Underdogs To Devour Thanksgiving Day GamesNoah Williams
The Thanksgiving Day slate of NFL games always provides a great reason to skip out on ho-hums of November and guzzle down libations with friends and family, and this year’s matchups are no exception. Two massive divisional games sandwich an intra-conference contest with a mammoth betting line. Where is your money safe this Turkey Day? Read on to find out.
Since losing Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have been mired in a horrifying 0-3-1 SU and 0-4 ATS streak. More injuries to their backups have caused them to turn to an old friend – the one and only Matt Flynn. Lions fans must be cringing. Even though it’s been nearly two years since it happened, Detroit remembers the Week 17 breakout game where Flynn demolished them for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns playing in relief of Rodgers.
Can he do it again? The chances are better than you think. Flynn is familiar with this Green Bay offence, and while he flamed out spectacularly in Oakland (and Seattle) you have to keep in mind that he might be the type of quarterback that thrives when surrounded by a quality supporting cast. Few teams can boast the potency that Green Bay has with Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy and James Jones on offence.
Detroit has long been a red herring this season in terms of betting. Their high powered offence and superstar name value have lulled many gamblers to their side of the line. This team should be a legitimate playoff contender, but their 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS record over the past five weeks suggests otherwise. It’s easy to assume that Calvin Johnson will score whenever he touches the ball, but the Lions have been inept at getting the ball in to his hands lately.
This game essentially boils down to coaching. Mike McCarthy is one of the best in the NFL, and has a Super Bowl ring to prove it. He also dominated Jim Schwartz earlier this year during a 22-9 victory in October. Schwartz isn’t just on the hot seat in Detroit – he is being outted as a coaching buffoon that has seriously limited creativity on both sides of the ball. He has routinely abandoned the run and refuses to use a short passing game and that makes the Lions easier to defend than you’d assume.
What this game boils down to, however, is passing defense. The Packers have problems, but they also have serious talent throughout their third level. Turnovers have not come easy for this defense overall but they are still very gifted, and they have dominated Detroit annually. The Packers are 5-0 SU and ATS when playing Detroit.
This will either be a tight game all the way through as both teams burn down the scoreboard, or Schwartz will coach himself in to a corner yet again. In a game that has so many x-factors, the one that you have to bet against is that lousy Detroit secondary. They have been the main reason that Detroit has lost its last two games and they’ll be the reason the Lions give up their third in a row.
You have to remember that all the expectations heaped on the Dallas Cowboys (click here to read their past Thanksgiving Day follies) exist because this team is one of the most talented in the NFL. Tony Romo has a lot of issues, but he is also a playmaker that has Dez Bryant and Jason Witten at his disposal. Dallas has been limping through the last three weeks without Sean Lee at middle linebacker and there are reports that he will play this weekend. If he suits up, Dallas is the team to back here. He is perhaps the most important defensive player on this roster.
Oakland has looked better with Matt McGloin at quarterback, but they are still just 1-3 SU in their last four games. They have struggled to maintain any sort of consistency on offence, and while their defense has done pretty well considering their low ceiling, they’re still surrendering 27.4 points against in their last five matchups. The Raiders have proven to be scrappy given the right circumstances, and the betting community loves them with the point cushion this weekend, but I have serious doubts. Even with a tempting spread, I can’t bring myself to encourage a play on Oakland.
Dallas has experienced a wide range of heart breaking losses on Thanksgiving Day, but there is nothing in Oakland that suggests an upset is coming. Follow the lead of the oddsmakers in this one.
DALLAS COWBOYS -9.5 over Oakland Raiders
At just 2-4 SU and 3-3 ATS in their last 6 games, the Ravens have looked absolutely terrible. They have pushed two games in to over time, have never looked like a championship caliber squad and haven’t scored more than 20 points in the past six weeks. Joe Flacco doesn’t have that many weapons to begin with, and this defense has looked out of sorts overall.
The Steelers are finally hitting their stride after a tumultuous start to the year and have gone 3-0 SU and ATS in their last three games. Big Ben has been a stud in those matchups, throwing 7 touchdowns and surrendering just one interception. With a passing game that is firing on all cylinders, and a stable rushing game built around Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh offers tremendously strong value as a road dog this weekend. They haven’t just been winning games for the past few weeks – they’ve dominated. I expect them to demolish a Ravens team that has looked anything but reliable in the Thanksgiving Day night game.
Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 over BALTIMORE RAVENS