Nov 1, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys host Raiders, Bills face Saints on Thanksgiving

Dallas draws the Las Vegas Raiders in the mid-afternoon game on Thanksgiving Day.

The Cowboys’ traditional holiday home date is the middle game following the Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints.

The NFL schedule will be released in full on Wednesday night.

Dallas lost 41-16 to the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving Day in 2020 and enters with a two-game losing streak on Turkey Day. The Bills beat the Cowboys in 2019.

The Bears and Lions are meeting for the third time in four years on Thanksgiving. Chicago won games in Detroit in 2018 and 2019.

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) reacts after Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (not pictured) missed a field goal during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Another Browns’ player positive; team has work-from-home Thursday

Another player was confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, leading the Cleveland Browns to another work-from-home day.

Tackle Jedrick Wills and safety Jovante Moffatt were excused on Wednesday, and the Browns are unlikely to practice at the facility at all before the scheduled Week 12 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Linebacker Sione Takitaki was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that a player has tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a press release Thursday. “The facility is currently closed and meetings will take place remotely while contact tracing is conducted to identify any high-risk close contacts. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts on the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority.”

The Browns have won back-to-back games entering Week 12 while Jacksonville is sputtering and plans to start Mike Glennon at quarterback, a third No. 1 at the position this season.

Defensive end Myles Garrett, fullback Andy Janovich and backup defensive end Joe Jackson are also on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday afternoon they would not be available for the Browns (7-3) when they visit the Jaguars (1-9). Offensive lineman Chris Hubbard is also on the list, but Stefanski said he “has a chance” to return.

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin looks onto the field during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens-Steelers Thanksgiving game shifted to Sunday

Due to a number of COVID-19 cases and related contact tracing, there will be no primetime Thanksgiving game on Thursday.

The NFL announced Wednesday that the scheduled game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens was postponed to Sunday.

The Ravens were discussing travel modifications, including flying to Pittsburgh on Thursday, as they considered how to pull off what was scheduled to be the third game of an NFL tripleheader Thursday.

The Ravens placed three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week and head coach John Harbaugh said the roster was thinned to a troublesome degree entering the AFC North rivalry game.

The NFL hoped to avoid postponing games the rest of the season.

Pittsburgh enters the week 10-0 and the Ravens are 6-4 and coming off a 30-24 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The Steelers, the NFL’s lone unbeaten team, routed the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-3 last weekend.

Baltimore started the season 5-1 before dropping three of their past four games.

The remaining Thanksgiving Day lineup features the Houston Texans at the Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Washington Football Team at the Dallas Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. ET.

–Field Level Media

Sep 15, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) is congratulated by offensive guard Brandon Scherff (75) after scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Least of these: WFT, Cowboys fight for first in East

Cynics call it the NFC Least.

But Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving Day game featuring the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team carries a feast of a prize: the winner will own first place in the ragtag division for at least a few days.

Yep, the winner of a game matching two 3-7 teams sits atop this heap of mediocrity. And while a 4-7 first place team might get more than its share of scorn, they’re also in line for a playoff spot with five games remaining.

So for veterans like Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, this is a chance to show younger teammates what it’s like to prepare for – and maybe win – a big game.

“As weird as that is to say at 3-7, we’re still very much in it,” Kerrigan said after practice on Monday. “Hopefully, we can make it happen down the stretch here.”

Washington appears to have a sunny future for the first time in a while.

New coach Ron Rivera can boast of a solid defensive line, one that has shown it can protect a lead. Once Washington took the lead in the third quarter Sunday against Cincinnati, the line notched four sacks in a 20-9 decision.

Washington has found a running game with rookie Antonio Gibson, a wide receiver at Memphis who has a team-high 530 rushing yards. Last week, he went for 94 against Cincinnati, including his eighth touchdown of the year. Terry McLaurin is on a pace for close to 100 catches, and veteran quarterback Alex Smith scored his first win in more than two years on Sunday. In his first 24 games, McLaurin has the numbers of a No. 1 receiver no matter the offense. His 1,790 receiving yards to date are 12th most all-time through 24 games and ahead of the likes of Jerry Rice (1,757).

“If you systematically run the ball and grind the clock and control it, you can control the tempo,” Rivera said. “If you’re shutting down the run and you get pressure on the quarterback, you’re allowing the defensive backs to make plays. There are different ways to win.”

Consistency? McLaurin nails it. He has 11 games with 80-plus receiving yards despite a revolving door at quarterback in his two seasons.

Cornerback play has been a concern for Dallas, and the Cowboys’ pass rush is not exactly consistent.

Dallas erased two fourth-quarter deficits and won 31-28 at Minnesota on Sunday. Andy Dalton’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz with 1:37 left in the game helped Dallas snap a four-game losing streak.

It was Dalton’s first game since Oct. 25, when Washington linebacker Jon Bostic knocked him out of a 25-3 loss in the third quarter with a late hit to the helmet as Dalton slid to end a scramble. A battle with COVID-19 kept Dalton on the sidelines as Dallas continued to cycle through third and fourth-string quarterbacks with little success.

A Cowboys offense that shriveled up and died when Dak Prescott ended his season with a frightening leg injury in Week 5 finally displayed its trademark balance with almost 400 total yards. Their four touchdowns were twice as many as they produced in the prior four games.

“Everything’s in front of us. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done up to this point,” Dalton said. “It’s all about these next seven games.”

One recurring problem Dallas must confront on a short week is a lack of healthy bodies at cornerback. Starter Anthony Brown (ribs) left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter, and rookie starter Trevon Diggs (foot) is on injured reserve.

Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that Brown would give it a shot at practice on Tuesday, but isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to go. The Cowboys dug deep into their depth chart Sunday to activate Rashard Robinson for his first game of the year in Diggs’ place.

The Cowboys did not practice Tuesday after head strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul was rushed to the hospital suddenly Tuesday morning at the age of 54. Paul’s family said he was undergoing treatment Tuesday morning, denying a report from Sports Illustrated stating Paul had died.

–Field Level Media

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

Ballin' on a Budget Week 12 Results

It was bound to happen at some point. We had our worst week in months and were the victim of a number of bad beats this week. We went 1-4, but could have easily gone 3-2. It wasn’t pretty, but let’s recap exactly what went wrong and how we can learn from it going into the last five weeks of the season.

LOSS: Redskins +7.5 vs. Cowboys (-110): Cowboys 31, Redskins 23.

Our first bad beat of the week came just as Thanksgiving dinner was settling. Despite a poor showing from Colt McCoy, the Redskins actually gave themselves a chance late in this game. If it weren’t for a missed extra point early in the game, they would have lost by just seven points, helping us get the win.

Of course, our luck ran out and we lost the bet by half a point. This really set the stage for the rest of our bets, because boy, was it a rough weekend. Game after game ended in heartbreak, so one terrible game down, three to go. Total payout: $0.

LOSS: Jaguars -3 at Bills (-120): Bills 24, Jaguars 21.

This game was weird and that strangeness did not work in our favor. Down 14-0, the Jags battled all the way back and scored to go up 21-14. However, the call on the field was changed, giving Jacksonville the ball on the one-yard line. In the aftermath of that play, there was an all-out brawl in which star running back Leonard Fournette was ejected from the game. Fournette had been running the Bills over and the bet was essentially dead after that.

With first and goal from the one, the Jaguars had a penalty, Blake Bortles took a sack, and then Josh Lambo missed a 26-yard field goal. It was as excruciating as it gets. Just one year removed from the AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars have now lost seven straight games and are 3-8. Just like our betting from this week, they have plenty to fix. Total payout: $0.

LOSS: Patriots-Jets OVER 46 points (-110): Patriots 27, Jets 13.

Oh, yet another gut punch. With the Patriots up 27-13 with two minutes left in the game, the Jets had third and two from the three-yard line. Instead of running the ball, knowing you should probably be able to get two yards in two tries, they had 39-year-old Josh McCown attempt two low-percentage passes to the corner of the end zone. To call the play calling in that situation infuriating would be an understatement.

Of course, a touchdown in that situation would have pushed the game total to 47, giving us the over, but the betting gods didn’t want us to have nice things this week. New England took over and sat on the ball and no more points were scored. Total payout: $0.

WIN: 49ers-Buccaneers UNDER 55 (-110): Buccaneers 27, 49ers 9.

Our only win of the weekend was probably the least exciting game as well. When you’re rooting for the under, sometimes you have to root for a bland game and that’s exactly what we got with Bucs-49ers. There was some scoring early, but San Francisco flatlined by the second quarter. It turns out Nick Mullens may not be the answer at quarterback.

By the fourth, this one was a lock, the Buccaneers already firmly in control. The best thing this game did for us was save us the potential embarrassment of an 0-5 week. In a week where everything went wrong, we’ll take it. Total payout: $5.70.

LOSS: Steelers -3 vs. Broncos (-115): Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

Okay, back to the heartbreak. Denver has been frisky lately, but with the Steelers possessing many more offensive weapons, this seemed like an easy pick. However, Denver made it hard on Big Ben and Co. all day long. Two interceptions helped key the win. First, with Pittsburgh up 17-10, the Broncos picked him off near midfield. Had the Steelers scored on that possession, it would have been the nail in the coffin.

Instead, Denver scored to tie it and then scored again to take the lead. This game seemed destined for overtime with the Steelers looking to punch the ball in from the two-yard line. Instead, Big Ben threw a backbreaking interception that sealed the deal and helped the Broncos to their second straight upset win. Last week, that upset helped us. This week, it hurt us. Total payout: $0.

PIGGY BANK: $257.20 (7.2% return on investment)

PICK PERCENTAGE: 57.9% (33-24-3)

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

Ballin' on a Budget Week 12 Picks

Our picks continue to hit week after week and we’ll try to avoid a slump in Week 12. Thanksgiving unders are always a solid bet, but oddsmakers have been catching up to that in recent years, so we will stay away. As we have in past weeks, we will split our money between point spreads and over/unders. For five weeks in a row, we’ve gone at least 3-2, let’s make it six in a row, what do you say?

Redskins +7.5 at Cowboys (-110)

This is the only pick we will have from Thanksgiving and I think it’s a good one. QB Alex Smith being out for the year is a big loss for Washington and it will likely end their playoff hopes (although they do play in the NFC East after all). However, backup Colt McCoy has the confidence of the coaching staff, because he knows this offense as well as anybody. He doesn’t have the same capability that Smith does, the Washington’s strength is its defense anyway.

In a rivalry game, even with the Redskins starting a backup quarterback, getting more than a touchdown spread is too good to pass up. We’ve had good luck betting both against and on the Redskins, so let’s keep the good times rolling. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Jaguars -3 at Bills (-120)

Have the Jaguars majorly disappointed this season? Of course they have. Are they on the same level as the Bills? No, they are not. Jacksonville’s defense reminded us how good they can be after shutting down the Steelers for most of last week. If they have a similar performance Sunday, Buffalo isn’t going to score more than 10 points.

The Jaguars are in the middle of an identity crisis right now and their offense is completely out of sorts, but they should be able to score enough to cover a three-point spread. This might not be the most fun game to watch, but it’ll be a lot more fun if it wins you this bet. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.17.

Steelers -3 at Broncos (-115)

We bet on the Broncos to cover +7.5 against the Chargers last week and they won straight up. Against a Steelers team that just got a scare from the Jaguars, they’re primed for a letdown game. Pittsburgh is pushing for a first-round bye in the playoffs and is the much more talented team. The Le’Veon Bell saga behind them, now the Steelers can focus on this year’s playoff push.

Big Ben and the offense finally got going at the end of their game last week and should be able to pick back up where they left off. If past Broncos games are any indication, this should be a close game, but it’s one Pittsburgh should be able to take care of business in. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.35.

Patriots-Jets OVER 46 (-110)

While the Patriots might blow New York out, the New England defense isn’t very good either. Something like a 30-17 game would push this game over. Tom Brady and Co. haven’t been as prolific as of late, so this looks like a potential bounce-back game for them. Let’s say it ends up 37-20, or something along those lines; we’d be completely fine as far as the over goes.

This bet definitely only works if the Patriots contribute to most of the point total. If they stall out in the 20’s, we’re in trouble. However, if they go up over the 30-point mark as a team, this over is almost a sure thing. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.70.

49ers-Buccaneers UNDER 55 (-110)

Yes, both these teams have put up pretty good offensive numbers lately, but neither is very good overall and I just can’t believe they’re going to combine for 56 points or more. I mean, c’mon, Jameis Winston is starting at quarterback for Tampa Bay. He’s going to turn it over in a few key spots. Nick Mullens has been really solid in the first two starts of his career, but will that continue?

We’ll see if he can impress us again, but I’m not buying it. This over would require both teams outplaying projections of where I see them finishing. It should be a competitive game, but it will be in the 20’s, not the 30’s. After going 2-for-2 in over/unders last week, let’s try to duplicate the feat in Week 12. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.70.

Our dream of a 5-for-5 parlay hit would make us a lot of money on a $20 bet. In fact, it would make us a cool $476.93. Keep daring to dream. We’ll check in on these picks early next week.