it might actually just apply to the Ravens. Baltimore is dealing with multiple COVID-19 cases right now with two key players -- Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins -- both testing positive, which means those two won't be playing Thursday. If you're wondering how everyone on Twitter is handling this news, let's just say things are interesting in Pittsburgh.
Boy, do I smell horse***t w/the Ravens' covid tests. After getting made into roadkill by Derrick Henry, I bet they want the game moved back to give them more recovery time.— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) November 23, 2020
Guys, as we all know, the first rule of tweeting out a conspiracy theory is that you have to go all-in if you're going to do it, so let's take this tweet one step farther: Maybe the Ravens faked the positive tests so that the game against the Steelers would be canceled, which would lead to the NFL adding the eighth playoff spot that the Ravens could then end up earning. It's diabolical. Also, the moon landing was fake, the earth is flat and John Harbaugh was the second gunman on the grassy knoll.
As for this game, if there's one week this year where the Ravens offense actually looked pretty unstoppable, it was against the Steelers. Although they lost 28-24 back in Week 8, the Ravens doubled the Steelers in total yardage (457 to 221) and mostly outplayed Pittsburgh except for four glaring mistakes, which were all turnovers from Lamar Jackson (two lost fumbles, two interceptions). If Jackson had just been slightly smarter with the football, I think Baltimore would have won that game and I think he'll be slightly smarter with the football on Thursday night.
No, the Ravens won't have Dobbins or Ingram, but they will have Gus Edwards, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the first meeting. I hate picking against a team that's undefeated at home when they're playing at home, but that's what I'm going to do here.
The pick: Ravens 23-20 over Steelers
Tennessee (7-3) at Indianapolis (7-3)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
If it feels like you just saw these two teams play, that's because you did. Someone in the NFL scheduling department clearly got a little lazy because this game will mark the second time in two weeks that these two teams have met (Week 10 and Week 12). I mean, I'm pretty sure I still have some leftover meat loaf in my refrigerator that was in there the last time they played, which reminds me, I should probably go check on that stuff because something in my fridge is definitely starting to smell.
When these two teams played back in Week 10, the Colts beat the Titans 34-17 in a game that was a lot closer than it sounds. If the Titans punter didn't have a total meltdown, Tennessee would have kept things a lot closer (The Titans had a 17-yard shanked punt that led to a Colts TD and another punt blocked that was returned for a TD).
Although I would love to say Tennessee would have won that game if they got competent punting, I don't think that's the case. The Titans couldn't even put up 300 yards on Indy's defense and based on the past few weeks, I'm starting to sense a pattern. This game will mark the fourth time in six weeks that the Titans have played one of the best defenses in football and in the other three games -- against the Steelers, Bears and Colts -- the Titans were held under 300 yards each time. On the other hand, the Colts went up and down the field on Tennessee and put up their second-highest offensive total of the season (430 yards) in the first meeting.
The biggest question for the Colts is whether or not Philip Rivers can play after injuring his toe on Sunday. Since I have no idea whether he'll be playing this week, I'm going with two picks. Also, I should start making two picks on every game, because then I'd never get one wrong.
The pick: Colts 27-24 over Titans
If Rivers doesn't play: Titans 23-20
Kansas City (9-1) at Tampa Bay (7-4)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
When the NFL schedule game out in May, I circled this game on my calendar for three reasons:
1. I like circling things on my calendar
2. It's TOM BRADY VS. PATRICK MAHOMES.
3. I circle every game that's on CBS
The Brady-Mahomes rivalry has basically turned into the Fast and the Furious series: I hope we get as many as possible because every single one is awesome. Brady and Mahomes have met on the field three times and every single one of those games was decided by seven points or less. Of course, when Brady was playing for the Patriots, New England had one major advantage that Tampa Bay won't have and that's the fact that they arguably had the smartest defensive coach in NFL history (Bill Belichick). If Belichick couldn't come up with a defense that could slow Mahomes down, I'm not sure how Tampa Bay is going to be able to do it. I mean, they couldn't even slow down Jared Goff on Monday night.
Speaking of Monday night, the Buccaneers will be coming into this game on short rest after playing on Monday and I think we all remembered what happened the last time the Buccaneers went into a game on short rest after playing on a Monday. If you don't remember, they lost to the Saints 38-3. I don't think this game will get that ugly, but I do think the Bucs are going to lose again.
The pick: Chiefs 34-31 over Buccaneers
Lock of the Week
N.Y. Giants (3-7) at Cincinnati (2-7-1)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
I'm not sure if you guys heard, but Joe Burrow is out for the season. Sorry, I know you guys have already heard, I just had to type it one more time to make sure it was real. My life coach says I'm currently working my way through the seven stages of grief and apparently I'm still in denial about what happened. As the resident Bengals homer here at CBSSports.com, I actually go through the seven stages of grief quite often with this team so my life coach actually gives me a discount now anytime something bad happens.
In their first game this year without Burrow, I'm guessing the Bengals are going to lose by a lot.
Burrow was basically a human makeup concealer because he covered up all of the Bengals' blemishes. He's been so good this year that his play has actually made the defense better. If you need an example of this, just look at Sunday's game. With Burrow in, the Bengals built a 9-7 lead, and although that's not impressive, they were putting together long drives, which kept their defense fresh. Literally five minutes after Burrow was knocked out of the game, the offense went three-and-out twice, the defense imploded and Washington took a 17-9 lead. After that, it was over.
As for the Giants, they're coming off a bye, they have a lot to play for and they're going up against a quarterback in Ryan Finley who is not only winless in his Bengals career (0-3), but he's lost those three games by an average of 16.3 points. Also, there's a 99% chance the Bengals are going to be deflated because they're going to through the seven stages of grief.
Not sure if that qualifies as disbelief or anger, but it sounds like I need to send my life coach's number to Tyler Boyd. I never thought I'd make an NFC East team the "Lock of the Week," but here we are.
The pick: Giants 30-13 over Bengals
Lock of the week record: 11-2 straight up, 6-7 against the spread
Week 12 picks: All the rest
Bills 30-27 over Chargers
Raiders 34-24 over Falcons
Patriots 23-20 over Cardinals
Browns 24-16 over Jaguars
Vikings 20-17 over Panthers
Dolphins 27-20 over Jets
Saints 23-16 over Broncos
Rams 30-20 over 49ers
Packers 24-17 over Bears
Seahawks 30-27 over Eagles
Best pick: Last week, I predicted that the Titans would score exactly 30 points and upset the Ravens and GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? The Titans scored exactly 30 points and upset the Ravens. Last week, I mentioned the fact that I was one of about three people in the entire country who picked the Titans to upset the Ravens in the playoffs last year and even though I spent the lead up to Week 11 trying to convince the people I work with that it was going to happen again, DID ANYONE LISTEN? No. The answer is no, they did not listen.
I hope everyone learned an important lesson.
Worst pick: If anyone reading knows Mike McCarthy please let him know that he needs to INFORM EVERYONE the next time he decides to start smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer in front of his team. Last week, I thought for sure that the Vikings would beat the Cowboys, but if I had known that McCarthy packed a freaking sledgehammer in his carry-on bag to take to Minnesota so he could inspire his team by smashing things, I never would have picked against Dallas. I mean, that's half the reason I'm picking them this week.
Finally, if you're still reading, you might be wondering which teams I've done well picking this year and here's the answer:
Teams I'm 9-1 picking this year (Straight up): Chiefs, Jets, Steelers
Teams I'm 8-2 picking this year: Ravens, Jaguars, Chargers, Packers, Giants.
Longest winning streak: Jaguars (Seven straight games correct)
Longest losing streak: Bills (Three straight games incorrect).
Also, there are no teams I've been worse at picking than the Arizona Cardinals (3-7) and the Atlanta Falcons (3-7). Based on that fact, I will not be picking any games next year that involve bird teams. I hate bird teams.
Straight up in Week 11: 8-6
SU overall: 100-59-1
Against the spread in Week 11: 6-8
ATS overall: 74-84-2