Thanksgiving week is a bit of a tricky one for NFL handicappers. Six teams play on short rest with the annual Turkey Day trio of games. There are a lot of different schools of thought regarding teams playing at home or on the road during Thanksgiving. Is it easier for players to be completely away from family and focused on business, or is it better for them to be at home and get the chance to spend time with family before or after the game.
The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are, of course, used to it by playing at home on Thanksgiving. Their opponents sometimes aren’t.
One of this season’s Thanksgiving games — Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints — is among those that stand out for bettors heading into Week 12 of the season. Here’s a look at three games with early intriguing betting lines:
Buffalo Bills (-4.5, 46.5) at New Orleans Saints
There is something seriously wrong with the Bills. Buffalo has struggled against comparable competition. After a 34-7 beating from the Colts, the Bills have to right the ship for the trip to the Big Easy.
The Saints gave up a 40-burger to the Eagles, but the defense wasn’t nearly that bad. New Orleans held the Eagles to 4.9 yards per play, as Philadelphia ran the ball 50 times for 242 yards. The Saints couldn’t stop the run, but the Bills don’t have a strong running game. They prefer to run the offense through Josh Allen and the wide receivers.
Keep an eye throughout the week on the status of Tremaine Edmunds, who was sorely missed in the middle of the Buffalo defense against Jonathan Taylor and the Colts rushing attack. The Saints lack playmakers with Alvin Kamara banged up and no Michael Thomas.
The Saints didn’t play as badly as their loss to the Colts would suggest, and the Bills face a much weaker rushing attack this week. With the way that the Bills’ offense is misfiring, there’s strong potential for a lower-scoring game here.
Pick: Under 46.5
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-1.5, 50)
Aaron Rodgers had a pretty awful showing last week against the Seahawks in bad weather coming off of the COVID-19 reserve list. He looked great against the Vikings on Sunday and should have quieted all concerns about his play. The Packers just happened to get outscored in the 34-31 loss, a game in which several key defensive players were out.
Teams coming off of the bye had not fared well this season, until this past weekend. Teams coming off the bye went 3-0 against the spread through Sunday to improve to 8-11 ATS for the season. Good offensive teams have generally struggled to find a rhythm. That fate could be in store for the Rams, especially heading outside to Lambeau Field.
The Rams looked bad going into the bye week. They struggled against the Titans and 49ers after wins over the Giants, Lions and Texas — some of the league’s worst teams. The Packers are one of the NFL’s top teams.
Perhaps the Rams right the ship and beat a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but will bettors pay to see it and lay the -2?
Pick: Packers -2
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-4.5, 46.5)
The Ravens scored 85 points in two regular-season meetings against the Browns last season. The first game was the season opener, so it wasn’t a great benchmark for the Browns considering they had a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski.
In the second game, Baltimore scored 47 points and won late when Lamar Jackson came back from the locker room after being treated for cramps to win a wild one. Baltimore did lead that game 34-20 before Cleveland scored 22 fourth-quarter points. The Ravens had 6.5 yards per play in the first meeting and 6.8 YPP in the second. Joe Woods and the defense had no idea how to stop Baltimore.
Cleveland ’s offense has not really looked the part lately, largely because Baker Mayfield is pretty severely injured. Still, in this game, the Browns’ rushing attack can make some headway and Baltimore has not had a good defense throughout most of the season. The Ravens miss a lot of tackles and allow a lot of yards after the catch. You might want to wait a little on this one, as the recent returns may lead to a lower total, but I see points in this game.
The Browns’ last two home games have been played in tough weather, including wind and rain. There was the offensive explosion against Cincinnati just before the Patriots suffocated the Cleveland offense, but Baltimore ’s defense is not on that level at all.
Pick: Over 46.5
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