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Previewing NFL Thanksgiving Thursday: Cowboys hoping for upset win

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Tis the time to be thankful. Thanksgiving - the revered American Holiday - has arrived, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the 'three F's'; Family, Food, and Football.

For many of us, sitting around with loved ones, stuffing our faces with boatloads of turkey and stuffing, all while watching a great football game is the pinnacle of enjoyment, and rightly so. What could be better?

The NFL has given us a great lineup of games this year; Detroit versus Philadelphia, Dallas versus Carolina, and to end the day, Green Bay versus Chicago. Let's discuss the talking points of each game and preview who might come out the winner of each bout, starting with the first game of the day...


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Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions

The Eagles will look to rebound from their 45-17 blowout loss against the Buccaneers while the Lions will look to extend their two-game win streak.

The Eagles come into the game featuring the eighth-ranked offence (yards-er-game) and the twenty-fifth ranked defence, they also appear to be prepping backup quarterback Mark Sanchez as the starter for the second straight week due to starter Sam Bradford's injured shoulder.

For the Eagles to win this game they will need to establish a run game early and stick to it in order to keep the game out of Sanchez's hands. Last week, the Eagles' starting running back DeMarco Murray only ran for 64-yards on thirteen carries - not good enough.

Defensively, the Eagles face a lacklustre Lions offence that has been disappointing for the second straight year, they need to contain a fading Calvin Johnson and capitalise on turnover opportunities.

If the Eagles can get up a few scores early and force the game into the turnover-prone Stafford's hands, they should be in a good spot to win.

The Lions enter the game - which is on their home field - featuring the twenty-fifth ranked offence and the twentieth ranked defence.  Detroit started the season off by losing five straight games, and quarterback Matthews Stafford is tied for the second-most interceptions in the league.

For the Lions to win, they will need to work the run game to try and expose the Eagles' twenty-eighth ranked run defence. Doing so should open up the play-action downfield passing game which hopefully Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford can take advantage of.

Defensively for the Lions, they need to do the exact same thing I said the Eagles need to do - get up a few scores and put the game in the turnover-prone Mark Sanchez's hands.

Prediction: Lions 13 - Eagles - 23

Carolina Panthers @ Dallas Cowboys

This is probably the most anticipated game over Thanksgiving. The Panthers and Cowboys are both coming off wins, of course, the Panthers are undefeated and playoff-bound, while the Cowboys are 3-7, feeding at the bottom of the crummy NFC East division.

The Panthers enter the game with the fifteenth ranked offence and the fourth-ranked defence which regains veteran pass-rusher Charles Johnson. The Panthers are the shocking underdog for this game, the reasons why are still not clear.

For the underdog Panthers to win, they should stick to their brand of physical football and run the ball with Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton against an eighteenth ranked run defence.

Establishing the run and having success doing so, should allow receivers, Ted Ginn and Devin Funchess, to get open deep downfield on play-action passes.

On defence, they have to get physical with the Dallas offensive line and shut down Darren McFadden. Doing this should force the Cowboys to pass, allowing the Panthers to pin their ears back and get after Romo.

Sticking cornerback Josh Norman on Dez Bryant, then doubling Terrance Newman should make Romo throw to Jason Witten, who linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly can more than easily handle.

The Cowboys go into this home game with the twentieth ranked offence along with eleventh ranked defence. Tony Romo looks to have shaken seven weeks worth of rust off during their last game against the Dolphins. He and ex-Panther Greg Hardy will both need big games.

For "America's Team" to impress on America's most beloved holiday, they need to hope their offensive line can overpower the defensive line of the Panthers.

If they can, the Cowboys need to stick to the run, doing this, and doing it consistently, will tire out a very physical Panthers defence leaving them exposed to screen and play-action passes.

One thing Dallas has to avoid is turnovers, if Romo or McFadden cough the ball up against the Panthers, then wave goodbye to winning the game because the Panthers are one of, if not the best team at scoring off turnovers.

Defensively, the Cowboys need to shut down the run and keep Cam Newton in the pocket, doing this will most likely force the Panthers to beat you through the air, and despite having five passing touchdowns last week, the Panthers aren't a team built to beat you through the air, ranking twenty-eighth in that category.

Prediction: Panthers - 30 Dallas - 22

Chicago Bears @ The Green Bay Packers

Thanksgiving's lineup of games ends with the classic Bears-Packers rivalry. The Packers are coming off an upset win over the once division leading Minnesota Vikings. The Bears, on the other hand, are coming off a close, and disappointing, loss to the Denver Broncos.

The Bears feature the sixteenth ranked offence and the fourteenth ranked defence. John Fox has made some good improvements to this squad, and you can see this every Sunday, as the Bears have been competitive in most of their games this year.

For "Da Bears" to upset the NFC North-leading Packers, they need to run the up-tempp offence more and cut the conservative play calls out.

Last week the Bears had a shot to tie the game up against Denver but went for a conservative run instead of a pass on a crucial two-point play.

The Packers defence is an inconsistent unit so a mixture of run and pass plays from an up-tempo offence will keep them off balanced and eliminate their pass rush.

For the Bears to shut down Aaron Rodgers and company they need to jam his receivers and blitz him. Rodgers is playing with statistically the slowest bunch of receivers in the league, and his completion percentage against the blitz is at a career low.

The Packers defend their home turf with the twenty-first ranked offence and defence.The Packers avoided losing to a very solid Minnesota team last week, but receiver issues continue to plague them, as they continue to miss Jordy Nelson's deep threat abilities.

Packer Nation will desperately want a second straight division win to affirm themselves as division kings.To do so they will need to take advantage of a suspect Bears pass defence that ranks twenty-ninth.

Using a multitude of timing routes and screen passes will eliminate the Bears pass rush and also lessen the need for offensive speed - something the Packers lack.

The Packers defence needs to make sure Matt Forte - who likely returns for this game - is stopped, both as a receiver and runner. They will also need to watch out for, and cover effectively, players such as Zach Miller, and spell back Jeremy Langford, both of whom may not be big names, but create big plays.

Prediction: Bears - 17 Packers - 16

Chicago Bears
Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles

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