Thanksgiving week is upon us and that can only mean offering up gratitude and well-measured gluttony…of both food and football. Every year this column will devote itself to food-based tiers in honor of this cheerfully overindulgent occasion. This year our tiers will be dedicated to the best sweet treats to cap off the best meal of the year. Warning: don’t read on an empty stomach!
Tier 1: Pecan Pie (Season Record: 13-16-1)
Titans +2.5 over Bengals
Seahawks -3.5 over Raiders
Giants +9.5 over Cowboys
My season record in the top tiers continues to drop after going 0-2 in the top tier last week. An unassailable top tier though is pecan pie as the GOAT of Thanksgiving desserts. Some of you stan for pumpkin or some other heretical choice but a good pecan pie is the perfect Thanksgiving meal finisher. You’ve got the nuttiness and textural depth of the pecans on top with the decadent but still light molasses center. It’s so simple, but open to a few variations and tweaks to meet all your sweet-toothed desires…unless you’re allergic to nuts, in which case I’m sorry for your loss.
Speaking of losses, the Minnesota Viking ceded the title of the Rodney Dangerfield Memorial team, but the Tennessee Titans are here to take up the mantle. Cincinnati has certainly improved as the season has progressed, and perhaps people will remember their Wild Card round win over the Titans in Nashville last year. The fact remains, however, that Tennessee has been the better team this year and it’s nuts (pecans even!) that the Bengals are favored in this game. Seattle is only a three-and-a-half-point favorite over a trash Raiders team at home. The Seahawks are also coming off a bye. What am I missing here? Lastly, I had to sneak one Thanksgiving Day game into the first group and this is probably the one I feel the best about. New York is coming off of a disappointing loss to an improving Lions team, and Dallas looked like the team we thought they were going to be for the first time last week against the Vikings. That has artificially inflated this line and presents a prime moneymaking opportunity while you nap off your turkey coma.
Tier 2: Apple Pie/Cobbler (Season Record: 10-23
Chargers -4 over Cardinals
Lions +9.5 over Bills
49ers -9.5 over Saints
Apple desserts of any kind are always perfect for the fall and winter. Hot apple cider, especially with a little bourbon in it, is a great drink for after dinner and sitting by the fire. Caramel apples are the quintessential fall festival delight. Then, for Thanksgiving, you either need your cast iron baked Dutch apple pie or a delicious warm apple cobbler with your contrasting scoop of vanilla bean ice cream over the top. Either is fine. Unlike my second tier picks all season, you can’t go wrong.
The only reason I can fathom that the Chargers aren’t at least a touchdown favorite in this game is that they have played poorly as favorites all year, and that is deflating this line. However, Los Angeles just played the Chiefs tight, still need every win they can get, and are playing one of the absolute worst teams in football. Christian McCaffrey is starting to look like the skeleton key that is going to really unlock this San Francisco offense. They have multi-dimensional playmakers all over the field, which mitigates Jimmy G’s inability to attack defenses vertically. I expect the 49ers to roll through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. Detroit is starting to surge down the stretch and is used to playing this early Thanksgiving game. Meanwhile, something doesn’t seem quite right in Buffalo still, even though they managed to beat the Browns soundly last Sunday. They may get things figured out by playoff time and they are still good, but I’m not sure I like them to win by double digits against a Lions team that seems to get better every week. Also, here are two Thanksgiving special bets I like to add to your gambling gluttony. If you, like me, think the Giants and Lions will play tighter than the line on Sunday, you can hedge that bet with an “Any QB to throw 4+ touchdowns on Thanksgiving Day” special at +175. The only way I see the Cowboys or Bills blowing these games wide open is to score a ton of points, which means Dak Prescott and/or Josh Allen have huge games. On the other hand, if you are rolling with the favorites, maybe you want to hedge that with an “Any Thanksgiving game goes to overtime” bet at 6/1 odds. Plus, what could possibly be more fun than pulling for some extra football on the best football day of the year?
Tier 3: Sweet Potato Pie (Season Record: 17-18)
Vikings -2.5 over Patriots
Dolphins -13 over Texans
Chiefs -14.5 over Rams
Sweet potato pie is an odd concept. The idea that a root vegetable can masquerade as a dessert seems like something that an alien invader would laugh at us for, but my hot take of the column is that sweet potato pie is better than pumpkin pie. It doesn’t have quite the silkiness texturally that pumpkin pie has, but it has a richer and deeper flavor. Plus, you can sneak some on your main plate and pretend it’s a side.
The Rams and Texans have officially been sworn off for the rest of the season. I’m not betting them no matter how aggressively Vegas dares me. The Texans look completely incompetent and are also probably in full on tank mode at this point. On the other hand, the Rams are injured and know they have nothing to play for at this point. Expect them to take things very slowly with Cooper Kupp and to be conservative with their veterans playing through aches and pains down the stretch. Minnesota’s loss to the Cowboys on Sunday was so bad that they now have a negative point differential, despite being 8-2. For those who are curious, that’s the first time in NFL history that has happened. I still kind of believe this Vikings team is good and has a little bit of an “it” factor. Let’s also not forget that the Patriots offense didn’t score a single point last Sunday.
Tier 4: Pumpkin Pie (Season Record: 17-12-3)
Commanders -4 over Falcons
Ravens -4 over Jaguars
Eagles -7 over Packers
Pumpkin pie is fine. Do I look forward to it every year? No. Do I eat it and marginally enjoy it? Sure. Here’s my suggestion for the better pumpkin dessert though: pumpkin cheesecake. It takes all the over-spiced meh of a pumpkin pie filling and blends it in with a cool, creamy, slightly tart cheesecake that balances perfectly. Do yourself a favor and substitute pumpkin pie for pumpkin cheesecake.
All three of these lines are a point too high for me to move them to a higher tier, but not so low that I would roll with the underdog. Baltimore has a knack for letting games be closer than they should be, and Jacksonville has a knack for losing one score games. Let’s just hope that one score is in the 4-7 range. The Commanders have made one of the more remarkable turnarounds of the season since Taylor Heinicke took the helm and with Chase Young set to return this weekend, they will have success against a Falcons offense that just lost Kyle Pitts for the season. Philadelphia has shaken my faith in picking them as big favorites the last two weeks, but this Packers offense is still putrid, and I think the Eagles can get things back on track on Sunday night.
Tier 5: Carrot Cake (Season Record: 21-11-1)
Bears +4.5 over Jets
Panthers +2.5 over Broncos
Steelers +2.5 over Colts
Bucs -3.5 over Browns
Carrot cake is another one of those “root vegetables masquerading as dessert” concepts that seems so strange. That’s not why carrot cake takes the bottom though. Carrot cake, especially with a cream cheese icing, is a solid dessert. It’s just, and everyone needs to hear this, the whole point of your Thanksgiving menu is the idea that you are sampling so many different foods until you eat yourself comatose. The dessert plate should be no different, which is why pies are the ideal dessert options. Pies are still light enough and simple enough that you can throw three or four slivers of pie on your plate and get a few bites of everything. You try to add a small slice of cake to the dessert plate, and you won’t have the stomach room for that sweet smorgasbord that is Thanksgiving dessert.
No offense to Russell Wilson, but I refuse to ride with Broncos country any more this year. The travel across country is one thing, but if they couldn’t manage to cover the same spread over the Raiders, then I’m not sure why we expect them to beat the Panthers traveling across two time zones. Speaking of offenses we aren’t riding with anymore, the Jets offense looked horrible on Sunday. Their defense is still formidable, and might can force Justin Fields to make some mistakes, but I also think he can make a few plays and keep the Bears in the game. Much like Kobe Bryant late in his career, it seems like a trip to Germany may have been what Tom Brady needed to turn things around this season. Plus, he’s had a week to rest and recover (while also having to sweat out a possible lawsuit from this FTX nonsense) and Cleveland is trending the wrong direction. I still have a hard time trusting Tampa Bay, but they are getting healthy at the right time and their defense is still solid. This is not a particularly thrilling Monday night matchup and probably won’t be a well-played game, which is probably fine since we will all be thoroughly footballed out by this point in the weekend anyway right? At the end of the day, I will take Mike Tomlin over Jeff Saturday pretty much anytime, especially if Tomlin is getting points, and Kenny Pickett looks like he’s starting to acclimate to the NFL game.
Last Week’s Record: 5-8-1
Season Record: 78-81-5
Prop Record: 4-7
Cover Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press