By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s Thanksgiving week, which means one thing: It’s time for everybody to gather together with their families, eat as much food as possible, and ponder why exactly the Detroit Lions are on the television every year.
While it’s true that the Lions — founded in 1934, or 1928 if you want to get technical — are a significant part of NFL history, the fact is they’ve been fairly irrelevant during the entirety of the Super Bowl era. They are in the midst of their 33rd losing seasons since 1966. They have the ignominious distinction of plopping down an 0-16 season (and they also went 0-11 back in 1942). They’ve gone 2-14 three times since 1979.
During the Super Bowl era, they’ve made it to the playoffs just 12 times in 54 seasons. They are 1-12 in those games. They haven’t even made the divisional round of the playoffs since 1991. They once lost a playoff game 5-0 to Dallas, in a game where they made just seven first downs.
They’ve employed some of the most dynamic players in NFL history — namely Barry Sanders, though Calvin Johnson was one of a kind, and Joey Harrington was just … OK, now I’m joking, ha ha — but they’ve been for the most part an irrelevant franchise. And yet, each and every year, there they are, playing Detroit Lions football on televisions from coast to coast.
If you’ve ever wondered why you’re forced to watch the Detroit Lions while catching up with Aunt Jan, the answer is simple.
It’s because … they’ve been doing it forever.
They started playing on Thanksgiving back in 1934, and they just never stopped. Somehow through it all, even as TV ratings have become a significant part of the NFL business, nobody’s ever made them stop.
It’s kind of crazy.
They’ve been pretty bad, too. Since beating the Patriots on Thanksgiving Day in 2000 (the day Tom Brady completed his first career NFL pass), the Lions have gone 5-13. They lost nine Thanksgiving games in a row from 2004-12. Most of those were blowouts, too.
Anyways, even though the Lions are bad, and even though they’ve historically been one of the least fun teams to watch, you’ll get to enjoy them this Thanksgiving for the 9,000th year in a row. Let that serve as a lesson to everyone out there: You don’t have to be good, and you don’t even have to be mediocre. If you want to own a high-profile game on national TV every year, you just have to … you kind of just have to start doing it in the ’30s and never stop. Apparently, even in the cold, hard business of the NFL, people are too nice to tell you to stop.
Here are your picks, people.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
Chicago (-2.5) over DETROIT
To quote J.P. Prewitt, “Are you serious? I just … I just told you that, a moment ago.”
There have been better matchups in NFL history than David Blough and the 3-7-1 Lions vs. Mitchell Trubisky and the 5-6 Bears. I’ll state that on the record, and I’ll stand by it.
DALLAS (-6.5) over Buffalo
The Bills are 4-1 on the road. Hey, that’s pretty good, right?
They’ve beaten the Jets (not good), the Giants (not good), the Titans (potentially good now; not good at that time), and the Dolphins (decidedly not good). They lost at Cleveland, against the Browns, who are not very good.
Buffalo has played precisely one game against a team that’s currently in position to make the playoffs (New England), and they’ve racked up their eight wins against teams that have a combined record of 21-67. That includes two wins over the 2-9 Dolphins, a victory over the 0-11 Bengals, a win over the 2-9 Giants, and a win over the 3-8 Broncos. If you take their four games against teams with a .450 winning percentage or better, they’re 1-3, and they’ve been outscored 73-53.
Long story short, there’s good reason to doubt the Buffalo Bills in this here spot.
At the same time, maybe you’re a little nervous about the dysfunctional feel that the Cowboys have this week. With Jerry Jones seemingly blasting his head coach on Sunday after an ugly showing in Foxboro, and with Jason Garrett perhaps treading on thin ice, maybe things fall apart for Dallas in grand fashion on this nationally televised stage. More likely, though, the Cowboys will rely on their talent to be the better team. Certainly, this has not been the first time that the organization has carried a dysfunctional feel into a game, and it will not be the last.
New Orleans (-6.5) over ATLANTA
A part of me wonders if maybe the Saints are running low on gasoline at this point of the year, or that maybe whatever was rolling during the Teddy Bridgewater stretch has led to a rocky transition back to Drew Brees, if that makes sense. A part of me also wonders if the post-bye Falcons (2-1, with both victories coming in blowout fashion) are a completely different team than the pre-bye Falcons (1-7, very bad, very sad).
But then a bigger part of me realizes that the Saints have probably analyzed every angle of the game film from their embarrassing home loss to Atlanta three weeks ago, and they probably have the brainpower to ensure that none of that happens again this time around.
A couple of things are guaranteed to happen, though. For one, there will be thousands of empty red seats on a holiday evening in Atlanta. And most importantly, we’ll all agree to nod off, falling in and out of our respective food comas, beginning at halftime of this game and carrying us through the final whistle, when we heroically make our way to bed after surviving yet another Thanksgiving.
Truly, what a time to be alive (and partially awake).
Last week: 6-8
UPDATE: After going 2-1 on Thanksgiving (way to go, Cowboys), we’re going to go with a rapid fire set of picks for the rest of the weekend.
JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) over Tampa Bay
Tennessee (+2.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
San Francisco (+5.5) over BALTIMORE
Cleveland (-1.5) over PITTSBURGH
New York Jets (-3.5) over CINCINNATI
Philadelphia (-10) over MIAMI
Washington (+9.5) over CAROLINA
NEW YORK GIANTS (+6.5) over Green Bay
Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) over ARIZONA
KANSAS CITY (-9.5) over Oakland
DENVER (+2.5) over Los Angeles Chargers
New England (-3.5) over HOUSTON
SEATTLE (-2.5) over Minnesota