Giving thanks to the NFL on Thursday

Texans cornerback Alan Ball breaks up a pass intended for Jaguars wide receiver Laurent Robinson at...

Texans cornerback Alan Ball breaks up a pass intended for Jaguars wide receiver Laurent Robinson at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Tex., Nov. 18, 2012. (RICHARD CARSON/Reuters)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:02 PM ET

1. Give thanks for three games on Thursday.

Hey, you're not looking too good. You might have to take Thursday off to rest up and get better. By coincidence, you'd be able to catch the NFL's traditional tripleheader on U.S. Thanksgiving. This year: Houston at Detroit, Washington at Dallas and, in prime time, New England at the New York Jets.

2. Bye-bye, byes.

Every team now has had its bye week. From here on out, it's six weeks of mayhem for all 32 clubs to conclude the regular season. You know how it usually goes -- the hottest teams in mid-December stand the best chance of succeeding in the playoffs. No one will care how well, or poorly, you played up to now. As Green Bay well knows.

3. Speaking of the Packers ...

With the NFC North title back within view, and third-place Minnesota still hot on their heels, the Green Bay Packers must bring their A-game to the Meadowlands on Sunday night. Plus, the Packers have a score to settle with the Giants after last year's playoff loss. Ought to be a good one.

4. The concussed-adores.

Will any of last week's concussed quarterbacks -- Michael Vick of the Eagles, Jay Cutler of the Bears, or Alex Smith of the Niners -- return this week? Probably. Maybe. Not sure. Who knows. According to Twitter's @NFLConcussions, the 150th concussion of the season was logged on Sunday, two weeks earlier than last season, FWIW.

5. One of the most meaningless MNFs ever.

The 2-8 Carolina Panthers visit the 3-7 Philadelphia Eagles. Start shopping for the munchies now. If the Panthers win, their chances of winning the NFC South improve to 0.000000001%. And if the Eagles win, they'll extend their win streak to one.

STOCK GOING UP

Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman. On the Bucs' four-game winning streak, Freeman has thrown 10 TDs vs. two picks. Sunday in Carolina he led his team to two late scores to send the game into OT, on long drives that featured not a single run -- only Freeman's passing. In the fourth and in OT he passed for 270 yards.

STOCK GOING DOWN

Detroit Lions QB Matt Stafford's 16 interceptions last season were offset by first-rate yardage and TD totals -- 5,038 and 41. This season, after 10 games he has 12 TDs and 10 picks. Worse, he and the Lions sputter too often, and his mechanics are messed up -- or something. He misses way too many easy passes now.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Ron Rivera, Carolina head coach

His 2-8 Panthers are crumbling again, after cacking up a late 11-point lead to Tampa Bay. The Panthers have lost five of six home games, and Cam Newton and the offence remain in disarray. Watch out, Ron.

HYPE WE'RE BUYING

Is Von Miller the second coming of Lawrence Taylor? We won't go that far, but the smallish, super athletic Denver Broncos pass-rushing linebacker is taking over games in his second year. He added three sacks (to now lead the league with 13) and two forced fumbles against San Diego.

HYPE WE'RE NOT

The New Orleans Saints. Yes, they're playing a lot better since their 0-4 start. But their defence still ranks 31st against the pass and 32nd against the run. And while they're 5-5 now, their next five games are against San Francisco, at Atlanta, at N.Y. Giants, Tampa Bay and at Dallas. To make the playoffs they'll have to win at least three of those before closing with a defeat of Carolina.

WOULDA

It was clear that Byron Leftwich, subbing for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh's damaging loss to Baltimore, had hurt himself somehow. He could not throw deep. I woulda put age-old emergency-backup Charlie Batch in -- the Steelers' only hope at the end.

SHOULDA

The Arizona Cardinals shoulda stuck longer with QB John Skelton at Atlanta. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt yanked him when his underdog Cards were ahead. Rookie Ryan Lindley clearly was over his head, passing for 64 yards over the final three quarters or so.

COULDA

The Jacksonville Jaguars coulda, maybe, defeated the Houston Texans if they'd started Chan Henne over Blaine Gabbert, rather than waited until Gabbert got hurt. Similarly, the Jags coulda had a better year if they'd switched to Henne earlier. Henne is no great NFL QB, but he's better than Gabbert by a bunch. Who isn't?

GOAT OF THE WEEK

Sam Bradford

When Mark Sanchez of the Jets completes 15 passes for 178 yards and STILL out-quarterbacks you, you've let your team down big-time. Bradford misfired on 21 throws and had just 170 passing yards for his slumping St. Louis Rams, in a 27-13 loss at home to New York.

HERO OF THE WEEK

Matt Schaub

The QB reminded everyone that before his team instituted a run-predicated offence, Houston relied on Air Schaub. He stole an overtime victory from upstart Jacksonville by spearheading two long TD drives late in the fourth, throwing on virtually every down. Schaub was incredible, finishing 43-of-55 for five TDs and 527 yards.

ZERO OF THE WEEK

Every. Philadelphia. Eagles. player.

Not since Iraq's Republican Guard in 1991 has a supposed elite force put up such a lame, uninspired effort in defence of its embattled leader.


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