Expert Picks for All Three of the NFL’s Thanksgiving Games
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on Thanksgiving’s three-game slate of NFL action.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Chicago Bears (-3.5, O/U 41.5) at Detroit Lions
A compelling matchup because … while it doesn’t have the potential to be so bad it will be good, this game could be so bad it will get Chicago coach Matt Nagy fired — assuming the Bears really haven’t told him he’s out as soon as the fourth quarter is over, as has previously been reported. Putting Nagy’s job status to the side, the possible matchup between backup quarterbacks Andy Dalton (starting in place of injured starter Justin Fields for the Bears) and Tim Boyle (starting in place of injured starter Jared Goff for the Lions) could lead to lots of turnovers and plenty of unintentional comedy. Quality NFL football is probably not on the menu here even if Goff plays.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bears (3-7 SU, 4-6 against the spread) have lost five straight games and just fell to the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens 16-13, failing to cover as 1-point home dogs. The Lions (0-9-1 SU, 6-4 ATS) most recently fell to the Browns 13-10, but covered as 13.5-point road dogs. This line opened with Chicago listed as a 3-point road favorite. We saw the line jump up to 3.5 when a flood of sharp Lions money grabbed the hook, dropping it back down at some books. Conference dogs +7 or less are 52-29 ATS (64%) this season. Detroit also has value as a divisional dog with a low total (41.5). The Lions are terrible but they still play hard, while the Bears seem like a team giving that’s given up and is ready to let go of Nagy. I’ll take the points with Detroit.
Gable’s Guess: We’re going to see who’s the worst team in the NFC North in this matchup. When the Bears lost Fields against the Ravens on Sunday, it seemed to enable them to move the ball on offense better with Dalton at quarterback. Nagy is now 0-4 following bye weeks, which has to point to the level of preparation that he really does. Now he has to prepare for the winless Lions. If this wasn’t a standalone game on Thanksgiving, I’m not sure what we would actually book on it. It’s just that bad. There are probably going to be better local high school games in your area to check out, but I’m going to take the 3.5 with the Lions here and just turn away from the screen.
Rogers’s Recommendation: The Lions have to win sooner or later, don’t they? Detroit was squeezed again in a loss at Cleveland to fall to 0-9-1 on the season, but the Lions have covered back-to-back games for the first time in 2021. Chicago is uncertain at quarterback with Fields getting hurt in last week’s loss to Baltimore. The Bears defeated the Lions at Soldier Field earlier this season and have left with a win in their past three visits to Ford Field. Best Bet: Bears -3.5.
Our Pick: Dalton is at least competent and Chicago may show up for Nagy. Lay the points with the Bears.
Las Vegas Raiders (+8, O/U 51) at Dallas Cowboys
A compelling matchup because … leading the AFC West early in the season, the Las Vegas Raiders have now lost three in a row and find themselves teetering at .500 on the brink of another lost season. Things are much rosier in Dallas, where the Cowboys are comfortably ahead in the NFC Least despite being shut down by Kansas City’s improving defense in Week 11 and are actually the only team in the division with a winning record. The Cowboys have lost just once at home this season but ride a two-game losing streak on Thanksgiving into Thursday’s game.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Raiders (5-5 SU, 4-6 ATS) just fell to the Bengals 32-13, failing to cover as 2-point home dogs. The Cowboys (7-3 SU, 8-2 ATS) have dropped two of their last three and just lost to the Chiefs 19-9, failing to cover as 2.5-point road dogs. This line opened with Dallas listed as a 7-point favorite. Respected money has laid the points, steaming Dallas up from -7 to -8. Thanksgiving favorites are roughly 70% ATS in the last decade. Dallas also has value as a non-conference favorite with a high total (51). I’ll back Dallas in a teaser (-8 to -2), which crosses two key numbers and gets the Cowboys below 3.
Gable’s Guess: The Dallas offense really got shut down against the Chiefs while missing wide receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Their two replacements, Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson, failed to generate anything. Ezekiel Elliott managed only 32 yards on nine carries. The Cowboys have lost two of three now, but they have a chance to right the ship against a Vegas team that’s taken quite a few steps back. The Raiders have not been able to score more than 16 points in their last three games and their offense has really gone by the wayside. Quarterback Derek Carr is playing his worst football of the year. They weren’t bad defensively on Sunday, as they recorded three sacks, five hits on the quarterback and six tackles for a loss. But I really think this is going to be a nice bounce-back spot for the Cowboys, so I’m going to lay the points with Dallas.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Las Vegas has taken a step back recently since picking up solid victories over Denver and Philadelphia. The Raiders were blown out at home by the Chiefs in Week 10, then fell apart in the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. Now the Silver and Black head to Dallas to face the Cowboys, whose offense struggled in a 19-9 loss at Kansas City. Las Vegas is sitting in its biggest underdog spot of the season and is worth a strong look against Dallas. Best Bet: Raiders +8.
Our Pick: The Raiders have shown they can’t hang with elite competition. Dallas is that. Lay the points.
Buffalo Bills (-5.5, O/U 46) at New Orleans Saints
A compelling matchup because … losers of three in a row for the first time since they opened the 2016 season at 0-3, the Saints appear to be feeling the loss of longtime quarterback Drew Brees after getting off to a hot start without him. The Bills have also been sputtering lately, having alternated wins and losses for their last five games. If that pattern holds, this game would be a win. The Saints lead the all-time series between these two teams 7-4 and have won five straight over the Bills. In the 11 games, New Orleans has outscored Buffalo 283 to 193.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bills (6-4 SU, 5-4-1 ATS) just got crushed by the Colts 41-15, losing outright as 7-point home favorites. The Saints (5-5 SU, 5-5 ATS) are also struggling, as New Orleans just got rolled by Philadelphia 40-29, failing to cover as 3-point road dogs. This line opened with Buffalo listed as a 4.5-point road favorite. The public is hammering the Bills, driving Buffalo up. I’m not sure the Bills are worthy of laying this many points on the road. Sean Payton is 4-1 ATS as a dog this season and 45-26 ATS (63%) in his career. Primetime dogs are 22-11 ATS (67%) this season. I’ll buy low on the Saints and back them as a contrarian inflated home dog.
Gable’s Guess: Back when Buffalo beat Kansas City, there was a lot of talk about how they might be the best team in the AFC and certainly they were looking like such. But if the season ended today, the Bills would sneak into the playoffs as a No. 7 seed. They have a tough schedule coming up, starting here with the Saints. New Orleans is always a tough place to play. To win, Buffalo is going to have to run the ball. They only called eight runs for their running backs on Sunday and that’s it. Just eight times. The Saints are normally pretty good against the run, but they were torched by Philly on the ground in Week 11. Buffalo has to balance out their offense. New Orleans went into Philadelphia missing a lot of their key offensive players, and they played like it. They turned the ball over three times, which led to 17 Philadelphia points. The problem with the Saints is they really have just no playmakers on offense and everything seems to be a struggle. I’ll lay the points with the Bills on the road.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Buffalo will definitely be a public play in the night game at New Orleans on Thanksgiving. The Bills were routed by the Colts at home in Week 11, marking their second loss in the last three games. New Orleans’ offense has stalled with Trevor Siemian at quarterback, as the Saints are 0-3 in his starts since Jameis Winston tore his ACL against Tampa Bay. The Saints have been a reliable underdog this season with outright wins over the Bucs and Patriots, but this offense is tough to trust, even at home. Best Bet: Bills -5.5.
Our Pick: Don’t think the Saints will win outright, but New Orleans covering at home seems like the best bet.
Last Week: 3-2; Season: 28-26-1
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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