NFL Week 13: Turkey picks

You're driving to Grandma's, not reading this, so let Queen Elizabeth worry about who's going to beat whom.

Published November 26, 2008 12:00PM (EST)

It's the day before Thanksgiving. Most people read Salon at work. Chances are very good that you're not working, and therefore that you're not reading this. I can write whatever I want and nobody'd ever notice. I could pick the Detroit Lions to beat the Tennessee Titans.

Wait, I'd do that anyway.

Confident in my belief that everyone who might read this column is instead on the road today, let's take a look at NFL Week 13, with winners in caps and the picks of my kids, game-picking 5-year-old Buster and coin-flipping 3-year-old Daisy, included along with those of Queen Elizabeth II and a brown horse named Rodney, who are here in the office with me.

Thanksgiving games

Tennessee (10-1) at DETROIT (0-11)
If the Titans had beaten the Jets Sunday, we would have had the first matchup of an 11-0 team and an 0-11 team in NFL history! Instead, we have the second matchup of a 10-1 team and an 0-11 team in NFL history. Eh, big deal.

In case you were wondering -- and how could you not be? -- this year's Lions are the 13th team in NFL/AFL history to start a season 0-11. The Lions are the first team to make the list three times, having pulled it off in 1942 and 2001. The Chargers have done it twice, 1975 and 2000. The Buccaneers are the only team to do it two years in a row, their first two years, 1976 and '77.

The other teams on the list are the 1962 Raiders in the AFL, plus the 1968 Eagles, 1980 Saints, 1984 Bills, 1986 Colts and 2007 Dolphins. Those teams all combined to go a respectable 4-7 in their 12th game. The '42 Lions didn't have a 12th game, finishing 0-11. The '76 Bucs also went winless in 14 games. They and the '80 Saints hold the record for consecutive losses to start a season.

Now you know.

What the Heck Pick™ of the week, but if it weren't I'd have taken them anyway on behalf of the queen, who loves lions.
Kids: Tennessee (11-point favorite)

Seattle (2-9) at DALLAS (7-4)
Rodney's feeling strongly about the Cowboys here. I am too. I also would love some oats right now, which is odd.
Kids: Dallas (13-point favorite)

Arizona (7-4) at PHILADELPHIA (5-5-1)
Andy Reid says Donovan McNabb, benched Sunday in a bad loss to Baltimore, will get the start, though it's looking like his time as the Eagles quarterback is winding down. Rush Limbaugh ought to be popping up with an "I told you so" any time now. The queen likes Kurt Warner because, she says, she identifies with his rags-to-riches tale. "I worked in a grocery store myself," she just said.

It could be her majesty has been nipping at the champagne the Cardinals will have on ice Thursday in case they clinch the NFC West, which they can do even if they lose, as long as the other three teams in the division also lose. Gee, what are the odds of that, Queenie? I think, for not much of a reason at all, that the Eagles will pull off one of those just when you thought they were dead wins, which will restart a lot of playoff talk, which will be silly. Kind of like the queen about now.
Buster: Arizona
Daisy: Philadelphia

Sunday early games

Carolina (8-3) at GREEN BAY (5-6)
The Packers, a popular preseason pick to contend for the Super Bowl, are seventh in the wild-card race, and they just lost by three touchdowns to a team that's tied for fifth. The Panthers, coming off wins over the Raiders and Lions, played a league game against the Falcons Sunday and showed how much air was in that 8-2 record. The Packers aren't going to contend for the Super Bowl, but I keep thinking they're better than their record, and better than they played Monday. I'm almost certainly wrong, but I'll take them at home.
Kids: Green Bay

NEW ORLEANS (6-5) at Tampa Bay (8-3)
Drew Brees and Co. went wild against the Packers in their first real home game in more than a month Monday night -- they'd had three road games, a bye and a game in London since their last start in the Superdome. They won't have nearly so easy a time in Tampa. But the Bucs have been playing with fire. They've built a shiny record against a soft schedule, and they keep falling behind terrible teams, then rallying to win.

Taking the first quarter or two off can work against Detroit or Kansas City, but not against New Orleans. If I'm right about these first two games -- OK, the queen just fell out of her chair laughing -- the NFC South is going to tighten up considerably.

Same for Rodney and Liz if they keep drinking.
Kids: New Orleans

N.Y. GIANTS (10-1) at Washington (7-4)
Washington is banged up on the offensive front. "Every team is playing sore and hurt," coach Jim Zorn said this week. "We're no different." Yes, you are. You're playing the Giants this week. Brandon Jacobs, the bruising Giants back, is expected to return from a knee injury. Then again, he was expected to play against the Cardinals Sunday. Didn't matter then, won't matter in this one.
Buster: Washington
Daisy: New York

INDIANAPOLIS (7-4) at Cleveland (4-7)
Rodney just dropped the Cowboys like a hot horseshoe. "Why didn't you tell me there's a team called the Colts?" he said.
Buster: Indianapolis
Daisy: Cleveland

BALTIMORE (7-4) at Cincinnati (1-9-1)
Whoa, it's a party now. The queen and Rodney are standing on a table and singing "Stand Up if You Hate Man U."
Kids: Baltimore (7-point favorite)

MIAMI (6-5) at St. Louis (2-9)
A little bit of hope for the Lions. Thanksgiving week last year, the Dolphins were 0-10. The way the calendar fell, Thanksgiving week was Week 12, not Week 13, so the records aren't quite the same, but the Dolphins' six-win improvement since last Turkey Day is tied for the biggest swing in the league. The Jets have also added six wins to their record last year, when they headed into Thanksgiving 2-8. They're 8-3 now.

The Lions -- and you're going to think I'm making this up because nobody's reading but I'm not -- were 6-4 when they hosted their annual holiday game last year. Can you even remember that? They were already on a two-game losing streak, and since then they've gone 1-15. But just think, a year from now they could be something like 6-5. All they have to do is hire Bill Parcells.
Kids: Miami (8-point favorite)

San Francisco (3-8) at BUFFALO (6-5)
The cure for what ails any struggling team: A visit to Kansas City followed by a visit by an NFC West team.
Kids: Buffalo (7-point favorite)

Sunday late games

ATLANTA (7-4) at San Diego (4-7)
Rodney thinks I have these records backward. He hasn't really followed the season. The Chargers have lost four out of five, and three of those losses were by a total of nine points. Then again, the one win was over the Chiefs, by one point. So the point I'm trying to make is ... hey! Look over there! No, what I mean is that but for a bounce or three, the Chargers could have six or seven wins and the division lead. On the other hand, never underestimate the ability of a Norv Turner team to lose a close one and not have it be just dumb luck. And the Falcons are pretty good.
Kids: San Diego

PITTSBURGH (8-3) at New England (7-4)
Headline on Yahoo Sports: "Matt Cassel is coming along fine, but he's still not Tom Brady." I guess you can get this kind of analysis just anywhere. To be fair, that headline pointed to a blog post that wasn't at all as dumb as advertised. Cassel is playing well lately, and he torched Miami Sunday, but the Patriots without Brady are just another good team that beats the teams it should beat and loses the rest. Then again, so are the Steelers, but Pittsburgh's defense won't get lit up by Mr. Not Brady.

I would put in a lit up joke here about the queen, but I'm better than that.
Buster: Pittsburgh
Daisy: New England

Kansas City (1-10) at OAKLAND (3-8)
One of the NFL's great rivalries. Trying to convince Liz of that. A victory, which is actually likely, would give the Raiders their first winning streak since Weeks 12 and 13 last year and a shot at their first three-game win streak since 2002, the year they went to the Super Bowl. That would require a win in San Diego, which also last happened in 2002.
Kids: Kansas City

Denver (6-5) at N.Y. JETS (8-3)
Steam is coming out of Rodney's nostrils. "The Broncos? There's a team called the Broncos and you let me buy that Peyton Manning Fathead?" I'm trying to tell him that I was only trying to save him some heartache. The Broncos got smoked by the Raiders last week. The Raiders. Now the queen is pointing out that the Jets got smoked by the Raiders last month, have since won five in a row and are crediting their win streak to the wake-up call the embarrassing loss to Oakland gave them. Rodney has pulled the Fathead down and put it back up five times already. The queen is whispering something into his twitching ear about Brett Favre and a weak Broncos defense. I'm trying to listen ...
Kids: New York (7.5-point favorite)

Sunday night game

Chicago (6-5) at MINNESOTA (6-5)
Your guess is as good as mine. As if you didn't know that. The Bears are coming off of twin shellackings, to the Rams and by the Packers. The big challenge for Chicago is shutting down Adrian Peterson. They stiffed the Titans -- and the Rams, for what that's worth -- on the ground, but also let the Packers run wild. The Vikings, meanwhile, are playing good ball lately, with five wins in their last seven games, though mostly against weak opposition. But that's how most NFL hot streaks go. One of their two losses in that stretch was the crazy 48-41 game at Soldier Field. The Bears essentially had no ambulatory defensive backs in that game and still intercepted Gus Frerotte four times. What to make of this game? Pass the bottle, Rodney. He says he likes the Vikings. "That Peterson guy," Rodney says. "He's a horse."
Buster: Minnesota
Daisy: Chicago

Monday night game

JACKSONVILLE (4-7) at Houston (4-7)
You go back to work after a long holiday weekend, have to struggle to get up early for the first time in five days, struggle through that Monday, through stuffing withdrawals, but at least you've got Monday night football to look forward to, right? And then you get Jags-Texans? As the queen says, "Do me a favor."
Buster: Jacksonville
Daisy: Houston

Season record: 104-71-1
Last week: 9-7
What the Heck™ Picks: 2-10
The other game in NFL history between an 0-11 team and a 10-1 team: On Nov. 28, 1976, the 10-1 Raiders beat the 0-11 Bucs 49-16 in Oakland.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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