NFL Nation: audibles Thanksgiving 08
If the Cowboys watch film of Sunday's Seahawks-Redskins game, they'll have plenty of respect for Seattle. This is a team that's kept battling despite its pitiful record. Of course, the Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day game is one of the biggest advantages in the league -- thanks to the late Tex Schramm. The Seahawks practiced Monday and Tuesday and then are catching a 2 p.m. ET flight into Dallas.
Matt Hasselbeck is still a threat, but he's thrown too many interceptions this season when he's been healthy enough to play. And he doesn't have a great supporting cast. Former Cowboys running back Julius Jones was a free-agent acquisition, but he only had two carries last Sunday against the Redskins. The Cowboys know what to expect from Jones -- if he gets significant playing time.
The Seahawks will not make the same mistake the 49ers made. They'll jam T.O. at the line of scrimmage and provide some safety help over the top. Perhaps this is the game where Roy Williams becomes more of a factor. The good news for Cowboys fans is that Tony Romo has found his rhythm. He's moving well in the pocket and making excellent downfield throws.
The Seahawks will have a few tricks up their sleeve on special teams because assistant Bruce DeHaven hasn't forgotten the way he was treated by Wade Phillips many years ago in Buffalo. Look for at least one big return for the Seahawks. In the end, though, the Cowboys defense will overwhelm the Seattle offense. Maurice Morris and Jones won't be able to run, which will once again make the Seahawks -- wait for it -- one-dimensional. As they say in the business, this is a waste of jet fuel for the Seahawks.
All eyes will be on quarterback Donovan McNabb and whether he can bounce back from his benching Sunday in Baltimore. The move has backfired on coach Andy Reid on several levels, and he's trying to put the genie back in the bottle.
The Cardinals are good enough on offense to win even if McNabb plays a solid game. Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel is banged up, which will put more pressure on Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. This isn't a team that responds well to adversity, so I'm thinking the Cardinals win by a touchdown.
The Eagles' defense has played well at times, but they need to knock Kurt Warner down a bunch to have a chance of winning the turnover battle. In fact, the defense needs to score at least once and DeSean Jackson needs to have a big night in the return game. The Eagles are 26th in the league on third-down conversions, and they're 18-of-70 during their last five games. Reid would have you believe that the Eagles are close to being a good team, but most of us know the truth.
If the Eagles lose, it will be time to officially launch the Kevin Kolb era. Any other outcome would be pointless. If they win, McNabb will keep playing. Just think of it as an audition for other teams, something that he wasn't expecting to do at this point in his career. And in case you're scoring at home, McNabb turned 32 on Tuesday. Reid sure knows how to throw a surprise party.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals are running out of chances to claim a breakthrough road victory against a non-divisional opponent. They competed at Washington, fell hard to the Jets in the Meadowlands and couldn't finish after taking a 17-3 lead at Carolina.
A victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia would do more than secure the NFC West title for Arizona. A victory would also set an important precedent for the Cardinals should they venture onto the road at any point during the playoffs.
The Cardinals don't get many chances to win division titles on a national stage. This is one they shouldn't squander.
Matt Hasselbeck said he couldn't wait to get back on the field in Dallas after throwing another late-game interception in Week 12. Hasselbeck has five interceptions in two games since returning from injury. The Cardinals and Redskins intercepted his final passes when a Seattle touchdown would have put the Seahawks in the lead.
The 49ers had success against Dallas striking deep downfield in the passing game. Hasselbeck needs to seize similar opportunities and generate momentum late in the season. He finished strong during an otherwise forgettable season in 2002, possibly saving Mike Holmgren's job with three high-scoring victories to end the season.
Holmgren is on his way out voluntarily no matter how the Seahawks finish. Hasselbeck has two years remaining on his contract. A strong finish would let him sprint into them instead of raising questions -- fair or not -- about his long-term viability.
For those who want to see the unexpected while digging into their turkey, consider this unfortunate dynamic: The Titans have one of the NFL's best rushing attacks and the Lions' porous defense still gives up even more rushing yards per game.
Yes, the Titans are averaging 124.7 rushing yards per game behind Chris Johnson and LenDale White. The Lions? They give up an NFL-worst average of 166.7 yards on the ground. It's hard to upset a team that has the capacity to run the ball down your throat.
And it doesn't help that the Lions continue to mix-and-match on their defensive line. They have lost defensive end Jared DeVries for the season and have been unable to find an interior combination that can slow down the run.
Anything's possible in the NFL, but you would have to consider this game an unlikely target for the Lions' first victory.
The Titans have gotten away from the sort of ground game they pride themselves on and have to look at the Lions and see a sure-fire cure. Chris Johnson and LenDale White, America; America, Chris Johnson and LenDale White. We may have introductions with Quinton Ganther after intermission.
Since 1997, the Titans are 17-3 when rushing 30 times or more. They will look to make it 18-3.
The Titans haven't played in Detroit on Thanksgiving since 1992, when they were the Houston Oilers. They won that game. They also won their most recent Thanksgiving Day game, in 1997 at Dallas. In fact, dating all the way back to Nov. 22, 1979, the franchise is 4-0 on the holiday, not that ancient history has any sort of bearing on present day results.
Recent Thanksgiving history kills the theory that the Lions rise to the occasion and make a solid showing. They've lost four straight games on Turkey Day and six out of their last seven.
If Detroit stands any chance of an upset, odds are Calvin Johnson would have to figure prominently in the game. It looks as if Nick Harper (ankle) will return and draw Johnson most often. Look for the Titans to give him a lot of safety help, daring the Lions to beat them any other way.
Tidbits: On seven catches as a Chicago Bear against Detroit, Justin Gage averaged 21.6 yards... In his previous incarnation as an NFL quarterback, Daunte Culpepper was 2-1 against the Titans... With the Bengals, running back Rudi Johnson had a rushing touchdown in his last three games against Tennessee.