Man Getting Hit By Football: Week Thanksgiving

The one day of the NFL season in which Thursday football seems to make some sort of sense. Also other games.
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Illustration by Brad Beatson.

Green Bay (+6) at Detroit
Oakland (+9.5) at Dallas
Pittsburgh (+3) at Baltimore

It must have been nice, years and years and years ago, to gather your clan together inside the cave/lean-to/large tent made from the hide of several animals, and there to build a fire. (It’s nicer, of course, if there’s room for the smoke to escape; you checked that before you built the thing, right?) Briefly safe from diseases, rain, snow, predators, and other humans, who will almost certainly try to kill your clan on sight, you could take refuge in the comfort of the flames twisting and crackling. I picture dirt-gnarled hunter-gatherer types squatting on their heels in silence, staring into that ever-moving, ever-changing precious source of light and heat. They stare, grateful if not quite comprehending, at a miracle.

Thanksgiving is like that, except instead of a fire, we use a television.

The big-ticket programs shown on America’s day of feasting—the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the NFL games—draw tens of millions of viewers. These shows aren’t especially good or interesting; the parade, in particular, is literally just a bunch of semi-beloved characters most people know through commercials floating in the sky. But that’s beside the point. Television on Thanksgiving is a pleasurable, easily ignored humming, a backdrop to crowded, busy scenes of cooking and eating and drinking; it’s a thing to which you can fasten your attention when someone starts over-emphatically telling your great aunt what she really thinks, and which can otherwise be mostly tuned out.

Which is a good idea, actually. What will be on the TV is mostly ads featuring people who don’t look like they shop at Walmart exclaiming loudly about how wonderful Walmart is, and people being cruel to each other in various lite beer-related scenarios. More importantly, these ads feature a series of bright moving pictures that enchant our reptile brains. The charitable way to look at all of this is that circling around a screen is at least a way to simply be with your relatives without having to actively engage with them every second. Less charitably, you could say that constantly gazing at glowing rectangles is destroying our ability to engage with reality beyond those rectangles and each other, and the normalization of passively devouring shitty garbage television for hours on a day that’s supposed to be a celebration of community proves that we should burn the whole thing to the ground and start over. Which, maybe, but also: it’s Thanksgiving. Mellow out with that shit for a second.

So it’s entirely appropriate that the three games shown this Thanksgiving are the football equivalent of white noise. Detroit versus Green Bay will no doubt have the kind of mistake-heavy, stumbling football familiar to anyone who’s watched a game played in the NFC North or East this year; Oakland versus Dallas will prominently feature Matt “My Gloin” McGloin throwing against the Cowboys secondary; and Pittsburgh versus Baltimore is a wasteland of a game that only Antonio Brown’s fantasy owners and people with complicated bets on the AFC’s sixth playoff seed could possibly care about.

It’s as if the NFL game schedulers knew that Americans aren’t prepared to make paying attention to football a top priority on Thanksgiving and decided to toss us a bone: Here guys, they’re saying, this is technically NFL football, just flick on the TV and let your eyes glaze over. Grab a nap if you like. The games that matter are still a few days away. Have a good holiday. Here are some ads.

PICKS: Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh

Tennessee (+4.5) at Indianapolis

The Colts’ er, “inconsistent” play over the past few weeks has been rough on anyone who roots for or gambles on the team, and I guess this has been getting to franchise owner Jim Irsay:

Head over to SB Nation’s Colts blog for an explanation of how these Tweets are fine and good and make 100% sense—but I think they work far better out of context, where they stand alone as a one-percenter’s sozzled, passionate ramblings about bank robberies and golf, all inspired by the fact that his team has abruptly forgotten how to play offense.

PICK: Tennessee

Kansas City (+4) at Denver

Peyton Manning’s troubles in cold-weather games were brought up by every self-respecting hot take and anti–hot take columnist in the country in the wake of Denver’s loss to the Patriots on Sunday. Never mind the question of whether he really is worse in the cold than other quarterbacks, though: what we should be asking is why football is a cold-weather game in the first place. In warmer climates and domes, we get to see a bunch of high-powered Manning-ish and Brees-ian offenses bomb their way spectacularly down the field; in the winter we get treated to a lot of four-yard runs, fumbles, and frozen passes sailing out of bounds. Which would you rather watch, at home or in person?

PICK: Denver

Jacksonville (+7) at Cleveland

This game, unfortunately, will be unwatchable no matter what climate it’s played in. It would be interesting if it was played on the moon, at least. The Browns could leave Brandon Weeden up there and be like, “Oh wow, that’s embarrassing.”

PICK: Cleveland

Tampa Bay (+8.5) at Carolina

Speaking of which, here are some reasons football should be played on the moon:

1. Quarterbacks could throw the ball huge distances thanks to the low gravity.
2. Likewise, cornerbacks and wide receivers could jump extremely high and have, like, mid-air maneuvering battles. (This would happen very slowly, but it would still be cool.)
3. After a big game, players will want to blow off some steam and maybe get in some trouble by going to some local bars, maybe drinking a bunch and harassing the local girls, but guess what? THERE ARE NO BARS OR WOMEN ON THE MOON. NO NEGATIVE DRUG OR SEX STORIES HERE. BOOM.
4. Enhance NFL brand penetration on the moon; promote safe, fundamental football on the moon.

PICK: Tampa Bay

Arizona (+3.5) at Philadelphia

Nick Foles, one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, faces down a tough-as-nails Cardinals defense in what could very well be a preview of a playoff matchup. Seriously, all of that is real.

PICK: Arizona

Chicago (+1) at Minnesota

OK, I just thought of some more reasons football should be played on the moon:

5. Dudes in spacesuits trying to tackle and block each would be hilarious to watch, judging from how difficult it is to just run in a straight line:

6. The NFL has the money to fund missions to the moon, unlike NASA.
7.  It would be easier to build a fan base on the moon than in England. HIYOOOOOO!

PICK: Chicago

New England (-7.5) at Houston

I confess I don’t really understand why the Texans are so bad this year. They’ve had injuries, but not really season-destroying ones like the ones afflicting Atlanta; it could be argued that the Patriots are even more depleted than the Texans. Is it coaching? Their coach literally had a seizure on the sideline, but that doesn’t seem like a reason to lose all those games. Matt Schaub was terrible, of course, but why was he so terrible? What the heck is going on? If you know, please email me and let me in on the secret.

PICK: New England

Miami (+1.5) at “New York” Jets

You will probably not be surprised to learn that I Googled “football on the moon” while writing this column, and was disappointed to learn that no sporty American astronaut has tossed the ol’ pigskin around 239,000 miles above the nearest pig or pass rush. I did stumble across this video of an astronaut kicking a rock, however, which apparently is proof for some people that the moon landing was faked:

In case you’re wondering: yes, the guy who made that video does have an image of the Anonymous mask as his profile picture.

PICK: “New York” Jets

Atlanta (+3.5) at Buffalo

In case it’s not obvious, I am writing about football on the moon because a lot of these late-season games are sort of meaningless and therefore boring to write about. Do you want to read something about, like, E.J. Manuel and his chances against the Falcons? No, and I don’t want to write it.

PICK: Buffalo

St. Louis (+9) at San Francisco

If you need something to read, besides this, check out this indictment of the NFL’s faux-military jingoism, which was published in the American Conservative last week. (That sentence probably reads as a bit odd if you don’t know how eclectic the American Conservative’s stuff can get.) A sample:

“What actually happens on and around the gridiron is epitomized by general cheesiness, faux patriotism, and crass and unrelenting commercialism catering to the human race’s most basic instincts.”

Sounds like football, all right.

PICK: St. Louis

Cincinnati (+1.5) at San Diego

San Diego is one of the many, many AFC teams still in the playoff hunt, but more importantly, they’re the most entertaining team in the league—their offense is entirely based around Philip Rivers (who is one of the top three or four healthy quarterbacks in the league) throwing to a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of, their defense is basically nonexistent, and somehow this is a winning formula. Or a winning-ish formula, anyway, since the Chargers, like the rest of the AFC, are 5-6.

PICK: San Diego

“New York” Giants (+1) at Washington

I imagine there will be protesters at this game. Not because of the R******s’ offensive name, but because this game is going to be awful. These will just be general anti-football protesters, toting picket signs reading “Why? Why Do This?” Look closely. The bespectacled guy, shivering and chanting. Yes. That’s me.

PICK: Washington

New Orleans at Seattle (-6)

The Seahawks’ schedule over the last several weeks has been pretty soft, so it’ll be nice to see a great football team actually be forced to play great football to win. Likewise, it’ll be great to see the Saints navigate the next few games, which include this one, two games against the surging Panthers, and a visit to the suddenly-not-so-soft Rams. In other words: some football will happen between competent teams, on television. Cool. Hopefully that football will overshadow the bizarre, confusing story about Brandon Browner getting suspended for drugs. At the very least, it will be easy enough to tune the Browner stuff out while watching. That’s the magic of it. That’s sort of the point.

PICK: New Orleans

Previous week’s record: 7-7
Overall record: 88-82-6
All lines taken from

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