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The good, bad and ugly from NFL’s 2021 Thanksgiving games: Bills are back, Cowboys in trouble, Lions listless

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Six different NFL teams hit the field on Thanksgiving for early Week 12 action. All three of the visiting squads ended up victorious. And two of the three games ended up going down to the wire. But who won and lost Turkey Day? Who should be making themselves another dinner plate to celebrate their day, and who should be cramming food down their gullet in sorrow? We’re here to tell you.

Let’s identify the good, the bad and the ugly from the NFL‘s Thanksgiving action:

The good

The Bills looked a lot like contenders once again, waxing the Saints into the Superdome turf with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox and their defense all showing out. Buffalo still needs more from its ground game, which could help take some pressure off Allen, but this was a big step in the right direction. The Saints are beat up, yes, but to rout them by 25 on the road on a short week? That’ll build confidence.

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Josh Allen isn’t out of the MVP conversation just yet. He still forces one too many throws, but he was efficient for most of the Bills’ big win, finishing with four scores through the air and leading Buffalo in rushing.

DeSean Jackson finally made some (good) noise for the Raiders, making the most of his three catches against Dallas: 102 yards and a big score that helped Vegas upset the Cowboys in a much-needed win. Jackson may be a one-trick pony, but when he’s galloping at full speed, this is the damage he can do.

Hunter Renfrow has balled out this year, and that continued against the Cowboys. He’s up to 658 receiving yards — a career high — with six games to go. Him staying healthy will be key for the Raiders’ stretch run.

Derek Carr certainly took a step forward in carving up the Cowboys’ defense. He’s experienced some untimely drop-offs down the stretch in recent years, and that looked to be the case this season. But he was the most confident he’s been in weeks on Thursday.

The Cowboys may be concerning on the whole, but the one thing they don’t have to worry about is lack of talent. Without Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, they still found a way to rack up big plays in a shootout, with Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz showing up through the air. At full health, they can’t be taken lightly.

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The bad

Matt Nagy may have staved off intensified calls for his job by leading the Bears to victory over the winless Lions, but boy did his team do it in ugly, unconvincing fashion. On a day in which Detroit begged Chicago to run away with things thanks to an excess of penalties and ill-advised decisions, the Bears needed a field goal as time expired to seal the deal.

The Cowboys have the talent (see above), but they might not have the fortitude. After starting 6-1 and looking like a potential NFC favorite, they’ve lost three of four. Worse yet: their defense, buoyed by stars like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs, consistently let the Raiders move the ball when they needed to, allowing a season-worst 36 points. Suddenly, in the big picture, the Cowboys are no longer a lock to win the NFC East.

Tre’Davious White leaving the Bills’ big win with a knee injury doesn’t bode well for Buffalo’s defense, especially considering it won’t face Trevor Siemian and the banged-up Saints every week. White was ruled doubtful to return quickly after departing and later downgraded to out.

The ugly

The Bears can’t be celebrated for their 16-14 win over the Lions. They just can’t. And the reason they’re ugly is because there’s just no apparent light at the end of the tunnel. Thursday’s performance is not sustainable. You could say the same thing about most of their games this year. Blame Nagy, blame Ryan Pace’s roster construction, blame whomever you want. But they came dangerously close to falling to 3-8 against a porous and blatantly rebuilding rival, and they’re not built to be much better anytime soon.

The Lions fell to 0-10-1 despite leading the Bears deep into the fourth quarter. What else must we say here? Dan Campbell, for all his impassioned speeches, is increasingly becoming part of the problem in Detroit, where mental miscues are matching the lack of starting-caliber talent. Send help immediately.

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The Saints are still in the NFC wild card hunt at 5-6, but where in the world can they turn for help on offense? Getting Alvin Kamara back will obviously boost their chances. But Trevor Siemian can’t bear the burden they’re putting on him, Taysom Hill is either not healthy or not ready enough to take over at quarterback, and the only other option (other than Philip Rivers coming out of retirement) appears to be rookie Ian Book. Sean Payton had better get creative fast.





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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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