Credit: Bill Moore photo

Thanksgiving is a time when NFL contenders have already separated themselves from the pretenders. The opening slate of Week 12 games today will feature both. The first on the schedule the 3-7 Houston Texans at the 4-6 Detroit Lions pair teams that have no shot at the playoffs. The second game will match longtime rivals that, defying reason, are two of the worst teams in the league yet have a better than 50% chance of making it to the postseason.

The 3-7 Washington Football Team will be on the road to face the 3-7 Dallas Cowboys with the winner emerging with the most wins in the pitiful NFC East. Currently, the 3-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles lead the division followed by the 3-7 Giants. The third and final game today has significant playoff implications.

The 10-0 Pittsburgh Steelers, the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, will host the 6-4 Baltimore Ravens, who are coming off a damaging 30-24 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday. The Ravens are third in place in the AFC North, trailing the Steelers and 7-3 Cleveland Browns.

They will go into the game tonight having multiple key players testing positive for COVID-19 this week, including running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, linebacker Pernell McPhee and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. On Tuesday, the Ravens canceled practice and all team activities were held virtually. It’s unfortunate timing for a team already struggling to find consistency in a season they were expected to be a leading Super Bowl candidate.

The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have thus far lived up to their status. At 9-1, they have the league’s second best record and hold a three-game lead over the 6-4 Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC West after defeating them 35-31 on Monday night. While the Steelers and Chiefs have established themselves as the favorites in the AFC, the Titans (7-3), who the Chiefs defeated in the AFC Championship last January, the Buffalo Bill (7-3) the Indianapolis Colts (7-3), surprising Browns (7-3), Raiders, Ravens and 6-4 Miami Dolphins are in the thick of the playoff mix.

With six regular season games to go, Miami has already surpassed their five wins from last year. They will likely add another this Sunday when the meet the winless Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The 0-10 Jets have the dubious distinction of being the only team to not have a victory three months into the season.

While the four NFC East teams battle to be the best of the worst, the 7-3 Green Bay Packers, front runners in the NFC North, 8-2 New Orleans Saints, who sit atop the NFC South and the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams, who tenuously occupy first place in the NFC West, all are in favorable playoff position. However, the 7-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-3 Seattle Seahawks and the 6-4 Arizona Cardinals are lurking and ready to shuffle the pliant standings.