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- NFL Thanksgiving Day Predictions

Chris Pokorny November 23, 2005
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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There's nothing better than watching football on Thanksgiving after you've enjoyed your serving of mashed potatoes, turkey, and string beans. This year's Thanksgiving features three teams that are in the thick of the playoff race and one that is hanging by a thread. The rest of my Week 12 predictions will be posted either late Thursday or Friday, but until then, I'll take a close look at who will win on Turkey Day this year.

One of the Thanksgiving Day games is a game of the week, so let's start off with the Broncos and the Cowboys.

(Red = Prediction).

Thanksgiving Day Battle
Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys
Both of these teams will be surprisingly fresh despite the short week of practice. The Broncos are coming off of a decisive blowout over the New York Jets, while the Cowboys are coming off of a clear-cut victory over the Detroit Lions. Both teams are currently on three-game winning streaks and would have comparable records if the Cowboys had not collapsed against the Redskins earlier this season. Not only have both teams become playoff contenders, but they both have a legitimate shot at receiving a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Broncos have been a playoff team the past few years, but they have not looked as good as they have now. The Cowboys were not successful last year, forming a drastic turnaround this year. What's changed amongst these two teams?

For the Broncos, you could easily point out the newly formed defensive line. In the offseason, Denver basically acquired all of the Cleveland Browns defensive lineman from last year, despite them underachieving. They have been great for the Broncos and have established themselves as one of the AFC's strongest units. Another thing you could look at for Denver is the success of their running back tandem of Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson. Both running backs could attain 1,000 yards together, and if one isn't on a roll, they can easily switch to the other. However, the true key to Denver's success this year has been Jake Plummer. Plummer has been plagued by inconsistency during his career, but he has been everything but inconsistent so far. He has not even thrown an interception for about eight weeks and is making all of the right decisions, a drastic change from years past.

For the Cowboys, all you have to do is look at the same position to find their success. While Drew Bledsoe has still made a mistake or two this year, he has been a major upgrade to the Quincy Carters and Vinny Testaverdes that the Cowboys have had to deal with. Terry Glenn is having a big year and Keyshawn Johnson isn't too far behind him. The emergence of Marion Barber in the running game has given the Cowboys an alternative to Julius Jones. This only adds to the comparison that you can make to the Broncos.

Speaking of comparisons, let's take a look at how similar these two teams have been this year:

-QB: Plummer and Bledsoe, who were both criticized for game-changing mistakes the past few years(Bledsoe was with Buffalo), have been the primary reason for their team's success. Neither of them have made too many mistakes, allowing their defense to do the rest.
-RB: Bell and Anderson have established themselves over the past few weeks, but the Cowboys are starting to take a similar approach with Barber and Jones.
-WR: Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie are a solid one-two punch for the Broncos just as Glenn and Keyshawn have been for the Cowboys.
-DEF: The Broncos defense underwent some changes up front, making them more of a threat in years past. The Cowboys defense has been just as good at times, with a few exceptions.

This game looks as even as it can get. The Cowboys only loss as of late was a collapse to the Seahawks, and the Broncos only loss as of late was a collapse to the Giants. Although I just praised both quarterbacks for their team's recent success, whichever team loses this game will come as a result of a quarterback error. Plummer has been picture perfect as of late, so I'll take Bledsoe to make that error, despite being at home, in what should be a very good game.

Vick's Success is Falcons Downfall
Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions
As crazy as it may sound, the Falcons have lost the past two games despite two great performances by Michael Vick as a passer. You can't really tell Vick to stop throwing the ball well since their defense has really let them down. The talk of the Falcons earlier this season was how dominating their defensive line was, but they have been a non-factor as of late. The Detroit Lions are on a similar pattern, without much success under quarterback Joey Harrington.

This may be the last time Harrington ever plays in a Thanksgiving Day game, so he better savor it. The Lions passing game got rolling two weeks ago when Harrington tosses three touchdowns to Roy Williams, but it cooled down again this past week against the Cowboys. The Falcons fell apart against the Buccaneers, who aren't supposed to be a "quick strike" offensive team.

Just as the Broncos and Cowboys have played equally great as of late, the Lions and the Falcons have played equally bad. Both teams need a victory to pick themselves up, but the Falcons are clearly the better team. It is not an offensive issue for Atlanta; it all falls on the defense. Fortunately for them, then will be able to "gobble" up Harrington this week, who is always mistake prone. Expect several turnovers as a result of Harrington, allowing the Falcons to cruise to victory.

Predictions Record to Date: 100-60
Last Week: 10-6

Don't miss the pre-game shows for both of these games, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

-Chris Pokorny

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