Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year. Who doesn’t love a holiday based around the premise of stuffing your face? Stuffing. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. Warm buttery biscuits. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
The perfect side dish for all that food is a jam-packed week of football. Not only do we have our usual full complement of games on Sunday, but we also have three-games to watch on Thursday as we drift in and out of a food coma.
Let’s break down all the action for NFL Week 12 to try and identify some potential betting value, starting with the trifecta of Thanksgiving day games.
Houston Texans (-2.5) @ Detroit Lions — 51.5 total
Moneylines: Texans -152/Lions +130
This might not be the most appealing appetizer on Thanksgiving, but this game is expected to be the highest scoring of the day. The total currently sits at 51.5 points, and that has more to do with the defenses being terrible than the offenses being great. Detroit currently ranks 25th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA while the Texans rank just 28th.
On the offensive side of the ball, these two teams appear to be headed in opposing directions. Houston is coming off a 27-20 win last week vs. the Patriots, while the Lions were shut out by the Panthers. Detroit gained just 185 yards of total offense in that contest, so that was one of the worst performances by any team this season.
That said, I’m willing to give the Lions the benefit of the doubt in that contest. They were dealing with some crucial injuries, with Kenny Golladay, D’Andre Swift, and Danny Amendola all being sidelined.
The injury report is going to play a huge amount in my level of confidence with the Lions this week. They should be able to improve on the offensive end if healthier, but things aren’t looking great early in the week. The team did not practice on Monday, but they did have to put out a projected participation report since they play on Thursday. Swift was considered a DNP, while Golladay and Amendola were both limited. T.J. Hockenson and Marvin Hall were also listed as limited, so the Lions are pretty decimated on that side of the ball at the moment.
Still, I’m optimistic that at least some of those players will suit up. Golladay is obviously the biggest name here, and his impact on the offense can’t be understated. The Lions have gone 3-2 and averaged 26.6 points per game in five games with Golladay in the lineup, and they’re 1-4 and have averaged just 18.8 points per game without him.
If Golladay can suit up, I think this line has moved too far in Houston’s favor. This game was listed as a pick ‘em on the advance spread, so the line moved 2.5 points based solely on the Lions’ loss and the Texans’ win. The Texans win was a bit flukey — the Patriots actually outgained them in that contest — so I think that’s a mistake.
It has also historically been profitable to invest in teams coming off a poor offensive performance. Teams that score less than seven points in their previous game have historically covered at a 53.4% clip in the following week over a pretty sizable sample size. 53.4% doesn’t represent a drastic edge, but it does result in a return on investmentment of +3.8%. Additionally, if we look specifically at teams that were shut out in the previous week, the cover rate goes up to 56.6%.
I’m going to monitor the injury report before definitively locking in a wager, but I suspect I’ll be on the Lions this week. I would also love it if this number got to +3.0, so I see no harm in waiting this one out.
The Pick: Pending (will play Lions if injury report is favorable)
Washington Football Team @ Dallas Cowboys (-3) — 46.0 total
Moneylines: Washington +145/Cowboys -170
Nothing says Thanksgiving football more than a showdown between Washington and the Cowboys. These teams have met on Thanksgiving nine times, and the Cowboys have absolutely dominated this rivalry. They’ve won eight of those contests, with the most recent occurrence coming back in 2018.
Both of these teams enter this contest at 3-7 in an absolutely wide open NFC East. The Eagles are still the betting favorites to win the division, but their odds have dropped to just +145. They own a half-game lead in the division after tying with the Bengals earlier this year, but they have to head to Seattle this week to take on the Seahawks. That means whoever wins this contest has a very good shot of moving into at least a tie for first place in the division.
The Cowboys were left for dead earlier this year, but they looked rejuvenated last week vs. the Vikings. They’ve gotten healthier along the offensive line and on defense, and Andy Dalton gave them a significant QB upgrade over Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. Their offense still isn’t going to hum like it did with Dak Prescott under center, but their days of being dismal on that side of the ball are in the past.
Still, it is worth noting that the Vikings were a solid matchup for the Cowboys. They don’t have a fearsome pass rush, so it’s not surprising that Dalton was able to lean on the Cowboys’ talented offensive weapons with time in the pocket. He has always been the kind of quarterback that thrives with a clean pocket but wilts under pressure.
That doesn’t bode well for his success in this matchup. The Cowboys offensive line is definitely healthier than the first two times these teams played — which Washington won 25-3 — but they’re still far from the dominant unit that they used to be.
Washington doesn’t do a lot well, but the one thing that they can do is rush the passer. They have invested heavily in their defensive line during the draft, so it’s not surprising that they have been among the best teams in the league at pressuring the quarterback. They own an adjusted sack rate of 9.5%, which is the second-highest mark in the league.
If they put some heat on Dalton in this matchup, expect the Cowboys’ offense to regress a bit this week.
On offense, Alex Smith has slowly but surely started to look more comfortable playing QB in the NFL again. He was one of the premier game managers in football prior to a horrific leg injury in 2018, and he always seems to put his team in position to win games. He isn’t the same QB that he was in his prime, but Washington has gone 1-1 in his two starts this season.
Antonio Gibson has also come on strong in their backfield. The rookie from Memphis has tallied a rushing touchdown in four straight games, and he’s averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per carry this season. He should be able to find success against a Cowboys’ defense that ranks just 28th in rush defense DVOA.
If Gibson can put Smith and the rest of the offense in manageable third down situations, I think they should be able to do enough offensively to ultimately secure a win. The sharps appear to agree with me early in the week, with Washington currently receiving 57% of the spread dollars on just 44% of the spread tickets.
I’m locking this wager in now given the importance of the number three in NFL betting.
The Pick: Washington +3
Update: This game has been postponed
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers -Postponed
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who took the time to read this and has been riding with me and the rest of the Line Movement crew all season. I am truly thankful that I get to write about betting on sports for a living, and it’s people like you who make that possible. I’ll be back later in the week to break down all of Sunday’s games, but until then, stay safe and have an extra scoop of stuffing for me!