Happy Thanksgiving! Or I guess since this is now 'money talks' Britain, Happy Black Friday! The scenes at a supermarket at Wembley were a sign of the changes in Britain since I moved here many years ago: now shoppers are free to behave like the Seahawks' punt coverage team, and blame it on America!
Meanwhile in America, Thanksgiving taught us a few lessons. First that betting against the Bears' pass defense is a good idea, even if you're betting on Matt Stafford. Second, the Cowboys' defense has trouble with top-flight offenses, Chip Kelly is a fine playmaker, and even Mark Sanchez can be an NFL quarterback taken out of the context of the Newark Airport Jest. Sticking to the over in that game proved to be OK. And third, I just should have avoided Thanksgiving's third game,
Since I wrote up the scenario by which the Seahawks' defense turned Colin Kaepernick into Geno Smith once again but then ignored my own wisdom. We can overthink these things. The Seahawks' offense still looks like a bunch of Kamikaze pilots running out of gas, but Marshawn Lynch is Godzilla, to switch Japanese genres, and any time you hold your division rivals who were 9-1 and 7-4 to just three points each, you don't need much offense to win. On to the rest of week 13!
BEST BET: CINCINNATI (-3.5 at 1.97) at Tampa Bay: With AJ Green back and operating at 100 per cent, Andy Dalton seems to have returned to the comfort zone, and with Gio Bernard back as well, he has the multi-threat out of the backfield that they need to keep linebackers honest. The Bengals' D is still patchy, partly due to injury, but the Bucs' offense isn't that much of a threat to romp over it, and a win by a TD is something Cincy ought to be able to manage, even on the road.
VALUE BET: DENVER (-1 AT 1.96) at Kansas City: Arrowhead is one of the more daunting places to play in the NFL, but it hasn't been such for either Broncos' coach John Fox or for Peyton Manning. The Broncos are still nursing injuries, but Emmanuel Sanders ought to be back from concussion. I'd like it better if Julius Thomas were back from his ankle injury as well (keep an eye on his status) because the Chiefs have lost Eric Berry, one of the league's best safeties, for the season as doctors investigate a 'mass' on his lung.
The thing with the Chiefs is that they execute Andy Reid's offense very well: it's probably the best variant of the old West Coast that anyone's running in the NFL today, and it works despite the lack of a deep receiving threat (remember how well it worked in Philly when he had Terrell Owens?). But that means he won't be able to get direct benefit from the Broncos' own secondary issues (Aquid Talib in particular). Watch to see how quickly Jason Avant fits in after the Chiefs signed him this week when he was cut by Carolina for criticising their offensive ineptitude.
OUTSIDE BET: NEW ENGLAND (+3 AT 2.04) at Green Bay: Lambeau Field is another of the more daunting places for visiting teams, but the Patriots won't be bothered much by bad conditions, and whenever they're getting points I think they're worth a bet. This one is a bit of a chess game, especially between Pats' offense (Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Brady) and Dom Capers, the Pack's defensive coordinator. Capers runs variants of the Steelers' zone-blitz, and has been very aggressive this year; moving Clay Matthews to an inside linebacker position means he has more options in pass rush now. The Packers may be without strong safety Morgan Burnett; if he can't go that makes Rob Gronkowski and even more appealing target. The Pats' turnaround after being blown out in Kansas City is partly down to Gronk's revitalisation and partly due to putting their offensive line together. The Packers may be the stiffest test for that line so far.
ONE TO AVOID: New York Giants at Jacksonville (+2.5): Getting 2.08 for the Jags against a Giants' team that fell apart completely against the Cowboys is a temptation, but these are the Jags we're talking about, and those are the Giants too. Indy (-10 at 2.02) against Washington is tempting too, as is Miami (-7 at 1.94) at New York Jest, but I'd like them better giving just a point less in each case.