Thanksgiving Day NFL betting picks: Bears at Lions; Raiders at Cowboys; Bills at Saints

Ah, NFL football on Thanksgiving Day: second only to Super Bowl Sunday as the most tremendous day of the year for NFL betting. While the everyday fan whines about short-week low-scoring games, at least one-third of which involve the Detroit Lions, bettors luxuriate in the opportunity to take advantage of the same. You bet NFLbets is pigging out on this three-course dinner, beginning with

Chicago Bears -3 at Detroit Lions, over/under 47½ points

OK, look: This could well be the last plausible chance for the Lions to avoid the winless season until … well, this could be the last, depending on your level of relative comfort with covering the Honolulu blue-and-silver against the Green Bay second string in week 18. With the short week and Not Jared Goff at quarterback, the Lions have every hope of riding the anomalies to a win against a subpar team with a pitiably bad head coach.

And about Matt Nagy. In the most hilarious narrative for Thanksgiving football in years (except for Bears backers), rumors murmured this week that Nagy will be fired after the Lions game. While Nagy himself described the gossip as “not accurate,” such leakage (and, accuracy aside, this story was definitely leaked) has got to be seriously disconcerting. The truth is that the 2021 Detroit Lions may not be the most talented team to take an NFL field, but their gameplan looks a heckuva lot sharper than the water-treading Chicago has done all season.

Who needs stats? Take the Detroit Lions +3 vs Chicago, and consider betting the Lions ML at around +120 as well…

Las Vegas Raiders +7 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 51 points

Having traditionally played on Thanksgiving Day since 1966, the Cowboys have racked up some 31 wins on the holiday – but what’s more impressive is their win-loss record of 31-21-1, tops among all teams with at least nine appearances on the holiday. Since 2016 when Dak Prescott came aboard, the Cowboys haven’t been especially good on Thanksgiving at just 2-3 SU/1-4 ATS.

On the other other hand, the opposition is the Raiders for whose situation the word “freefall” hardly does justice. NFLbets isn’t sure what the win-loss record for a visiting team coming off a SU loss on a short week led by an interim/former special teams coach as head coach, but we’re more than certain we probably wouldn’t bet the Raiders this Sunday regardless.

The loss of Henry Ruggs and thus the sole legitimate deep threat Vegas had has resulted in a 0-3 SU/ATS graveyard spiral which is dooming the one remaining bit of the team that famous privileged racist Jon Gruden built over four seasons, namely the passing game. In the aforementioned three games, Derek Carr has managed just 4 touchdown passes against 4 interceptions and 5 sacks taken. And in 119 attempts, the Raiders have made just two pass plays of over 30 yards. O, and scoring is down from 25.7 over the first seven games to 14.33 per.

Naturally, NFLbets prefers to fade the trends, but sometimes you just have to watch the football – and we don’t believe that the sportsbooks and bettors have quiiiiiiite caught up with the plummeting Radiers yet. They’re predicting a final score of 29-22 in this one, but it’s hard to imagine the Raiders scoring three touchdowns right now. Take the Dallas Cowboys -7 vs Las Vegas.

Buffalo Bills -6½ at New Orleans Saints, over/under 45 points

Saving the toughest for last, eh? Like the other four teams playing on Thanksgiving, both Buffalo and New Orleans come into this game off a loss. The Saints enter desperate at 5-5 SU/ATS, on an 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS “run”, and struggling to stay in the NFC playoff race; the Bills too are perceived of as sinking, though still tops in the AFC East at 6-4 SU/ATS.

But while both teams have bumbled their way through October/November, the Saints’ issues are easy to identify: fantasy football darling Michael Thomas hasn’t played all season; the first QB option (Jameis Winston) is now out, second-stringer Trevor Simian isn’t exactly a bona fide NFL starter and will play this game hurt; and Alvin Kamara has finally succumbed to knee problems and won’t play this one, either. For the Bills? Not so easy to ascertain…

Josh Allen hasn’t exactly been Allenesque by mainstream NFL media standards, but short-term memory loss has apparently resulted in the collective consciousness completely forgetting about how hot-and-cold Allen had been prior to the killer addition of Stefon Diggs for 2020. Sadly for Buffalo backers, opposition defense have apparently learned to cover Diggs: He’s gone from 7.9 catches on 10.4 targets for 95.9 yards per game to 6.0 catches on 9.2 targets for 77.3 yards.

NFLbets also notes that the Bills are a decidedly unimpressive 1-3 SU/ATS against prospective playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Tennessee, Indianapolis). In their six SU wins, five times were the Bills able to run up 35 or more points against bottom-10 defenses like Miami, Kansas City, Houston, Washington and the Jets; in their losses, they’re averaging 17 points per.

So we suppose the question for would-be bettors is whether they consider New Orleans a marginal or playoff-bubble team. The Saints should certainly be playing for their lives this week, with some heavy dependence on their own defense, top-10 in yardage and points allowed.

In general, though, the trump card is the Bills inconsistency. We’ll split the difference: Cover the Bills moneyline if you like (at pretty weak odds of around -250), but definitely take the New Orleans Saints +6½ vs Buffalo.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

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