In the midst of a Thanksgiving weekend football extravaganza, some of the biggest games are yet to come across the college and NFL slate. This is your Weekend Primer.
FIVE HOT TOPICS
1. Unstoppable Lamar: The Lamar Jackson Train shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The prohibitive MVP favorite has 24 touchdown passes and six rushing TDs with just five interceptions. Jackson has also rushed for 60-plus yards in eight straight games. The Ravens are 5.5-point favorites vs. the 49ers, who have allowed the fourth-fewest passing TDs this season.
2. Illness sweeps through Pats: The Patriots locker room has been hit hard by a virus, with eight players missing practice this week — including star corner Stephon Gilmore. New England faces the Texans as 3.5-point favorites on Sunday night in Houston.
3. Return of the Red Rifle: Andy Dalton is back under center as the winless Bengals look to deliver rookie head coach Zac Taylor’s first NFL win. Only two teams have gone winless since 1982. The Bengals are 3-point home dogs vs. the Jets this week, with the Dolphins in Week 16 looking like their only other potential win.
4. Big one for Harbaugh: Ohio State may boast the No. 1 spot in the CFP rankings, but all the pressure is on Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh in the annual rivalry game between the two schools. Harbaugh has yet to beat the Buckeyes since moving to Ann Arbor.
5. Home sweet in Iron Bowl? The Iron Bowl has tended to skew to the home team in recent years, with the hosts taking six of the last seven installments. Auburn has won two of the last three home games against Alabama, both as an underdog. The Tigers are 3.5-point home dogs.
Sharp money has landed on Michigan +9, resulting in an adjustment to 8 vs. Ohio State. A few team totals have attracted sharp interest as well, including West Virginia under 15 vs. TCU and Duke under 18 vs. Miami. On the NFL card, a few home dogs have generated professional action, including the Giants +6.5 vs. Green Bay (number down to 6) and Arizona +3 vs. the Rams (currently 2.5). The Vikings have also seen some sharp action as 3-point dogs in Seattle on Monday night.
Purdue (+200) vs. Indiana: The Boilermakers, who have won two of their past three after a 2-6 start, have taken the last two against Indiana. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, are headed in the opposite direction, having dropped two straight.
Bengals (+145) vs. Jets: The Bengals are winless this year but have lost their last two by one score apiece. The Jets are 1-3 in their last four as a road favorite and have covered just three of their last 10 following a performance of 30-plus points.
Saturday — Ohio State (-8) at Michigan: The Buckeyes head to The Big House in the driver’s seat for the top spot in the College Football Playoff, while Michigan at 9-2 is trying to parlay rivalry redemption into some late-season salvation. Nothing would mean more to Harbaugh or Wolverines faithful than beating Ohio State for the first time since 2011.
Sunday — 49ers (+5.5) at Ravens: Matchups don’t get more enticing than this one, with the 10-1 Niners and the 9-2 Ravens set to battle in a potential Super Bowl preview. Baltimore has scored 41-plus points in three straight games and have routed each of last year’s Super Bowl teams this month. The Niners have scored 24-plus in five straight and are coming off a 37-8 demolition of the Packers. This one could turn into a shootout.