Thanksgiving in America means three things; family, turkey and football. The famous old tradition of NFL on Thanksgiving Thursday rolls around again with three more games to celebrate ‘Turkey Day’ and Paul Higham is here to preview them all.
Detroit may be the only team yet to win a game in the NFL this season, but despite a recent history of being an extremely bad team they’re the founders of this sporting tradition as Thanksgiving football started in Motor City way back in 1934.
The Dallas Cowboys then came onboard as regular hosts in the 1960s before a third game, with no specific host, was added to the schedule in 2006 and since then we’ve been treated to a triple-header of pigskin action.
Here’s what’s on the menu this Thanksgiving Thursday.
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
The Bears are regulars in the Thanksgiving slot, having played 36 times only the regular hosts Detroit and Dallas have appeared more often. And maybe winless Detroit will be thankful they face a 3-7 team who could potentially offer up their first ‘W’ of the season.
Chicago are actually in worse form than Detroit having lost their last five, while the Lions have a tied game in there, and the Bears are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Baltimore where they lost starting QB Justin Fields to a rib injury.
There’s also more uncertainty regarding head coach Matt Nagy’s future with reports circulating that this could be his last game in charge. He’s continually underachieved at Soldier Field and this looks like his final season in charge regardless.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 23, 2021
Detroit’s first-year coach Dan Campbell suffered another emotional defeat against Cleveland with a three-point loss coming on the back of that tie against Pittsburgh. It seems that no matter how well they play or close they get the Lions find a way not to win.
And that’s the problem here, as both of these two like to throw games away, so will it be Detroit’s Jared Goff or Chicago’s Andy Dalton, both quarterbacks who take a lot of stick, who will get a rare victory, or will one of them throw it away?
Campbell will have his Lions fired up, as will the crowd, you can bank on that. You can also bank on there not being too many points as they’ve got half-decent defences at times but struggle to put points up, going high on field goals looks a nice way in on this game.
Player-wise, Bears receiver Darnell Mooney showed his big-play ability last week and had 16 targets so had plenty of chances, he’s 8/5 to score here and he’d be my best shout, while Lions RB De’Andre Swift is by far their biggest playmaker.
Swift is fifth among running backs with 975 total yards but note that he leads the league in receptions for his position while adding the second-most receiving yards for a running back at 420. You could do worse than back Swift to catch a TD pass at 4/1.
Chicago look to have a better balance to win this one, but you could not back either of these with any confidence at the moment!
Best bet: Over 3.5 field goals at 13/10
Las Vegas Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys head into their regular Thanksgiving slot after a humbling loss at Kansas City, but the Raiders offer them a great bounce-back opportunity as their regular slump after a promising start seems to be well underway.
Las Vegas have had their off-field problems to deal with of course, but their three-game losing skid is nothing new and the 96-43 aggregate score over those three games shows why they’re ranked way down in 26th in points allowed.
They should prove the perfect remedy for a Dallas attack that still has the most yards per game and third-most points per game despite taking a 19-9 thumping in Kansas City just two weeks after being hammered by Denver.
Top receiver Amari Cooper is out and fellow pass-catcher CeeDee Lamb is a concussion doubt, while star rusher Ezekiel Elliott is slowed with a knee injury so they have problems to solve and questions to answer, but a firing Dak Prescott should be able to find those answers.
Thanksgiving & 🏈 = a winning combination!
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) November 24, 2021
The Cowboys being 7.5-point favourites is fair enough and they’d cover that easily at full strength but those injuries just offer enough doubt to provide some caution, but there’s plenty to go at in terms of the player props.
I think we’ll see a large dose of Tony Pollard with Elliott obviously slowed and coming off a short week. Pollard has got plenty of gas and 40 rushing yards (17/20) for him should be no problem – he could rip a large chunk of that off in one run. He’ll also find the end zone here at 19/10.
Dallas will be all over Vegas QB Derek Carr and when that happens his favourite outlet is tight end Darren Waller – who is one of the best in the game and will grab over six catches here at 17/20 all day long.
Dallas rookie Micah Parsons will be breathing down Carr’s neck all game, and that will lead to the Vegas QB throwing at least two interceptions here. He threw two in his last away game at the Giants and they don’t have Trevon Diggs – who leads the league in interceptions this season.
It’s almost 3/1 when you add in two interceptions for Carr into the Bet Builder function and it’s a great price for a nice perfectly plausible bet that may not ordinarily be at the top of everybody’s list.
Best bet: Derek Carr to throw 2+ interceptions at 29/10
A look at the playoff picture going into Week 12… pic.twitter.com/ksuyPDBygX
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) November 24, 2021
Buffalo Bills @ New Orleans Saints
Our final stop on this Thanksgiving festival of football is New Orleans where the hurting Bills visit the slumping Saints with both sides having alarm bells ringing when it comes to play-off places they thought they had all wrapped up.
New Orleans have lost their last three games, two of them by just two points each, to be left clinging to the final playoff spot in the NFC, while the Bills had looked dominant before losing two of the last three, and three of five, to lose first place in the AFC East to the streaking Patriots. The Bills have to play the Pats twice next month.
These two just perfectly encapsulate what’s been a head-scratching season in the NFL. Buffalo had the league’s top offence when losing 9-6 to the lowly Jaguars, before having their top points-scoring defence obliterated by Jonathan Taylor as the Colts hung 40 points on them. Meanwhile, the Saints had their top rushing defence steamrollered by the Eagles to the tune of 242 yards!
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) November 24, 2021
It’s taking the “any given Sunday” mantra to a new level this season.
So both teams need a response from their defences, and both need more spark on offence, but it’ll be a particular problem for New Orleans with QB Trevor Siemian completing just 56.9 per cent of his passes this season going up against a Bills defence with the second-most interceptions in the league.
The star Saints running back Alvin Kamara is dealing with injuries and their offensive tackles are hurt so it’s a patched-up New Orleans team that will hope Buffalo QB Josh Allen continues to struggle with ball security. Allen has thrown five picks in the last three games after throwing just three in the first seven matches.
Stefon Diggs has five TDs in his last five for Buffalo, but tight end Dawson Knox feels like the best shout for a touchdown scorer at 11/5. He had five in his first five before injury slowed his progress, but 10 targets last week shows he’s now up to speed.
You can never rule out the Saints at the Superdome, but there just seems a bit more to do for them with all their injury worries. They should make it a really tough defensive battle though.
Best bet: Under 46.5 points at 4/5