We've arrived at Week 12 of the NFL regular season, and that means the special three-game Thanksgiving slate. Happy Thanksgiving to all of the readers, and I hope that things are back to normal this holiday season after a tumultuous and strange 2020.
Let's get started!
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (O/U 41.5, 12:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Ahh, tradition. I don't know how it goes in your home, but by the time kickoff for the traditional Lions game is about to get underway at my house, that's when the house is starting to smell good. The scent of turkey is wafting through the downstairs, usually there are some sort of baked goodies and their smells mixing in, guests might even start to arrive. There is a cacophony of friends and relatives catching up. It's what the Lions game is all about, as you generally cast a glance at the TV, but they're generally so bad there isn't much reason to watch intently. That is, unless you wager on the game.
The Bears saw QB Justin Fields exit Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens due to an injury to his ribs. In stepped veteran QB Andy Dalton, and he tossed two second-half touchdowns to make things interesting. The Bears had WRs Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin go over 100 yards, and Chicago's offense looked awfully potent against a good Ravens D.
On Monday, Bears head coach Matt Nagy said the team is "still gathering facts" on the injury to Fields, and by Tuesday Nagy announced that Dalton will start Thursday, with Fields still the starter once he is healthy enough to play. That likely means QB Nick Foles will serve as the backup Thursday with the quick turnaround.
Dalton is 1-1 in two starts this season, while completing 48-of-73 passes for 471 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in those two starts and two relief appearances.
The Bears have hit the UNDER in seven of the past nine games overall, although the offense was starting to see some progress with Fields under center prior to the bye, going for 22 and 27 in the previous two games. The defense has been giving lately, allowing 16, 29, 33, 38 and 24, and the team recently lost LB Khalil Mack (foot surgery) for the rest of the season.
These teams met in Week 4 in Chicago, and the Bears picked up a 24-14 win as the UNDER connected. QB Jared Goff faced Fields in that one. Goff was out last week in Cleveland due to an oblique injury, but he is reportedly trending toward playing Thursday. Is that a good thing? Well, it can't be worse than the first NFL start by QB Tim Boyle, who passed for just 77 yards and two interceptions against the Browns.
The Lions are on a 7-1 UNDER run, with the offense amassing 10, 16, 6, 19, 11, 17, 14, 17 and 17 in the past nine games since a 33-point outburst in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. Detroit's defense has been surprisingly stout, allowing 16 in a tie to Pittsburgh in Week 10, and just 13 on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland in Week 11.
Thanksgiving kind of like the Super Bowl for the Lions, and we all know they're not going there anytime soon. People tune in on Thanksgiving and see the Lions, perhaps the only time all season if you're a casual fan or bettor. And generally, the Lions put on a show. The OVER is 7-2 in the past nine Thanksgiving games for the Lions, including 2-1 in the past three since 2014 against the Bears. And, while this is a total piece, we can help you formulate a possible parlay. The Lions have covered six of the past nine on Thanksgiving, although they are 1-3 ATS in the past four on the holiday.
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (O/U 50.5, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
This is one of two non-conference matchups on the holiday. In Week 11, games featuring AFC vs. NFC teams went a perfect 5-0 to the UNDER. The Cowboys were involved in one of those games, a 19-9 loss on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Like the Lions, the Cowboys generally put on a show on Thanksgiving. The OVER has connected in four of the past six for Dallas on Turkey Day, including last season against the Washington Football Team, a 41-16 beatdown from the visitors. The only two Thanksgiving games which haven't gone OVER for the Cowboys in the past six seasons each involved AFC opponents, the Buffalo Bills in 2019, and the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. The last time the OVER cashed on Thanksgiving for the Cowboys against an AFC foe was Nov. 2013 against the then-Oakland Raiders.
The Cowboys enter the holiday on a 4-0 UNDER run after a 4-0 OVER streak from Weeks 3-8. Dallas has had a little bit of a power outage on offense, going for 20, 16, 43 and 9, and that 43 is a bit of an anomaly since it was against the lowly Atlanta Falcons in Week 10. The defense allowed just three points in the blowout win.
Dallas has hit the UNDER in each of its three previous games against AFC West foes this season, too. The UNDER easily hit in Week 2 on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers in a 20-17 win with a total of 55. The UNDER hit in the stunning 30-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 9 on a total of 50.5, and the UNDER cashed last week in a 19-9 loss on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs, not even coming close to a total of 56.
A patchwork wideout group in K.C. contributed to the most recent power outage. The Cowboys have WR Amari Cooper, an unvaccinated player, isolating at home. He missed last week's game, and due to league protocol rules, he must also miss a minimum of 10 days, so he will be sidelined for Thursday's game as well. To compound things, WR CeeDee Lamb left Sunday's game at Arrowhead after banging his head on the turf in the end zone. He was able to take part in team meetings, and head coach Mike McCarthy said Lamb is "making progress". It sounds possible Lamb could play, but it's quite a turnaround from sustaining a concussion Sunday, to blowing through the protocols and being able to play on a short week. Obviously Lamb's status is huge to the offense, and to total bettors.
If Lamb joins Cooper on the shelf, that would leave WR Michael Gallup as the lead receiver, with WRs Noah Brown and/or Cedrick Wilson likely starting opposite him. TE Dalton Schultz would likely see an uptick in targets, too, but he isn't a downfield threat. None of the guys listed above are, really, so the Dallas offense could be rather methodical once again, leaning upon RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard quite a bit. Zeke also limped off briefly last Sunday, and his practice status for Monday was estimated to be limited. And OT Tyron Smith is nursing an ankle, and his absence was huge Sunday, too.
As far as the Raiders are concerned, they have cooled significantly. The past three weeks the offense has managed 13, 14 and 16 points against the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants, hitting the UNDER in two of those outings. The UNDER is also 2-1 in three games against NFC teams this season, including the only other previous road game against the Giants.
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints (O/U 45.5, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC)
Perhaps the most interesting game of the day will be the nightcap in the Crescent City. We have two angry teams desperately searching for a win. We could see quite the battle, and perhaps that leads to gadget plays and an uptick in points, too.
The Bills hit the OVER last week in its home loss against the Indianapolis Colts, but it was no credit to the offense. It contributed just 15 points in the 26-point loss in front of an incensed Bills Mafia. Prior to that the Bills hung a 45-spot on the New York Jets on the road, hitting the OVER in each of the past two weeks in a totally different way.
Buffalo has faced just one NFC team to date, topping Washington 43-21 in western New York in Week 3 for an easy OVER. The schedule is backloaded with four NFC teams on tap in the next six games, starting with the Saints.
It's hard to get a read on where the Bills are right now, but it's mostly not good. They have 15, 45, 6 and 26 across the past four outings, splitting the OVER/UNDER 2-2. The OVER has the edge in road games so far at 3-2.
The good news is that Buffalo has an MVP candidate under center in QB Josh Allen. The same cannot be said for New Orleans, who will start QB Trevor Siemian for the third consecutive game. The Bills are relatively healthy, too, as only WR Cole Beasley (ribs) and LB Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring) are listed on the injury report. Edmunds went full Tuesday, while Beasley was limited.
Since Siemian took the reins of the offense, the team has a respectable 29, 21 and 25 points over the past three weekends. The OVER is 3-0 in Siemian's starts, and 4-0 in his four appearances to date. That includes a 23-21 loss in Tennessee, his only start against an AFC foe so far. The only other game against an AFC foe for the Saints this season was its 28-13 win in New England in Week 3, just UNDER a 43.5 number. The OVER is also 6-1 in the past seven games overall for the Saints.
The big news for the Saints is the status of RB Alvin Kamara, who has missed the past two games due to a knee injury. It appears he is trending toward missing a third consecutive outing, as he was not spotted anywhere at practice Tuesday.
In an alarming bit of news, RB Mark Ingram II, his fill-in last week, was also not spotted at practice Tuesday, not was DE Marcus Davenport. And OT Landon Young will have season-ending foot injury, adding to the team's injury woes. Young started last week in Philadelphia with both regular OTs Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk down with injuries. Oh, and TE Adam Trautman, who looked solid against the Eagles with several grabs and a touchdown, is expected to miss at least a month with a knee. Of the players listed above, only Armstead was able to take part in a limited practice Tuesday.
The Saints offense could be a mish-mash of players, both on the O-line and in the backfield. RB Tony Jones would start if Ingram and Kamara cannot go, with hybrid RB-WR Ty Montgomery also likely seeing touches. But with the team already down to Siemian under center, it could be a slow go for the offense against an angry and embarrassed Bills D looking to prove itself again.
The UNDER was 2-1 in the three primetime games in Week 11. The UNDER has produced a 16-14-1 (53.3%) clip in 31 primetime games so far this season.
Last week's predictions were so-so at 3-1 (+200), just misfiring on the Packers-Vikings in the teaser portion. That's a season total of 9-3 and (+650). Let's continue building that bankroll for Thanksgiving and down the stretch.
Best Over: Over 41.5 Bears at Lions
Best Under: Under 50.5 Raiders at Cowboys
Best First-Half Total: Over 22.5 Bills at Saints
Three-Team Total Teaser (+7, +135)
Over 34.5 Bears at Lions
Under 57.5 Raiders at Cowboys
Over 38.5 Bills at Saints