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

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.

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.

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.

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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