NFL Thanksgiving Day Gambling Guide

Note: Sports gambling advice is intended for recreational purposes only. All odds and lines are from William Hill US Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.

Well, there’s no way around it. I am on a definitive cold streak. I would advise you to fade my picks altogether, but I’d be worried about even that being bad advice.

To counteract my rotten streak, I’ve enlisted outside help from an amateur expert named Joey Speach. Follow him on Twitter for hot gambling tips @TwoToneTakes.

As we give thanks today, I’m extremely thankful for Joey’s assistance with this article. Hopefully we’ll have lots of winnings to be thankful about by the end of tonight. I’m not as thankful that we lost the Thursday night showdown between the Ravens and the Steelers due to a COVID postponement, but I am thankful to have any football at all in this crazy upside-down year.

Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

Spread: Houston -3
Moneyline: Houston -160, Detroit +140
Total: o/u 51.5

The lookahead for his game was Lions -1.5, but after the Lions were abysmally shut out by Carolina last week, bettors are all over Houston with over 70% of spread bets and spread money coming in on the Texans.

The Lions may get D’Andre Swift back, which could be important against Houston’s porous run defense. But Kenny Golladay is not expected to go, while Matthew Stafford is still dealing with an injured ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand. Stafford looked very limited in last Sunday’s game, but that outing may help him understand how to better grip and effectively throw the ball.

Update: Swift is officially inactive.

The Lions do have a huge advantage in that they are used to playing on Thanksgiving. Detroit is 6-2 ATS in their last eight Turkey Day games.

Both of these defenses have struggled against both the pass and run this year. Detroit is 23rd in pass defense DVOA and 24th in run defense DVOA; Houston is 24th in pass defense DVOA and 31st in run defense DVOA.

Player Props We Like

Pharoah Brown over 7.5 receiving yards (-120) // Jordan Akins over 31.5 receiving yards (-115)

With the news that Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills will both miss this game, Pharoah Brown and Jordan Akins again move up the target distribution list. Keke Coutee played 51% of snaps in relief of Cobb and Stills and only saw four targets (two catches) for just 10 yards.

With those injuries to their receivers, Houston turned to their tight ends in the passing game last week against New England. Brown would need 8 yards; he’s gone over that number three times this season, including each of the last two weeks. He ran 13 pass routes and was targeted 3 times last game. Akins has surpassed his 31.5 line four times this year; last week, he ran 24 routes to lead Houston’s tight ends and hauled in five of six targets for 83 yards.

Brown only really needs one dump-off catch in the flat to cash this bet. Akins will operate as the primary over-the-middle option in Cobb’s absence and should be able to scoop up a couple grabs to hit his number. I like Brown better if I could only pick one, but I think both guys get involved in the pass game again this week.

Brandin Cooks over 69.5 receiving yards (-115)

Since Bill O’Brien was fired, Cooks has gone over 60 receiving yards five times in six games and leads Houston in targets over that span. With Cobb and Stills set to miss the game, and given Detroit’s struggles in coverage, I’m hammering the over on Cooks’ receiving yards.

Will Fuller anytime TD (+125)

For a stretch this season, Will Fuller had found the end zone in six consecutive games, but he’s now gone scoreless in two straight. Yet again I will mention the two Houston receivers set to miss this game — one of whom scored a red zone touchdown last week — and how that should boost Fuller’s targets. I think he breaks the dry spell and finds pay dirt this week.

Matthew Stafford over 23.5 completions (+100)

Bettors are understandably wary of Stafford’s ability to throw, given his season-low 54.5% completion rate last week playing through his thumb injury. The Panthers defense doesn’t offer much resistance, so to see the Lions get shutout was surprising and concerning. But Stafford is a tough player, and while the brace he played with last week was restrictive, it just took a little time for him to get used to playing with it. In the first half, the Lions had just one possession last more than five plays. In the second half, four of five drives lasted six plays or longer.

Joey likes this number better at 22.5, which is the current line on Bovada (it’s 23.5 on William Hill — be sure to check the specific number at your book, I wouldn’t go any higher than 23.5). Stafford had completed 23 or more passes in four straight games before only hitting 18 completions last week. With Swift expected to return, and given his ability to catch easy passes out of the backfield, I’m betting on Stafford to get back over that 23 milestone, especially in a game we expect Houston to be ahead.

Update: I am much less bullish on this prop now that Swift has been ruled out.

Game Picks

Over 51.5

I want to lean towards Houston covering this spread, but last year’s Thanksgiving Lions game sticks out in my head. The Lions covered last year’s 5.5-point spread with David Blough starting at quarterback (losing to Mitch Trubisky’s Bears 24-20). Still, Deshaun Watson is a significant step up in competition from Trubisky, and Watson’s play has continued to improve in recent weeks.

If a backdoor Detroit cover scares you, consider teasing the line to Houston -2.5. I personally don’t like trading the value for the points, as I am okay with a push, but Joey is all in on the Houston -2.5 line.

I have a sneaky feeling telling me Detroit is going to win this game. So if you want to fade me on my cold streak, go with Joey’s pick of Houston -2.5 (and especially so if Swift doesn’t play).

I covered these team’s poor defenses above, and in a great matchup like this, the offenses have explosive ability. I’ll be betting on a high-scoring affair, so I’m taking the over on this game.

Update: I don’t like this over nearly as much as I did when I thought Swift was playing.

Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys

Spread: Dallas -3
Moneyline: Dallas -145, Washington +125
Total: o/u 46

What better backdrop for your Thanksgiving meal than an important NFC East matchup between two three-win teams both fighting for a playoff spot? Whoever wins this game will hold the top place in the division, at least until Sunday (and possibly beyond, depending on the outcomes of Philly-Seattle and New York-Cincinnati).

The line movement to note here is the game total, which opened at 48 and has since come down to 46. Most of the money is coming in on the Cowboys to cover, but the bets on the total are quite split. According to Covers.com, 67% of bets (the overall volume) are on the over, but a majority of the money (53%) has come in on the under. This usually means the public is betting one way while the sharp money — larger bets but of less quantity — is on the under.

The Cowboys and the Football Team are each coming off a win in the same week for the first time this season. Washington won the previous meeting in their home stadium by a dominating score of 25-3. That’s the game Andy Dalton was knocked out with a little more than six minutes to go in the third quarter, with Dallas trailing 22-3 at the time. Washington finished with six sacks that day, overwhelming a banged up Cowboys’ line that will have Zack Martin back in the lineup for this go-round.

Kyle Allen was the starter for Washington in the first meeting. He’s since been lost for the season, replaced by Comeback Player of the Year-favorite Alex Smith, who will square off with Dalton on Sunday.

Player Props We Like

Ezekiel Elliott over 16.5 rush attempts (-115)

Last week, the Cowboys rolled out their new-look offensive line with Martin at right tackle in their surprising upset over Minnesota. The offense found the most success they’d seen in weeks, and Elliott was a big part of that, rushing for 103 yards on 21 carries.

In fact, Zeke has gone over this 16.5 carry line in three straight games, including against the tough Pittsburgh run defense when he put up just 51 yards on 18 carries.

This isn’t a bet on Zeke to run well against a tough Washington front, it’s a bet on the Cowboys to commit to running, whether successfully or not. I believe they will commit to it and think Zeke is a shoe-in for at least 17 carries.

J.D. McKissic over 3.5 receptions (-135)

Alex Smith has played in four games this year, taking at least 51% of the snaps in all four. In three of those, McKissic had eight or more targets and six or more catches. In the two games before last week’s win over Cincinnati, McKissic had 14 and 15 targets! Although listed as a running back, McKissic has essentially taken over as the team’s slot receiver.

Last week, in a dominating blow-out win over Cincinnati (as dominating and blow-out-ing as Washington can muster), McKissic had only 3 catches on 4 targets. That output is likely suppressing his line; it should be at 4.5 (or higher) in our opinion.

McKissic has gone over the 3.5 receptions mark five times in the Football Team’s last seven games. If Washington finds themselves needing to move the ball, expect Smith to look McKissic’s way. There’s a reason this line is juiced to the over (-135 isn’t exactly great value), and it’s because this prop is pretty one-sided.

Logan Thomas over 2.5 receptions (-145)

This is a bit like the McKissic pick, but it does seem like last week’s game has lowered the prop lines for some of Washington’s pass catchers. Before last week’s two-catch outing, Thomas had gone over 2.5 receptions in four straight games. On average, the Cowboys are allowing 4.4 receptions per game to tight ends, and Thomas has absolutely dominated Washington’s tight end snaps — only two other tight ends have seen the field since Week 5, and they’ve combined for two catches in that span (the last coming in Week 7).

I don’t want to call anything a “lock,” but again, there’s a reason the house has this prop’s over juiced to -145: they expect it to hit.

Game Picks

Teaser (6 points): WAS +9, Under 52 (-120)

Dallas is a lot better than they were when these teams met in Week 7, and they get to play the rematch at home. But this division matchup could be quite heated, especially from the Cowboys’ perspective as they look to get “revenge” on the hit that knocked Dalton out of the last contest.

Washington’s defense is much tougher than Minnesota’s, especially the defensive front. I think we see two teams competing to control the clock and grind out this Thursday game, leading to a close, low-scoring match.

By combining Washington’s spread with the under, we can trade value for points, teasing each line by six. That gives us a full extra touchdown on the total and a nine-point cushion for Washington.

So the pick here is a two-leg, six-point teaser; one leg on Washington to cover and the other on the under.

Note: While this article was being written, news broke that Cowboys strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul passed away Wednesday, after he was rushed to the hospital with an unnamed medical emergency Tuesday morning. Our condolences go out to his family, the Cowboys organization, and his peers and players around the league in the wake of this awful tragedy.

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