I had a really great time watching all three Thanksgiving games unfold, smiling as I enjoyed the football and watched all three of my picks go wrong. The games were interesting if one sided in all three contests so let’s take a look at what happened:
Bears @ Lions
The first thing that struck me about this game as I was watching it was that neither team was running the ball effectively. But whilst the Lions persevered with it and eventually had some success having established their passing game, the Bears ran for only eight yards from thirteen attempts and were variously using screens and passes to Forte out of the backfield as an alternative.
The problem with this is that Jay Cutler is not a rhythm passer, and if you are doing this then you are not making the best use of his arm talent. Only one of his two interceptions came at a point that truly affected the game, but the Bears simply did not move the ball well enough throughout this game to compete.
The Bears did move the ball effectively in their opening drive without attempting a single run, and thanks to a Matt Stafford fumble giving them good field position, they finished the first quarter with a fourteen-three lead, but they would only score a third quarter field goal for the rest of the game.
I have written before about the dangers of changing your mind when making picks, I wrote about I thought the Lions offence could get back on track and that I was worried about Jay Cutler’s play against this defence, but I changed my mind listening to other people talk about the game. Verily it played out how I thought and in the end the Lions won very comfortably.
The one thing I will remember with the Lions offence is that their o-line is not very good. The Bears have not been rushing the passer that well this season, but Jared Allen was getting consistent pressure to go with his pair of sacks. Combine this with it being Matthew Stafford’s first year in a new system and you can possibly see why he has struggled. He spread the ball around in this game and the Lions have some very winnable games coming up so we will have to see how they go.
Eagles @ Cowboys
This was a really interesting game. I thought that the Cowboys would win as I had more faith in the Cowboys o-line and Tony Romo than in Mark Sanchez, but I was wrong.
The Eagles defence played very well in this game, and although Tony Romo had a lot of time behind the Cowboys excellent o-line, they could not sustain drives. I put part of this down to the play calling as they were very conservative and having established that they would run on first down predominantly, they could have tried to use play action but didn’t. However, the other problem was that Romo just didn’t play that well, he missed throws and only managed a couple of long passes whilst racking up two interceptions and no touchdowns.
The Eagles on the other hand ran the ball very effectively, and whilst I could still see the things that worry me about Sanchez, he was efficient throwing for two hundred yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys’ defence were able to hold the Eagles to field goals for four drives, but struggled to get stops and the different in the pace of the offence showed up with the Eagles running seventy-five plays to the Cowboys’ fifty-eight despite their only being fifty seconds between their time of procession.
It appears that whilst they Eagles are a step down from the likes of the Packers or Patriots, but they’re also a step above the Cowboys who I am a little worried about. They did not look good in this game and I can see them having problems when they play the Colts and have to visit the Eagles
Seahawks @ 49ers
Sometimes you get a pick wrong and it was beyond your control, and sometime you feel like an idiot. I knew that the 49ers were struggling on offence but they were horrible in this game.
The much vaunted o-line from last year has regressed drastically, and Colin Kaepernick’s play has gone backwards too. This team managed a paltry 164yards of total offence and were unable to get either the run or pass working in this game. I don’t think it is a good idea to just avoid Richard Sherman’s side of the field like the Packers did in the opening game of the season, but you can’t afford to throw the kind of balls Kaepernick did for his pair of interceptions. In fact, he’s probably lucky he was only picked off twice as he looked horrible throwing the ball all game.
However, the San Francisco defence looked as good as their offence looked bad. They were not getting much time off the field thanks to the offence but after a touchdown in the first quarter, they held the Seahawks to field goals for the rest of the game.
The problem for the 49ers is that part of their difficulties on offence is their quarterback, but this is very much not the case for the Seahawks. They are just as reliant on the run game for production, but this is because of the quality of skill players Russell Wilson has to throw to. However, his ability to escape the rush is as good as anyone in the league and he seems to have a great feel for when to run and when to get rid of the ball. I get the feeling that receivers will be a point of emphasis for the Seahawks in the offseason.
Overall, I think that the 49ers will fall short of the playoffs and that there could well be an overhaul of the coaching staff. This would not be a surprise given that Jim Harbaugh is already half out the door thanks to his broken relationship with owernership/management, but something has to be done about the offence as Greg Roman is simply not getting it done with that unit.
The Seahawks look to be coming together at the right time, but there are structural issues with the roster and whilst I don’t think anyone will relish playing them, they are a couple of levels below the monster they were last season.