Nothing can quell the excitement of NFL fans when it comes to Thanksgiving Day football. The Lions are a winless 0-9-1? Who cares? Maybe they’ll finally get a win against a skidding Bears team. The Cowboys, a team that just scored nine points, are taking on the reeling Raiders? Let’s see which team will snap out of its funk.
Yes, no matter how lopsided (or bad) the matchups may be, NFL fans will be locked into all three games, including the Saints vs. Bills night game. That’s due in part to the tradition, but it’s also because NFL viewers are, frankly, happy to watch any of the league’s offerings — no matter how much they complain about bad coaching, play or officiating.
Of course, some might be watching the Thanksgiving Day games because they are betting on the action. Thanksgiving Day can be a lucrative one for bettors, as the time crunch between Weeks 11 and 12 of the season creates extra variables to which casual gamblers may not pay as much attention. That’s why it’s important to keep track of the latest NFL odds, trends and point spreads to see if there are any good values on the Thanksgiving Day slate.
Per usual, injuries are having a big impact on wagers that gamblers may consider. We don’t know who will be quarterbacking either the Bears or the Lions in their early-afternoon game. The Cowboys are going to be down a couple of receivers for their late-afternoon game as well.
Meanwhile, the Saints are hoping that Alvin Kamara and the team’s two starting offensive tackles will be able to return to action. The short week could complicate things a bit for New Orleans.
All six of the teams playing on Thanksgiving lost in Week 11, so all will be looking to bounce back and win in Week 12. Does that mean games will be closer than expected? Or will the games with large talent disparities see the superior side bring its A-game and earn an easy victory outright and against the spread? Soon enough, we’ll find out.
NFL WEEK 12 PICKS: Against the spread | Straight up
NFL odds for Thanksgiving 2021
Below are the latest NFL odds for Thanksgiving Day, including point spreads, money lines and over-under totals for every game, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Last updated: Tuesday, Nov. 23.
NFL point spreads
|Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions||CHI -3.5|
|Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys||DAL -7|
|Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints||BUF -4|
NFL money lines
|Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions||CHI -190|
|Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys||DAL -330|
|Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints||BUF -210|
|Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions||41.5|
|Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys||51|
|Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints||46.5|
NFL best bets for Thanksgiving games
Raiders (+7) at Cowboys
The Cowboys are probably going to beat the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day, but expecting Dallas to win by a touchdown-plus to earn a cover seems like a bit much. Why? It’s all about his receiving weapons — or lack thereof.
Dak Prescott was always going to be short on receiving talent heading into Thanksgiving, as Amari Cooper tested positive for COVID-19 last week. He is unvaccinated, so he was out in Week 11 and will miss Week 12 too.
Cooper’s absence in Week 11 was the first game since 2018 that Prescott didn’t have Cooper at his disposal. It made a big impact on the result, as the Cowboys’ passing offense sputtered. Prescott threw for just 216 yards and two interceptions. The Cowboys scored just nine points.
Were this just a one-time thing, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. However, Prescott has struggled without Cooper in the past. Just look at his per-game splits in 2018 before the Cowboys traded for Cooper and after them. Cooper proved to be a massive, necessary upgrade to the team’s receiving corps.
|Dak Prescott||Completion %||Passing yards||Passing TDs||Interceptions|
|With Amari Cooper||71.3||274.2||1.6||0.4|
|Without Amari Cooper||62.1||202.4||1.1||0.6|
That was a few seasons ago, but it stands to reason that Dallas will be a bit more sluggish on offense than usual. That’s especially true considering that CeeDee Lamb, the team’s other dynamic receiver, is dealing with a concussion and is unlikely to play on Thursday as well.
Prescott has also struggled when left tackle Tyron Smith has been out of action. Smith has missed the Cowboys’ last three games with an injury, and Prescott’s performances in those outings have paled in comparison to his games with Smith during the 2021 NFL season.
|Dak Prescott||Completion %||Passing yards||Passing TDs||Interceptions||Times sacked|
|With Tyron Smith||73.2||302.2||2.7||0.7||1.3|
|Without Tyron Smith||62.8||248||1.3||1||2.3|
So, if those three key playmakers — Cooper, Lamb and Smith — are all out on Thursday, the Raiders may have a better chance than most realize to keep this thing close. And I know, the Raiders have lost three consecutive games by at least a TD, so they’re not the most appealing bet, but they trailed the Bengals by just three points with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter last week. They just fell apart.
If Derek Carr can avoid turnovers, the Raiders should cover this spread in a close, low-scoring game. The UNDER 51 (-115) also seems like a great bet in this game, as the two sides shouldn’t combine for more than 50 points unless Prescott has a surprisingly huge game.
NFL POWER RANKINGS: Cowboys slip after loss vs. Chiefs
Bears at Lions: UNDER 41.5 (-105)
Betting the under is never fun, especially when you’re doing it in a stand-alone game. Like, c’mon, do you really want to root against teams scoring? What’s the fun in that?
Well, the fun is fading two of the worst offenses in the NFL and getting to laugh at their ineptitude while stuffing your face full of turkey.
The Lions and Bears are both in shambles on offense. Detroit has no weapons at the receiver position and will rely on tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift to do a bulk of the damage in this one. Those players will either have to overcome playing with a banged-up Jared Goff at quarterback or Tim Boyle, who threw for 77 yards and two interceptions in his starting debut. He had a QBR of 6.7 during the game.
As for Chicago, they have some solid pieces. Darnell Mooney is emerging as a potential No. 1 receiver; David Montgomery is a solid running back; even quarterback Justin Fields has potential and has put forth some solid efforts this season.
Here’s the problem. One, Fields is hurt. That means Andy Dalton will play if Fields’ bruised ribs don’t heal quickly. Two, Matt Nagy is the team’s coach.
Nagy once won the NFL’s Coach of the Year award, but it feels like that was in another lifetime. He hasn’t done anything with the Bears’ offense for years, and in 2021, they are averaging just 287.9 yards per game, which is second-fewest in the NFL ahead of only the Texans. And in terms of points per game, they rank fourth-worst with 16.3 points per game. That’s ahead of the Texans, Jaguars and — you guessed it — the Lions.
This game should be a low-scoring one. Neither team is getting consistent quarterback play and neither offense is particularly explosive. The Bears won 24-14 earlier in the season over the Lions, and that was when the Bears were actually playing OK. They’re playing worse, so expecting a 17-14-type game could be in the cards this week.
NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: Updated AFC, NFC seeds, matchups after Week 11
Bills (-4) at Saints
Look, I know that the Bills haven’t performed well of late. They’re just 2-3 in their last five games and they haven’t beaten many good teams this year. Their best win, which came against the Chiefs, is certainly impressive, but aside from that, they’ve largely beaten weaker competition.
Still, the Bills should be favored here for a simple reason. The Saints, as currently constructed, are weaker competition. The team has lost three games in a row with Trevor Siemian starting at quarterback in place of Jameis Winston and their offense has been rather punchless during their losing streak.
Some will point to the fact that the Saints had 29 points against the Eagles last week. However, Philadelphia led 33-7 heading into the final quarter and took its foot off the gas late. That allowed the Saints to get some garbage-time points and make the score look better than it did.
The Saints won’t have the same luxury against the Bills. Sure, the Colts just dropped 41 on them, but they did it almost exclusively running the ball. The Saints won’t have the same luxury unless Alvin Kamara returns from a knee injury that has sidelined him each of the last two weeks.
Even if Kamara does return, both of the team’s top offensive tackles, Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, missed the game against the Eagles. That significantly weakened the Saints’ front and allowed the Eagles to get pressure on them and blow up running plays with ease. The Bills and their deep, athletic defensive line should do the same.
Betting against the Saints as a home underdog has been a losing strategy in the past. They are 8-3 against the spread as a home dog since 2011. That cover percentage of 72.7 is the third-best in the NFL over the last decade.
But this simply isn’t the same Saints team fans have come to know over the years. It’s not as explosive offensively and if they get behind, they will have trouble coming back in this one. Maybe if Kamara, Armstead and Ramczyk can return, the Saints will be a nice value. But for now, the better play would be to roll with the Bills as they look to bounce back off a humiliating 41-15 loss to the Colts.