NFL Thanksgiving Day games: Betting, eating and winning

Thanksgiving Day and American football are two of the United States’ grandest, most internationally-known cultural symbols. When you mix them together with a little betting – NFLbets traditionally (get it?) covers one team and the over/under in each game – well, damn, Thanksgiving is awesome.

A brief run-through of a few historic factoids follow. As always, NFLbets reminds NFL bettors that most (most, not all) historical precedent in football bears no relation whatsoever to or on future events. In terms of the Thanksgiving Day NFL games, however, there are a couple noteworthy stats.

•  Thanksgiving Day games were first played in the inaugural season of the NFL. The rogue AAFC and AFL also scheduled such games as a matter of course on their schedule, and the USFL might’ve, too, had it miraculously survived Donald Trump’s sending that league into a graveyard spiral.

•  The Detroit Lions began hosting the annual game in 1945; for 13 consecutive years beginning in ’51, the Green Bay Packers came to Detroit. The Dallas Cowboys began hosting a Thanksgiving Day game annually in ’66.

•  These are just two of five teams to have played more than 20 Thanksgiving Day games.

•  The Cowboys are the most successful of any franchise which has played in nine or more Thanksgiving day games, going a healthy 30-19-1 SU (a winning percentage of .622) from 1966 through 2017, as compared to their overall regular-season mark of 477-321-6 (.593).

•  The only other team to have a winning record in nine or more Thanksgiving Day games are the Decatur/Chicago Staleys/Bears at 17-15-2 between 1920 and 2015. Note that about half of these games were played against the Lions in Detroit, a series which is knotted 8-8 going into 2018’s holiday matchup.

•  The Lions are 37-39-2 all-time, which includes an 1-11 beginning in 2001, surely not at all coincidentally the first season Matt Millen was the club’s general manager. Take out this plateau-within-a-plateau and Detroit is instead a respectable 36-28-2 (.545) on Thanksgiving.

•  The Green Bay Packers have frequently appeared in Thanksgiving Day games as both a huge draw nationally and a division mate of the Lions. The Pack is just 14-20-2 in these games but let’s put an asterisk on this one as well, courtesy those Lions: Between 1951 and ’63, Green Bay was a weak 4-9 at Detroit in Thanksgiving games. Right around then, the Lions went into possibly interminable decline while the Packers were becoming a team of legend, and Packers at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day wouldn’t happen again until 1984. Since then, Green Bay is up 6-2 SU.  

•  Finally, by dint of sheer longevity, the Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals have played in 23 Thanksgiving Day games from 1920 to 2008. In traditional Cardinals fashion, the team is a terrible 6-15-2 (.261 – well worse than even the overall franchise winning percentage of .399 over these years).

Betting Thanksgiving NFL games

Can this history teach us anything? In the case one of the perennial hosts, sure! While winning or losing on Thanksgiving in a certain year says nothing about doing so afterward, the superior records of these teams on the holiday would seem to indicate an institutional knowledge of how things are done for this particular game: The frequently-losing Lions become at least an average home team for Thanksgiving, i.e. figure them 3 to 6 points more than typical. And despite NFLbets’ cynicism about the historical record, we believe the Lions’ current 5-1 ATS run *is* meaningful.

Meanwhile, the home turf (literally) advantage Dallas gets on Thanksgiving has disappeared at some point during this decade – or perhaps it’s just the Cowboys Effect, which tends to overrate the ’Pokes. The Cowboys haven’t won ATS on Thanksgiving since 2010, going 0-7 ATS since then, with a mere 3-4 SU to show for it. Maybe the institutional memory is failing in Dallas, after all…

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FAQs on Thanksgiving Day betting

Of all the NFL games to bet on every year, the Thanksgiving Day games are second only to the Super Bowl in popularity. And thanks to certain traditions, these games represent one of the few instances in which long-term history is of use to the NFL bettor. Below run some FAQs on that most hallowed of all Thanksgiving traditions – betting on football!

Do the Cowboys and Washington always play on Thanksgiving?:

NFLbets isn’t exactly sure how this myth remains so pervasive. Though the Dallas Cowboys have played on every Thanksgiving Day since 1996 and typically play a division rival, it’s not always the case that Washington draws the Dallas game on the second-favorite day for NFL betting. Of note: The Cowboys are 9-1 SU vs Washington on Thanksgiving and are 6-2 ATS in this matchup since 1990. 

What teams are playing on Thanksgiving?

The only teams guaranteed to play on Thanksgiving are the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. Since 1977, the Lions have played 23 of 45 Turkey Day games against an NFC North rival – the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.

What is the Detroit Lions record on Thanksgiving Day?

For much of the post-merger period, the Lions have been mired in mediocrity, running up a 317-439-4 SU record from 1970 to 2018, a winning percentage of just .371. In this respect, the Lions are far more successful in Thanksgiving Day games, at 22-27 SU (or .449). And though Vegas lines rarely set the Lions as favorites on Thanksgiving Day despite institutional memory as well as any real or perceived homefield advantage, the Lions are a good bet on T-giving: They’re 25-24 ATS since 1970 in this game.

How many times have the Bears played the Lions on Thanksgiving?

Bears at Lions is the second -most commonly-played Thanksgiving Day matchup – after Packers at Lions. Since 1945, Chicago has a 7-5 advantage in this game. Of note: Since the last realignment of divisions in the NFL, the Lions are 4-5 SU and ATS against their three NFC North division mates.

How many Thanksgiving Day games has each NFL team won?

In terms of straight-up wins, Detroit is the all-time leader in Thanksgiving Day wins with 37. However, their cumulative win-loss record of 37-40-2 through 2018 ranks them just 20th overall. Only nine teams have played at least 10 games, and incredibly the Cowboys are tops at 31-19-1 (.618), followed by the New York Giants at 7-5-3 (.567) and Chicago Bears (18-15-2 or .543).

Worst in the NFL are Washington at 3-9 (.273) and the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals at 6-15-2 (.304). Only the Cincinnati Bengals (at 0-1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) and Cleveland Browns (0-3) have gone winless on Thanksgiving Day; the Baltimore Ravens (2-0), New Orleans Saints (2-0), Carolina Panthers (1-0), Houston Texans (1-0) are the only undefeated sides; and only the Jacksonville Jaguars have never played on the holiday.

Are the Cowboys a good bet?

Maybe if you bet them on the money line (ML) – because as good as the so-called “America’s Team” is on Thanksgving for the fans, the Cowboys are just 20-19-1 ATS from 1978 to 2018.

Are there any football games on Christmas Day to bet?

It is said that NFL betting is 24/7/365, but what can you bet on in the NFL on Christmas Day? That was a rhetorical question. Let’s put it this way: If Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, you can bet NFL games online, in Las Vegas and other “real life” sportsbooks which happen to be open. Otherwise, you can always bet on college football bowl games. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Episode 3 of Thanksgiving NFL football trilogy cancelled; does it help Ravens’ chances on Sunday?

Thursday, 26 November 2020 16:17 EST

Football betting makes Thanksgiving feel like a holiday, you know…? In NFLbets’ opinion, Thanksgiving is the second-greatest betting day of the year: Three games, at least six bets to make, four days to analyze, and best of all we tend to do better on this day than on the Super Bowl.

We love this day of football so much, we had planned to run a trilogy of pieces, culminating in the marquee matchup of Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, but nope. Instead, we grouse.

Aaaand down goes the third Thanksgiving Day football game thanks to coronavirus protocol, but for the Baltimore Ravens – not to mention prospective Ravens bettors – a rescheduling of the game until Sunday may be for the best.

On Wednesday night, the line stood at….

Baltimore Ravens +5 at Pittsburgh Steelers, over/under 44½ points

NFLbets figures these lines should stay about the same; while the O/U of 44½ seems low. After all, just 7 of 28 games in the matchup of Jim Harbaugh’s Ravens vs. Tomlin & Roethlisberger’s Steelers have kicked off with lines of 45 points or more.

With regard to the point spread, +5 is seriously advantageous for the bettor – though the aforementioned Ravens-Steelers series is tied at 13-13-2 ATS, 17 of the 28 games have been decided by fewer than 5 points.

Betting this game on Sunday will depend on the bettor’s relative confidence in the Ravens to pull themselves out of a 1-3 SU/ATS tailspin in which all three losses were for 6 points or fewer and the team could not put together more than 24 points. And since going for 270 passing yards on opening day, Lamar Jackson has topped 206 just once – against the lowly New England Patriots two weeks ago. The result is a team currently barely making the playoffs, barely ahead of the likes of the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders.

Or will it? The Titans, Bills and Raiders have all shrugged off weeks during which several players missed practice and/or teams had games rescheduled; the former two won after a schedule shakeup, while Vegas got Kansas City down to a last-second TD. If anyone needs a break – even a regular timespan between games – it’s the Ravens.

What’s more, Baltimore and Pittsburgh may be enjoying even more time off. On Thanksgiving Day, USA Today and ESPN reported that an outbreak is continuing in Ravens land: “the Ravens experienced additional positive tests for the coronavirus on Wednesday, which would mark a fourth day with an outbreak for the team.

“The Ravens have already placed a total of nine players on the COVID-19/reserve list this week, and they have had several staff members also test positive. The team announced Wednesday that it had disciplined a coach for not reporting COVID-19 symptoms, and for not consistently wearing a mask and tracker.”

If this game actually goes off on Sunday (or Monday), you’d have to take the Ravens plus the points, but NFLbets wouldn’t be surprised if this game is cancelled altogether and the league declares eight teams will be given playoff berths – which would add up to a bigger win for the Ravens.

Stay tuned…

–written by Os Davis


We love Thanksgiving NFL football betting, part II: Washington FT +3 at Dallas

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 15:58 EST

Football betting makes Thanksgiving feel like a holiday, you know…?  In NFLbets’ opinion, Thanksgiving is the second-greatest betting day of the year: Three games, at least six bets to make, four days to analyze, and best of all we tend to do better on this day than on the Super Bowl.

We love this day of football so much, we’re running a trilogy of pieces, now delving into the big day’s games, namely…

Washington Football Team +3 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 46 points

The immediate thought: In a game featuring Who Cares About The Quarterback versus Who Is The Quarterback, we’re thinking take the under.

After giving up a whopping 32.6 points per over in the first five games, Dallas defense has gotten enough together to resemble a reasonable facsimile of an NFL D. Cowboys oppenents have scored 28 or fewer in the last four games, and the under has hit in four of the past five. 

Unfortunately for them, Dallas is also on a 1-3 SU/ATS jag, four games in which the starting QB changed week to week. The good news for Cowboys fans but of little use to pragmatic bettors is that Andy Dalton will start at QB in this game: They’re 3-2 SU/1-4 ATS when the “Red Rifle” (lol) starts, 0-5/1-4 ATS in all other games.

Coming at Dalton and his subpar offensive line are the increasingly mean-looking Washington defensive front. Just to give one exemplar of the mismatch, the top-5 DOVA Washington FT D averages 3.2 sacks per game, while Dallas surrenders an average 2.7.In week 7, this same Football Team took Dalton out of the game and tore apart what remained of the Dallas offense to the tune of 3 points on 207 total yards.

While it could be a long Thanksgiving Day for poor Andy Dalton, every day seems to last forever with any Football Team quarterback out there. The Washington offense is 4th-lowest in scoring and, for what it’s worth, will start Alex Smith at QB a week after he went 17-of-25 for 166 yards.

So, yeah. Take the under on an O/U of 46 points – they really can’t make this line low enough – and, since either team could lose this game we’ll say take the Washington Football Team ML at +120 because the odds are better...

–written by Os Davis

We love Thanksgiving NFL football betting, part I: Houston Texans -3½ at Detroit

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 13:34 EST

Football betting makes Thanksgiving feel like a holiday, you know…?  In NFLbets’ opinion, Thanksgiving is the second-greatest betting day of the year: Three games, at least six bets to make, four days to analyze, and best of all we tend to do better on this day than on the Super Bowl.

We love this day of football so much, we’re running a trilogy of pieces, beginning chronologically with the Turkey Day opener…

Houston Texans -3½ at Detroit Lions, over/under 51 points

Houston, under the guidance of Romeo Crennel(!) are 3-3 SU/ATS, including a 2-1 SU/ATS mini-run with the sole SU loss coming by just 3 points at Cleveland and the weather in week 10.

Excepting the Cleveland game, the Texans are scoring 28.0 points per game in the Crennel Period as the Texans offense finally appears to be rounding into shape after a number of questionable transactions in the offseason.

Maybe NFLbets should make that “the Texans passing game finally appears to be rounding into shape...” Even the most ardent Texans backer has got to admit that, at 71.1 total yards per game, David Johnson represents the short end of the stick in that deal.

But Crennel & Co. probably aren’t thinking about the run game for this game; they’re giving thanks that the Lions currently rank 24th in DVOA, not quite as bad as the 30th- and 31st-ranked Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots, against whom Deshaun Watson has averaged 322.66 yards per game and his team is 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS, but still.

Conventional wisdom believes that Matt Patricia may be coaching for his job this week, after his team was goosed egged by the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Recent trending would favor the Lions here based solely on that L, as the last 20 shutout victims have gone 14-5-1 ATS in the subsequent game; the growing point spread further handicapping Houston with its pitiful no. 29-DVOA ranked defense speaks well for betting on Detroit.

The bad news for the Lions offense begins with WR Kenny Golladay and RB D’Andre Swift out and continues with QB Matthew Stafford’s trending downward throughout 2020. Just twice in 2020 has he passed for over 300 years (taking him 36 and 42 attempts to do so) and twice has thrown for more TDs than taken sacks in a game.

This line may feel too easy and perhaps Adrian Peterson can find his inner untacklable self again, but in a contest of spotty defenses and a spread of around a field goal, NFLbets goes with the better passing game. Take the Houston Texans -3½ at Detroit and take the over on an O/U of 51 points.

Waiting for Thanksgiving Day 2020 and/or the normalcy of tradition

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 18:55 EST

Too early to start think about betting on Thanksgiving Day football? Ha! Especially in 2020, NFL football on Thanksgiving well be a reminder of normal tradition-y things – and, in NFLbets case, a decent opportunity to make some bank.

The slate for Thanksgiving Day 2020 football features, sadly, four teams assuredly entering their game with losing records (and likely finishing the season sub-.500 as well) but caps with a dandy in-division battle for supremacy. In chronological order, Thanksgiving Day 2020 games, with lines completely guessed at by NFLbets, include:

Houston Texans +2½ at Detroit Lions

The Lions are, of course, the original Thanksgiving Day home team. In terms of straight-up wins, Detroit is the all-time leader in Thanksgiving Day wins with 37. However, their cumulative win-loss record in the traditional game is 37-41-2 from 1934 through 2019; since 1970, they’re 24-26 SU/26-24 ATS. These may not be mind-blowing figures for most teams, but these Thursday games are a relative literal holiday for the Lions: Since 1970 in all games, Detroit is just 329-466-5 SU for a winning percentage of .414.

NFLbets doesn’t rely very much on meaningless history, but in the case of the Lions on Thanksgiving, one wonders if some institutional memory may factor. Lions backers certainly hope so with the discombobulated Texans are coming to town and Matt Patricia’s teams a weak 12-27-1 SU/18-22 ATS. This could very well represent Detroit’s last SU win of the 2020 season.

Washington Football Team +1 at Dallas Cowboys

One of the more common Thanksgiving Day matchups, 2020 sees the 10th meeting between Washington and Dallas in a “rivalry” that’s been all Cowboys since 1968. Dallas in 8-1 in the 9 games to date and is 6-2 Ats since 1970.

But in 2020, neither of these teams are heavyweights – to say the least. Washington may be deployed a 3rd-string quarterback, while NFLbets is guessing that Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys will be turning back to Garrett Gilbert after a couple games with a dinged-up Red Rifle at the helm.

Baltimore Ravens +3½ at Pittsburgh Steelers

For this could-be-classic, NFL bettors would be best off considering rivalry-specific records – and the odds of the Steelers potentially getting to 11-0 with a win. Even with wins at Tennessee and vs New England, Baltimore will likely still be a game or two back of the division lead and will be playing desperate.

Since John Harbaugh became coach of the Ravens, his battles with Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have made for must-see football viewing, if not necessarily easy wagering: SU the teams are an even 14-14, while the Ravens are marginally better ATS with a record of 15-13. The under is 15-12-1, but sinks to 11-10-1 when the line is 45½ points or lower.

So unless conditions change and we don’t see an outrageous over/under, we’ve got our eye all over the Ravens breaking up an undefeated mark (or even a 9-1) that’s significantly better than the Steelers have shown.

–written by Os Davis

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The top 5 Biggest Losers in NFL betting, 2019-20

Monday, 03 February 2020 14:58 EST

So no matter which side you backed in Super Bowl LIV, you probably lost money in prop betting or an the over/under, thanks to underwhelming statistical performances all around and an outcome few expected – just repeat the mantra “that’s why they call it gambling” and get back on the horse. (Assuming you didn’t put the horse on San Francisco 49ers +1½…)

In the meantime, under the proviso that “misery loves company,” NFLbets’ll attempt to cheer you up with a list of folks who lost bigger and harder than you did. Following our first annual Top 5 Losers in NFL Betting list. Happy schadenfreude!

Honorable mention. Howard Ratner. The protagonist of Uncut Gems, essentially the sports bettor’s Trainspotting, cannot technically be included in this list because ol’ Howie’s poison was NBA betting and because he’s, likesay, fictional. However, this character’s status as a big-time loser cannot be underestimated. Even when hitting an incredibly stupid three-bet parlay for upward of $1 million, he still manages to lose his shop and (SPOILERS!) his life right there on Netflix in front of everyone. Combine with the Academy’s snub of Adam Sandler for an Oscar nomination – to be fair, a very strong five make up the nominees in this category this year – and it adds up to a big L.

5. Patrick Mahomes bettors. Those expecting big returns from Kansas City Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV proposition bets got burned all over the place, as Mahomes passed for less than 300 yards, had zero TD passes and threw and interception. But at least until the 4th quarter, he had crept over the 33½ to 36½ yards to cover on most “Pat Mahomes rushing yards” props; then came three successive kneeldowns to subtract 15 yards and bam went all those bets as well. Mahomes’s performance was pretty negative for those wagering on him, but those kneeldowns finished ’em off: At least four major US sportsbooks reported that between 66% and 75% of bets in this prop had been put on the over.

4. Jade Roper Tolbert. Kicking off year 2020 was the sordid tale of former Bachelor in Paradise stars who may or may not have cheated at online fantasy football and thus were denied a $1 million grand prize won during a wild-card weekend contest hosted by Draft Kings. Tanner and Jade both entered their max 150 entries in the contest, but after Jade was congratulated for her first-place finish, an investigation by DK revealed that every one of Jade’s and husband Tanner’s entries were unique – quite a coincidence. Naturally, Tanner took to Twitter to cry sexism; no matter: Citing the zillions-to-1 odds required for 300 unique entries to be filed honestly, DK ultimately rescinded the $1 million. Just goes to show: DFS is pure gambling.  

3. Mattress Mack. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is the embodiment of the gambler with far more money than brain. Like Howard Ratner, Mattress Mack’s main area of betting is outside football; however, McIngvale’s story should be a lot more directly useful to the average NFL bettor than does Ranter’s. As an unabashed fan of the Houston Astros, McIngvale lost some $13 million alone in bets on the Astros to win the World Series – before losing to the Washington Nationals. As it turns out, McIngvale had offered a refund for the full price of a mattress from any of his Texas furniture stores if the Astros won the World Series and $13 million would have covered that promise financially with a profit. The lesson for football bettors: Hedging doesn’t pay.

2. Josh Shaw. On November 10 at Caesars sportsbook in Las Vegas, Josh Shaw placed at least one odd parlay involving three second-half point spreads and lost. Happens every Sunday during NFL season, right? Yes, but. As it turns out, Shaw was under contract with the Arizona Cardinals and, when the illicit wager was discovered, earned himself an open-ended suspension from the league. Worse yet, one of the ends of the parlay had the Cardinals on the losing side. Still worse yet, the Cardinals covered the second-half spread, but lost SU and busted Shaw’s parlay. Dude, it was the Buccaneers – you should’ve taken the over…

1. Anybody who bet on the Cleveland Browns at season’s beginning. NFLbets is not counted among the lot who figured a team which blew its last realistic shot at a Super Bowl in 1988 and was two seasons removed from an 0-16 finish – and so could harangue with impunity, but we’ll spare you. After all, the embarrassment of throwing good money at a team led by a QBs coach, “powered” by a guy who seemed to have dropped football awareness from his retinue altogether, featuring a helmet-swinging psychopath and a prima donna WR who taught teammates only to jokingly ask for trades to other teams should be enough. How the hell were these guys getting better odds than the Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers in the preseason? 2019 may have put NFL bettors off the Browns permanently. (Now watch the 2020 Cleveland Browns win Super Bowl LV starting the eason at 80/1. We may already have an early entry for next year’s list...)

–written by Os Davis

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NFL week 13 ATS results: Even the losers…

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 12:46 EST

You know what's great about NFL betting? (Well, one thing that's great about NFL betting.) That, as Tom Petty once crooned, even the losers get lucky sometimes. Judging NFL teams' performance Against The Spread (ATS) can be far more illustrative of their seasons.

For example, the Chicago Bears' Cinderella story of last season -- until the doink-doink, that is -- was reflected in the team's league-best 12-5 win-loss record ATS. To this point in the 2019 NFL season, the leader on the ATS standings board is the Buffalo Bills at 8-3-1; going into week 14, the Bills appear poised to be the lone truly surprising playoff team.

Rounding out the top 7 are the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams at 8-4 ATS, along with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals each at 7-4-1 ATS. With the exception of the Rams, this half-dozen has also exceeded expectations to a measurable degree, i.e. wins against the spread.

(Incidentally, a further oddity within the 2019 Rams season is the team's insane 6-1 ATS in games outside of Los Angeles.)

Looking at the NFL through bettors’ eyes can even make the execrable NFC East look good -- well ... better, anyway. These four teams are a pathetic 10-26 SU (a .278 winning percentage) combined against the league's 28 other teams. Against the spread, though, they're 15-21 (.417)!

Okay, we tried.

NFLbets’ roundup of week 13 results with scores adjusted for point spreads runs below; scores marked in bold indicate those games in which the SU and ATS result differed.

• Chicago Bears 24 at Detroit Lions 22
• Buffalo Bills 26 at Dallas Cowboys 8½
• New Orleans Saints 26 at Atlanta Falcons 25. Hope you killed it on Thanksgiving like NFLbets did, despite the anomaly of all three away teams winning ATS.

• Houston Texans 28, New England Patriots 18½.
• Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Cleveland Browns 12. Those of you already looking at playoff props take note: Pittsburgh is now looking at a four-game stretch which includes three games away, where they’re 2-3 SU (1-4 ATS). Meanwhile, the Patriots, as though desperately needing a break from the league, have three of four at home to close out the season.

• Tennessee Titans 30 at Indianapolis Colts 17. One more time: Don’t bet these AFC South games – unless you’re taking the under in a Jaguars game.

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 at Jacksonville Jaguars 11. Like we said. Also, has anyone informed the Jacksonville front office and/or medical staff that the Jaguars have, likesay, zero chance at making a run at this thing and thus have no need to rush back Nick “Miracle Worker” Foles in 2019? Come on now…

• Cincinnati Bengals 22, New York Jets 3½. The Jets put together three consecutive 34-point games against bad or fading teams (the Giants, Washington, Oakland/Las Vegas) before managing a whopping 6 at home against the heretofore winless Bengals. Time to get off that bandwagon, NFL bettors.

• Green Bay Packers 27½ at New York Giants 13. Likewise, did anyone put good money down on the Giants in this one? Next time, just send it to Os Davis c/o this website, mmmkay?

• Los Angeles Rams 31½ at Arizona Cardinals 7. Insanely enough, as the Seahawks took the lead in the NFC West, they also helped keep the Rams in the race for the final playoff spot. What should make NFL bettors verrrrrrrrry hesitant to bet on the Rams the rest of the way – aside from Jared Goff, of course – is that 6-1 ATS record away from L.A.; two of the four games remaining are away, and NFLbets is expecting them to lose both ATS.

• San Francisco 49ers 17 at Baltimore Ravens 14. Here’s another great thing about NFL betting: Hilarity often ensues in the closing seconds of nearly any game with a score within a couple TDs’ worth of scoring differential.

If you bet on the 49ers +3½ or more, you spent over 59 minutes pulling for San Francisco … until Justin Tucker lined up for a FG to break the 17-17 tie. At that point, your allegiance suddenly shifted to the Ravens so that the game ends on a Ravens SU win but ATS loss.

Meanwhile, if you had the Ravens -3½ or more, your former backing of the Ravens was just as quickly blown away when Tucker trotted out. At 17-17, the only way your bet had a chance of hitting was for Tucker to botch the field goal attempt, have the game go into overtime and the Ravens win by a touchdown.

• Kansas City Chiefs 28½, Oakland Raiders 9. Don’t give up on the Raiders sneaking into the AFC playoffs just yet: They’re 6-1 SU against sub-.500 teams, and three of the last four (vs Jacksonville, at Chargers, at Denver) are also against losing teams. Hold up the crossout pen for just one more week – Chucky & Co. are at Tennessee for week 14.

• Miami Dolphins 37, Philadelphia Eagles 20½. Same goes for the Eagles: a 7-9 record is all that’s necessary to win. Thus, the division could be decided – no matter who wins – in the week 16 Dallas at Philadelphia and week 17 Washington at Dallas games.

• Washington 29 at Carolina Panthers 9½. That’s right, sports fans: Washington could still win this freakin’ thing with a 4-0 run. Considering they get the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys in the final four weeks … geez, this NFC East is absolutely brutal.

• Denver Broncos 23, San Diego Chargers 15½
• Seattle Seahawks 34, Minnesota Vikings 30. The teams with the biggest imagined home field advantages are ones for NFL bettors to watch coming down the stretch. The Broncos who, crazily enough, have posted the second-worst home record ATS over the past 15 years, are a big 5-1 ATS at home in 2019. Seattle, on the other hand, entered this season with the second-best home record, yet earned their first home win in this game. At this point in the year, NFLbets is definitely expecting these numbers to regress to the mean…

–written by Os Davis

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Picks of the week: Thanksgiving NFL games feature lots of turkeys

Wednesday, 27 November 2019 15:15 EST

It’s one of the most hallowed traditions in America, right up there with the Super Bowl: Thanksgiving Day football – and specifically betting on Thanksgiving football. Sadly, however, this year’s selection is a tad disappointing from both the fan’s and bettors’ perspectives. NFLbets will nevertheless take a stab at this underwhelming trio because hey, who’s not going to bet the Thanksgiving Day games?

Chicago Bears -2 at Detroit Lions, over/under 38 points

A couple of weeks ago, the over felt like a gimme: After all, Matt Stafford has for over a decade scored points no matter who’s on the roster; overs on Lions games were 7-2 through the first nine games. But then Marvelous Matthew gave way to broken back bones and Jeff Triskel who is, in short, a serious comedown from Stafford; meanwhile, the Bears have averaged 16.7 points per game since their week 6 bye.

Betting on under 38 points isn’t as foolhardy as may seem. Since 2015, 72 games have kicked off with an over/under of 38 points or less, and the over is only 38-34. (Interesting side note: Despite the apparent overemphasis on scoring points, through Thanksgiving, 18 games in 2019 have already carried such a low point spread; at the current rate, ’19 will see the most 38-point over/unders in nearly 15 years.) This is certainly not an original supposition on NFLbets’ part, either: This line has dumped from 40 points to 38 since opening.

So take the under on an O/U of 38 points; this way, you’ll avoiding choosing a winner and profit from what could be a real snoozer.

Buffalo Bills +6½ at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 44½ points

In order to wager on this one, the NFL bettor is left to decide which of these two teams is the bigger fraud. And if you think that’s too harsh, just ask yourself why an 8-3 team is getting a full touchdown in a dome against a 6-5 team who marginally has a head coach.

It breaks down like so. In their three losses, the Bills are 1-1-1 ATS in losing to teams with a combined 20-13 mark. Meanwhile, they’re 8-0 SU (6-2 ATS) against teams that are 27-72 altogether. That 8-3 isn’t so impressive upon a closer look, eh…?

The Cowboys schedule hasn’t been nearly as easy as the Bills’, but in similar fashion to Buffalo, They’re terrible against winning teams: Dallas is just 1-4 SU/ATS against those above .500, with the sole W coming against the Philadelphia Eagles, who could very well finish the season 8-8 or worse.

So either one of these teams is a fraud or you’re flipping a coin to pick this game. NFLbets prefers the former supposition, and we’re guessing the fraud is Buffalo. Statistically, the Bills D is top-10 in quite a few categories, but again, that competition fills in a lot of blanks. In their last six games, Buffalo has surrendered 300 or more yards of offense four times, and has been statistically outperformed on offense thrice.

Jason Garrett seemingly still hasn’t grokked that he holds one of the NFL’s best ground weapons in Ezekiel Elliott, but Zeke might pile up a lot of yards accidentally: For example, Philadelphia Eagles RBs Jordan Howard and Mike Sanders combined for 170 yards on just 26 attempts against Buffalo in week 8. On top of this, Jason Witten and Amari Cooper contributed a total of 5 yards on 6 targets and a single reception put together against a truly proper defense. Here’s to thinking they should do a little better in this one – with “should” being the operative word there.

But then there’s Garrett. Think all the moaning about Garrett’s weak coaching is limited to the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area? Well, you may be right because this team’s misfortunes typically tend to send a cool blast of schadenfreude across the other 31 NFL markets, but the stats don’t lie. And those stats say that, since hired as head coach of the Cowboys in 2010, is a pitiable 6-15 SU (and just 4-17 ATS) in all games played on fewer than seven days off. Talent or no, these Cowboys are always in trouble on a short week.

So we’re gonna split the difference here and say take the Buffalo Bills +6½ at Dallas along with taking the Cowboys ML at -290.

New Orleans Saints -7 at Atlanta Falcons, over/under 50 points

Frankly, NFLbets is surprised this point spread is so low, given that Buffalo is getting 6½ at Dallas; much of the betting public agrees with us, too since this line has gained a point since opening. We suppose the sportsbooks are putting much stock in the Falcons shocking upset of these Saints two weeks ago. But that loss plus the preceding week’s bye is sandwiched by four 30-plus point wins. Meanwhile, the Falcons have scored 30 or more twice this season – in losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans.

Since Devonta Freeman is out for Atlanta, Matt Ryan will likely take it to the air early and often, as opposed to the week 10 game plan which featured 36 pass plays against 34 runs. The Saints boast a top-5 rush defense and a middling pass defense, so Sean Payton would certainly prefer the opposite, but Ryan is beating anyone with his arm any more: His TD numbers are down, his interception numbers are up and he’s currently posting the lowest QBR of his career (59.8).

The Saints are a better team and NFLbets sees here an opportunity for those who get burned in week 10 to recoup some losses. We’re saying take the New Orleans Saints -7 at Atlanta.

NFLbets’ Picks of the Week last week: 3-3.
NFLbets’ Picks of the Week this season: 33-21.

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Can ATS badasses Washington and New Orleans kill it again in Thanksgiving Day betting?

Thursday, 22 November 2018 11:51 EST

Happy Thanksgiving football betting!Happy Thanksgiving! Now let’s get down to business.

True, this year’s Thanksgiving Day offerings aren’t overly enthusing fans, but NFL bettors’ interest is surely piqued. Quite serendipitous it is in this year of legalized sports betting in the US that three of the NFL’s top four teams ATS are playing on Thanksgiving Day. Topping the ATS standings board going into week 12 are the New Orleans Saints (8-2), Kansas City Chiefs (7-2-2), Chicago Bears (7-3) and Washington (7-3).

Naturally, NFLebts will be looking for the case *against* the Saints, Bears and Washington, working from the classic regression-to-the-mean premise.

(Addendum: In actuality, yours truly abandoned the bit of the original article focused on the Bears-Lions game after news of Mitch Trubisky’s benching broke; our adapted take and betting tips on that game may be found here.)

Washington +7 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 41½ points

NFLbets Washington pro football alt logoNFLbets must admit that this one does feel a bit like a push. The regression-to-the-mean argument isn’t extremely strong here, as the Cowboys have played right to the point spread this season to go 5-5 ATS entering this game. Strictly on the field, though, the acquisition of Amari Cooper has been a revelation.

To wit: In three of the past four games, Dak Prescott has thrown for over 200 yards; hardly an eye-popping stat but the QB managed just one such game in the first six weeks of the season! Cooper – as well as the still-refining Dallas D – has additionally opened up the possibilities for Ezekiel Elliott and the gang. In the past two weeks, the Cowboys have scored 49 points, with *not 1 coming on a pass play* while Elliott has run up four TDs.

betting Dallas Cowboys on ThanksgivingThe sole chink in the Cowboys’ defensive armor in 2018 has been in turnovers. Dallas enters the game just 24th in generating TOs, while Washington and the notoriously stingy (meant in the positive sense) Alex Smith have an outstanding +12 differential, bettered only by Chicago. On the other hand, the Cowboys D – at top-10 unit in most other statistical categories – extracted two TOs in the past two games against the zero surrendered by the offense.

Is this one Achilles heel enough to give the game to Washington or even help them cover the spread? NFLbets would guess not, but we’re also thinking that these tendencies have oddsmakers believing this game will have the NFC East rivals slugging it out in the trenches, as evidenced by the extremely low over/under. We’ll second those thoughts. Take the Dallas Cowboys -7 (or bump that to -6½ so as to dodge the potential push) and take the under on an O/U of 41½ points.

Atlanta Falcons -11½ at New Orleans Saints

NFLbets alternate logo for FalconsA few words about the departed 2018 Atlanta Falcons, just two years removed from a Super Bowl overtime loss, gone before their time…

NFLbets alternate logo for FalconsOr were they? The Falcons’ 4-6 SU (3-7 ATS) mark has generated head-scratching among many apparently ungraced with the burden of medium-term memory. Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator of a relentless attacking offense so loved today, split town about 15 minutes after Tom Brady hoisted another Lombardi to take an attractive-looking job in San Francisco. Those similarly befuddled by the performance of the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles (currently 4-6 SU/3-7 ATS) would do well to recall that the ’17 Eagles OC Frank Reich bolted to the Colts for this season, and that team could certainly well compete for a spot in Super Bowl LIV.

(Hardly shocking to note, then, that these Falcons and Eagles have sunk to the depths of a five-way tie at the bottom of the ATS standing board with fellow disasters and/or tragedies in the New York Jets, 49ers and Raiders.)

With the Falcons left for dead, what case may be made for these dead birds even with a handicap of 11½ points? Going back to 2010, Matt Ryan’s teams have gone just 6-11 ATS against New Orleans – though to be fair, no Falcons-Saints game has seen a double-digit point spread since Ryan took over at QB in Atlanta. And the Falcons have only lost by 10 points or more three times in Ryan’s career.

On the other hand, NFLbets dares say (write?) that things have literally never been more hopeless for the Falcons, saddled with aging players at key positions and outdated coaches who won’t be replaced until season’s end. We can’t imagine a Saints offense playing at half-speed scoring fewer than 21 – their lowest total of the year; in the last three games, they’re averaging forty f*#&*#*&ing eight! – against the hapless Falcons.

On top of this, we have the wider trends of Thursday Night Football games (and this is essentially a TNF game in terms of scheduling and such) which are heavily skewed to the favorite regardless of spread size: Since 2016, favorites on Thursday night are at 25-12-3 ATS, a winning percentage of over 67%; compare this to the average of 55% by favorites ATS on Sundays and Mondays.

And now we’re down to blind mathematics. Will the balancing act of the sportsbook drag the Saints down to a more fathomable 8-3 mark ATS and haul the Falcons out of bottom-feeder territory to 4-7? Perhaps Atlanta isn’t as bad as their last two games have shown, but only New Orleans can prevent this from getting ugly. NFLbets will take the New Orleans Saints -11½ vs Atlanta and guess that next week (at Dallas) will be the shocker for the Saints.

The Detroit Lions have no chance to cover on Thanksgving because – wait, what? No Trubisky?

Thursday, 22 November 2018 09:19 EST

NFLbets was just about halfway through a column on all three Thanksgiving Day games before the news hit ESPN Wednesday afternoon: Mitchell Trubisky is highly doubtful to play in the holiday game against the Detroit Lions.

Great! So now the Thanksgiving Day games column might be rewritten – good thing we have our bets in, heh heh. And NFLbets is devoting a brief bit of space here to exhorting NFL bettors on this first Thanksgiving Day game.

Chicago Bears -3 at Detroit Lions, over/under 43½ points

NFLbets logo for Detroit LionsBeyond the absence of Trubisky, the argument for covering Detroit leans heavily you want to argue Detroit's case here, the Lions naturally have the homefield advantage and the Bears are playing on the shortest of all possible weeks currently allowed under NFL policy: Namely, a Sunday prime-time game chased by the 1pm ET slot on a Thursday.

(Damn, no wonder the Bears want to sit Trubisky this week, with the Los Angeles Rams on the horizon and a nice grip on the NFC North division lead. If Matt Nagy thought sitting every single first-stringer would give his guys an edge against the Rams, he’d certainly do so.)

Historically speaking, Decatur/Chicago Staleys/Bears, at 17-15-2 between 1920 and 2015, are one of just two teams with a winning record on Thanksgiving. Note that about half of these games were played against the Lions in Detroit, a series which is knotted 8-8 going into 2018.

The Lions are meanwhile 37-39-2 all-time on the holiday, which includes an 1-11 beginning in 2001, surely not at all coincidentally the first season Matt Millen was the club’s general manager. Take out this plateau-within-a-plateau and Detroit is instead a respectable 36-28-2 (.545) on Thanksgiving.

Interesting stuff to be sure, but we’re talking about the present-day Bears and Lions here, so let’s talk some turkey (so to speak) about this low-watt Lions offense. In the last four games (vs Seattle, at Minnesota, at Chicago, vs Carolina), the Lions are 1-3 SU/ATS, managing an average of 15.1 points against these defenses ranking anywhere from above average to top 10.

Thus is the Bears defense presented with its toughest task of the season thus far. Despite all the kvetching many have done about Trubisky, the truth is that the defense will seemingly have to carry the Bears in this one. Except NFLbets believes that short break for Chicago is a potential game-opener. By the 40-minute mark, these guys may be utterly shagged out.

NFL bets logo for Chicago BearsPlus, there’s that X-factor in Chase Daniel. How many times have we seen a new quarterback step in and wow the world with a headline-style game? It almost feels as though, unless that team is the Cleveland Browns or Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, a substitute QB is bound to succeed. Daniel will certainly be helped by a heavy diet of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, at least one of which should be a nice DFS play today. (Which one? Who can tell? Daily fantasy football is gambling!)

Daniel might have reason to feel confident anyway against a weak pass rush amid a defense ranked 30th in defensive efficiency thus far, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

Finally, the bookmarkers themselves are showing incredible under-confidence in the Lions this Thanksgiving: Consider that homefireld advantage typically earns from 3 to 4½ points in the spread and this game translates as a “pick ’em” on a neutral field – and this line’s gone down 1 point at some sportsbooks since the news on Trubisky came out.

In the final analysis then, NFLbets will dodge the point spread altogether and advise bettors to take the over on an O/U line of 43½ points. This figure is far too low for a tuckered-out D against a terrible playing in a dome.

Thanksgiving comes early – NFLbets is thankful for four week 11 point spreads, one three-team parlay

Saturday, 17 November 2018 12:05 EST

Football and betting moneyMaybe we’re just geeked about snapping a three-game “Best Bets” losing streak by calling the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks TNF result pretty much exactly – a push on a point spread of Seattle +3 and no miracle from Aaron Rodgers thanks to some, likesay, questionable fourth-quarter decisions by Mike McCarthy to whom NFL bettors are grateful.

Maybe so, but NFLbets can’t help but see good betting opportunities all over the slate of week 11 point spreads. The proper NFL bettor absolutely must avoids the pitfall of the Sunk Cost Fallacy and takes the games week-to-week, the trends month-to-month – but he/she isn’t afraid to splurge on slates like week 11’s.

So following is a rapid-fire presentation of our four Best Bets for week 11 plus a parlay to consider. And if you think some of these picks are wacky, wait until you see our Pick of the Week bet tomorrow…

NFLbets’ Best Bets for NFL week 11

• Chicago Bears -2½ vs Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears alternate logo -- NFLbetsThe Vikings have been beating up the bookmakers real good this season, thus far going 6-2-1 ATS. Therefore is NFLbets already expecting some regression to the mean; with the point spread in this game set under a field goal (thereby essentially making this a “pick ‘em”), we figure the only question about betting this game is “Do you believe the 2018 Chicago Bears are a playoff team?” If so, you believe they win this game SU and ATS. And we do.

• Houston Texans -3 at Washington
Houston Texans alternate logo -- NFLbetsLike Minnesota, Washington has been defying the sportsbooks’ expectations all season long, going 6-3 ATS through 10 weeks. But who outside the D.C. locker room is confident that Washington is a playoff team at all, much less a legitimate contender for, likesay, a 10-6 SU record. Coming into the capitol is the hottest team in the NFL, as the Texans are riding a 6-0 SU (4-2 ATS) win streak by playing smart football and doing just enough to win. NFLbets is letting it ride on the Texans.

• Indianapolis Colts -1½ vs Tennessee Titans
Indianapolis Colts alternate logo -- NFLbetsAgain, we’re taking a holistic approach to this one. If the numbers trend to middling, you’ve got to love the parity that comes with a Colts win: Depending on the result of the Bengals-Ravens game, some five AFC teams would be at 5-5 SU and bucking for the no. 6 seed in the playoffs. O, and the Titans are 6-3 ATS right now. Go Colts!

• Carolina Panthers -4½ at Detroit Lions
Carolina Panthers alternate logo -- NFLbets
Combine Matt Patricia’s seemingly deliberate attempt to alienate his players with the Panthers playing indoors after a long week preceded by an embarrassing loss and what do you get? A Lions loss by more than 4½ points, NFLbets’d say.


The Pre-Thanksgiving Week Thing and one good parlay

Atlanta Falcons alternate logo -- NFLbetsPoring through recent stats has led NFLbets to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, NFL franchises even beyond the regular hosts in Detroit and Dallas have mastered the art of scheduling Thanksgiving games.

Going back to 2012, we found that all teams were good for a 27-8-1 SU mark the week prior to a Thanksgiving Day game; ATS, these teams were 24-11-1 – records of better than .750 and .667 winning percentages, respectively. In four of the six years considered, pre-Thanksgiving Day contestants went 5-1 SU, though in three years teams managed just a 3-3 ATS record.

So this year in the pre-Thanksgiving week, the half-dozen teams going in week 11 – and why don’t the Thanksgiving Day teams ever get a bye before, eh? – are the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas and Washington. Making things simpler for the NFL bettor, the Falcons and Cowboys play in Atlanta this week.

And since we’ve already eliminated Detroit and Washington as possibilities to win SU, NFLbets is suggesting a three-team money line (ML) parlay this week: Take the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints to win SU. As of this writing on Saturday, this parlay should pay out at about 5/2 odds. If you give the points on Chicago and Atlanta (-3 vs Dallas), those odds increase to 7/2 or so – not a bad weekend’s worth of “work,” heh heh…

Jump on this incredible "Risk Free Bet" on the Bears @ Lions Full Game (ATS) Against The Spread on November 28th, 2019 - brought to us from