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Mike Roemer/AP/Press Association Images Green Bay fan, Mary Bauer, has her picture taken outside Lambeau Field.
# talking turkey
The Redzone: Let us give thanks and praise Rodgers
It’s Thanksgiving and American football fans will be treated to a mouth-watering Turkey Day Trilogy. Steven O’Rourke dishes up.

THE PACKERS ARE having the kind of season that only fervent players of the Madden franchise have experienced before.

As we enter week 12, Steven O’Rourke explains why they’ll go 11-0.

Green Bay Packers (10-0) @ Detroit Lions (7-3)

November 22nd 1962 was the last time a team entered a Thanksgiving Day match-up with an undefeated record.

That team was the Vince Lombardi led Green Bay Packers. Their opponents that day were the Detroit Lions.

The Packers lost the game 26-14 but finished the regular season with a 13-1 record before beating the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game.

There are some who believe that history will repeat itself this evening, especially as the Packers left Ford Field with one of their six defeats last season.

However, this Packers team are a different beast and, on offence at least, look like they could go 32-0 were the season that long, thanks mainly to the genius of Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers has completed 238 of 329 passes (72.3%) for 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions, keeping him on course to equal or surpass Tom Brady’s record of 50 touchdowns in a regular season.

He has an excellent supporting cast with seven endzone receptions each from Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, a further five from Jermichael Finley and four from James Jones.

Indeed, it is Rodgers ability to seemingly always find the open receiver that sees him almost guaranteed to be the NFL’s MVP this season.

However, the same praise cannot be heaped on the defensive side of the Packers organisation. Ranked 30th in total defence, Green Bay give up nearly 392 yards and more than three touchdowns each and every game.

If this turns into a shootout, as a lot of Packers games have this season, there will be only one winner. However, if the Lions can keep the Packers to less than 30 points they have the weapons to cause an upset.

Kevin Smith won’t repeat his heroics of last week from the backfield but he could garner enough attention to take double coverage away from Calvin Johnson leaving Megatron free to wreck the kind of havoc that saw him start the season so impressively.

The Lions also come into a Thanksgiving game with a 7-3 record for only the second time since 1993 and a real shot at making the playoffs.

Verdict: Packers RB James Starks is listed as doubtful for this game. If he doesn’t play it’s hard to see how Green Bay can open up their passing game by grinding the Lions on the ground. That said, the Packers seem intent on making history this year. Packers by 6+

San Francisco 49ers (9-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

The final game of the Turkey Day trilogy sees brothers Jim and John square off in the Harbaugh Bowl.

Jim’s surprisingly good 49ers must travel to the East Coast and a different time-zone to take on the Ravens and you have to wonder what effect that will have, especially on a short week.

That said, a win tonight and a loss for Seattle on Sunday will see San Francisco capture the NFC West and win ten games and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

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The Ravens, however, have playoff ambitions of their own and know that a win will consolidate their place atop the AFC North. To win, though, they’ll have to find a way to stop the 49ers impressive run game.

Verdict: Had you told me at the start of the season that this could possibly be a Super Bowl preview I’d have laughed. Indeed, I still doubt its likelihood but stranger things have happened. Home advantage on a short week should see the Ravens win by 3+

Chicago Bears (7-3) @ Oakland Raiders (6-4)

From the Harbaugh Bowl on Thursday to the Battle of the Backups on Sunday.

When the Raiders lost Jason Campbell in week six they bet the franchise on Carson Palmer being the man to take them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The Bears, however, don’t have the option of trading for a QB as they lost Jay Cutler after the trade deadline so must look to Caleb Hanie to lead them into the Black Hole.

Hanie, who has yet to attempt a pass this year, will face an Oakland team ranked sixth in the NFL with 28 sacks. Baptisms of fire don’t come much hotter.

Verdict: This game is key to both teams’ playoff ambitions.  The Raiders under Palmer appear to have found the perfect balance of pass and run. For that reason, Raiders by 6+

All fixtures and predictions:

  • Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions – Packers
  • Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys – Cowboys
  • San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens – Ravens
  • Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons – Falcons
  • Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals – Bengals
  • Carolina Panthers @ Indianapolis Colts – Panthers
  • Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Texans
  • Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets – Jets
  • Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams – Rams
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Tennessee Titans – Titans
  • Chicago Bears @ Oakland Raiders – Raiders
  • Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks – Seahawks
  • New England Patriots @ Philadelphia Eagles – Patriots
  • Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers – Chargers
  • Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs – Steelers
  • New York Giants @ New Orleans Saints – Saints

Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore PhoenixAmerican Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011.

Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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