The Thanksgiving week is always 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 home and road teams for the holidays. One of the main talking points is whether or not it’s easier to be completely away from your family and focused on business or be at home and be able to spend time together before or after the game.
Detroit and Dallas are, of course, used to it since they play at home on Thanksgiving every season. Their opponents sometimes aren’t and the league added a prime-time game a few years ago, which has been a division game more often than not, but will not be one this season.
One of the Thanksgiving games stands out to me with an early look at lines I like for Week 12. The others come from Sunday.
Buffalo Bills (-4.5, 46.5) at New Orleans Saints
There is something seriously wrong with the Bills. Buffalo has really struggled with comparable or better competition this season, with the exception of the Chiefs game, in which the Bills were plus-four in turnover margin. After a sound beating from the Colts, Buffalo has to right the ship quickly before Thursday night’s game in New Orleans.
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 Bills defense against Jonathan Taylor and the Colts' rushing attack. New Orleans lacks playmakers with Alvin Kamara banged up and no Michael Thomas this season.
The Saints didn’t play as poorly as allowing 40 points would suggest and the Bills face a much weaker rushing attack this week. With the way that Buffalo's offense is misfiring, I see 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 against the Seahawks in bad weather coming off of the week and a half he missed with COVID-19. He looked great against the Vikings this past weekend and should have quieted all of the 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. It was the best of the bunch, as those teams went 3-0 ATS (with the Giants pending) 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 Los Angeles in this one, especially heading outside to Lambeau Field.
The Rams looked bad going into the bye week, as they struggled with the Titans and 49ers after playing some of the league’s worst teams, like the Giants, Lions and Texans. The Packers are one of the league’s best teams.
Perhaps Los Angeles rights the ship and beats a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but I’ll pay to see it and lay the -2.
Pick: Packers -2
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-4.5, 46.5)
When these two teams played last season, the Ravens scored 85 points in the two regular-season meetings. The first game was the opener of the season, so it wasn’t a great spot for the Browns with a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski and all sorts of growing pains.
In the second game, though, Baltimore scored 47 points and won late when Lamar Jackson came back from the locker room after getting some treatment for cramps and won a wild one over the Browns. Baltimore did lead that game 34-20 before Cleveland scored 22 fourth-quarter points. The Ravens averaged 6.5 YPP 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.
The last two Browns home games have been played in tough weather conditions with some 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.
You might want to wait a little on this one, as the recent returns may lead to some money on the under, but I see points in this game.
Pick: Over 46.5