NFL Schedules Three Gems on Thanksgivings

The NFL schedule came out yesterday which is always interesting for football fans who like to project their team’s record. As a Cowboys’ fan, I did exactly that and have Big D finishing 11-5 which may not be enough to win the division in the much-improved NFC East.thanksgiving

When perusing the schedule, I always like to check out the schedules primetime games as well as the Thanksgiving Day matchups.This year the NFL really came up with some entertaining games and storylines.

In the first game of the day, the new-look Philadelphia Eagles travel to Detroit to take on the lions. This should be an offensive showcase although the Eagles have improved their defense on paper. While the Lions lost Ndamukong Suh to the Dolphins, their offense is still explosive with quarterback Matt Stafford throwing to wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron, and Joique Bell catching passes out of the backfield. The Eagles will counter with their new-look offense led by a three-headed monster at running back with free agent acquisitions DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews who join incumbent Darren Sproles. Second-year receiver Jordan Matthews should put up huge numbers this season with Jeremy Maclin off to Kansas City. Riley Cooper and Josh Huff should also get plenty of balls thrown their way along with tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. Who will be throwing the ball to them is still in question. Former Ram Sam Bradford was traded for Nick Foles and appears to be the starter…for now. Yet, I still believe Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly may use Bradford and other players as trade bait to draft his former quarterback at Oregon, Marcus Mariota. Either way, this game should be very entertaining and set the tone for what should be a great day of NFL football.

In the second game of the day, the Dallas Cowboys play host to the Carolina Panthers. This game pits free agent defensive end signee Greg Hardy against the team that drafted him and let him go after Hardy sat out 15 games last year after domestic violence allegations came out about Hardy against his former girlfriend. Carolina has a strong defense led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Will they be able to match up well with the high-powered Cowboys’ offense led by quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Kuechly and Davis should help shut down the Cowboys’ running game forcing Romo to beat them through the air. If the Panthers are smart, they will cheat a safety to Bryant’s side and force Rome to look elsewhere. On the Panthers’ side of the ball, the Cowboys will need to contain Cam Newton from running and try to shut down second year receiver Kelvin Benjamin who caught 73 balls for over 1000 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie campaign. The corners of the Cowboys are its weakest link so containing Benjamin could be quite difficult. Tight end Greg Olsen will also be a challenge for the Cowboys’ defense.

The nightcap on the NFL Network at 8:30 pm has the Chicago Bears traveling to play the Green Bay Packers in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field (insert Chris Berman’s voice). It is always an entertaining game between these two NFC North foes. The Chicago Bears have brought in John Fox to right the ship that Marc Trestman allowed to sink during his tenure as coach. The Bears shipped the untra-talented, but enigmatic Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a draft pick so Alshon Jeffery moves into the number one receiver slot. Eddie Royal was signed as a free agent to start opposite Jeffery. Tight end Martellus Bennett has emerged as one of the top receiving tight ends in the game. Without a doubt, running back Matt Forte can hurt you as a runner or receiver out of the backfield and will be a challenge for the Packers’ defense. Much like the Eagles, there is a question as to who may be under center for the Bears. Quarterback Jay Cutler is currently under contract, but he always seem to be under fire from team management, coaching staff, teammates, and fans. It is possible Jimmy Clausen could start over Cutler or the Bears could possibly trade up in next week’s draft to select a quarterback. As usual, the Packers’ defense will be led by veterans Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers who will be looking to pressure whatever quarterback Chicago throws out there that night. Entering his third season, Eddie Lacy is a top back who can grind out yards and make it difficult for teams to drop linebackers into coverage in fear of getting burned by the Packers’ passing game. Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the top quarterback in the game and throws to two of the best receivers in the game in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams came on as the third receiver last season and Andrew Quarless and Richard Rogers are very capable tight end targets in the red zone.

If you travel to see relatives or friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, be sure to set your travel plans accordingly. Try to show up before the first game and leave to go home or another house before the second game. If still not home during the second game, be sure to make plans with the family to leave at the final whistle so you can get home and change into your comfy clothes and end the holiday on your couch. Be sure to pace your eating throughout the day so you are not so full you fall asleep. If I were you, I might focus on hors d’oeuvres during the first game, the main meal during the pre-game to the Cowboys vs. Panthers, and eat dessert and drink during the night cap. The last thing you want to do is overeat and not be able to enjoy any game because you are stuck sitting on your couch with your pants unbuttoned with your fingertips in your underwear like Al Bundy.

And that’s as I see it!

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