First down: Minnesota at Chicago
11 a.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • Bears fans know they're in some dire straits (sit back down, Mark Knopfler no one was talking about you!) when they're actually excited about the prospect of Jay Cutler playing. Seriously, when was the last time that happened? I'd guesstimate somewhere between the time he was traded to Chicago and the time he threw his 38th interception as a Bear. Unbiased observers recognize this for what it is: rose-colored glasses half-full (two clichés for the price of one). The Bears' once-promising season is suddenly on the brink, and fans have just endured 11/2 games of the underwhelmingness that is Jason Campbell, so their brains generate some revisionist history and they convince themselves all was spectacular when Cutler was quarterback. Or maybe they're just feeling the effects of Cutler's concussion themselves.
The line • Bears by 7.
The pick • Bears. Cutler may not be the panacea for Chicago's myriad offensive woes, but he's at least better than Christian Ponder, right?
Second down: Denver at Kansas City
11 a.m., Ch. 2
The skinny • So an elderly woman being given a Thanksgiving care package by the Chiefs' Dexter McCluster uses the face-to-face as an opportunity to berate him and his teammates for their lackluster performance this season, responding to his protestation that they are "working hard" with an exhortation to "work harder." Before you put too much stock into this, Mr. McCluster, consider the possibility that she has no idea what the hell she is talking about, that her words are not only unkind but unsound. You're already too far gone to make the playoffs, so you may as well put yourself in a position to get a better draft pick. You're an offensive guy, so you tell me … would you rather go 5-11 this year and have Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn still throwing you passes next season or go 2-14 and wind up with USC quarterback Matt Barkley? That's what I thought. Tank away, good sir, tank away!
The line • Broncos by 101/2.
The pick • Broncos. Because they have Peyton Manning at quarterback, and the Chiefs have Cassel and Quinn.
Third down: San Francisco at New Orleans
2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 13
The skinny • The term "quarterback controversy" gets thrown around an awful lot in situations where it really isn't applicable. For example, the Chiefs and Cardinals have switched QBs several times this season, but continue to get their brains beat in regardless of who lines up behind center. It's not really a controversy if a loss is all but guaranteed either way. With the 49ers' situation, on the other hand, there is some legitimate question whether they'd be better off starting solid-but-unspectacular Alex Smith or spectacular-but-unproven Colin Kaepernick. Do they risk rocking the boat for that little extra boost? Actually, they're probably OK either way. I'm not calling it a controversy unless Jim Harbaugh decides to start himself.
The line • 49ers by 1.
The pick • Saints. Drew Brees was once part of a QB controversy in San Diego. Not so much in New Orleans.
Green Bay at N.Y. Giants
6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5
The skinny • Forget whatever high-tech gadget Apple is trotting out that will be obsolete within three months. And disregard that video game the young'uns supposedly will be ostracized for not having a copy of. If belief in the potential of an NFL team were a tangible object, the New York Giants would have been the hot item to end all hot items on Black Friday. You couldn't swing Terry Bradshaw without hitting a talking head who is absolutely convinced the G-Men will recover nicely from their latest bout of November Suckitis and go on to be a force to be reckoned with this postseason. This argument is inevitably based solely on the compelling evidence of "they've done it before, they can do it again." Touché. Perhaps next November they can camp out overnight so as to grab some logic before it sells out. Then again, that's never really been in high demand.
The line • Giants by 3.
The pick • Packers. Mrs. Four Downs has informed me no small number of times that the "hot item" she's hoping to get her hands on is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. I'm scouring Amazon right now.
… and eight to go
Oakland at Cincinnati, 11 a.m. • The Raiders' unprecedented appeal to the league for a "do-over" in the Carson Palmer trade seems a long shot to be granted.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland, 11 a.m. • Browns were going to unveil their version of "terrible towels" which looked a lot like white flags. How appropriate.
Buffalo at Indianapolis, 11 a.m. • No team may ever experience a bigger swing in quality of opponents than the Colts going from last week's Patriots to this week's Bills.
Seattle at Miami, 11 a.m. • It's a matchup of the third- and fourth-best quarterbacks of this rookie draft class! Sweeeeeeeet!
Atlanta at Tampa Bay, 11 a.m. • After losing to the Saints and looking awful vs. the Cards, it's time for the Falcons to go all MC Hammer at the AMAs and show they're still Too Legit to Quit.
Tennessee at Jacksonville, 11 a.m. • Ducky from "Pretty in Pink" knew way back in '86 that drafting Gabbert in 2011 was a bad idea: "His name is Blaine?! Blaine's not a name, it's a major appliance!"
Baltimore at San Diego, 2:05 p.m. • Is it possible Norv Turner pulled a Milton from "Office Space" and was fired years ago but remains employed due to a paperwork "glitch"?
St. Louis at Arizona, 2:25 p.m. • Ever wondered why it's fútbol instead of football that's called "the beautiful game"? May I offer this matchup as Exhibit A?