For those non-American NFL fans, like myself, Thanksgiving is a glorious day of bonus football. We don’t have to cook up a feast or spend the day with family we’d rather not talk to. We can just kick back after work and enjoy some quality football – or in this years case, ‘enjoy’ the Eagles and Lions. As a result of having 3 games on Thursday I thought it would be best to put up a separate Thanksgiving picks piece early for you all. You’ll still get the usual Friday picks with a break-down of how I managed to go 0-2-1 on my best bets (sorry). As always the lines are from WIlliam Hill and the home teams are in capitals…
Philadelphia Eagles (+1) over DETROIT LIONS
The Eagles defense was MIA last week as Tampa Bay sauntered to an easy win, while the Lions defense has put in two good performances to get Detroit back in the win column the last two weeks. I’m picking the Eagles because I don’t expect those trends to continue this week. Winning games when scoring only 18 points is a very difficult thing to do, and it’s not like the Lions have played a pair of elite defenses. Against Philly they face the best set of defensive linemen and edge rushers they have in a while and that should be enough to limit their offense even more. Personally I don’t think it matters too much if Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez are under center for the Eagles – they are both bad quarterbacks in a system that seems to have stagnated recently – but there are still bright spots and highlights. DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles can still move the ball and Josh Huff has been a nice surprise at receiver. I think the Eagles have more explosion and ability on offense and that should be the difference here.
Carolina Panthers (PK) over DALLAS COWBOYS (BEST BET)
That’s right, the 10-0 Panthers are merely a pick against the 3-7 Dallas Cowboys. Why? Well for one, Dallas on Thanksgiving is a big money draw. Lots of people will put money on them just because they’re Dallas and it’s Thanksgiving. That action has to be considered in the line, moving it a few points toward Carolina. The Cowboys are also 3-0 this season when Tony Romo plays. With Romo back, the Cowboys offense is no longer totally reliant on the ground game, which will allow it to be more efficient as teams can’t stack the box to stop them. The Cowboys offensive line, particularly the left side, is kicking it into high gear now and their clash against a very good Carolina defensive line will go a long way to deciding this game. There’s also the small matter of Greg Hardy playing against his old team for the first time and the fact that Carolina don’t have a player capable of blocking him. So why pick Carolina? Their defense is strong top to bottom. Their safety pair of Kurt Coleman and Roman Harper have been surprisingly excellent all year, they have the best linebacker pair in the NFL in Luke Kuchley and Thomas Davis and one of the best corners in Josh Norman to work against Dez Bryant. On offense, Jonathan Stewart has been potent all season and Cam Newton is getting the best out of a flimsy receiver corps. This will be a low scoring, tight affair, but I think Carolina should be giving a field goal here, so I’ll take them on a pick all day long and lock it in as a Best Bet this week.
Chicago Bears (+9) over GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers got themselves back on track last week with a good win against Minnesota while Chicago pushed Denver close but came up short. The good thing for Chicago is that both Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery are expected to play in this game which should greatly help their offense. Not that it’s been bad – Jay Cutler is having one of his best seasons in Chicago, throwing fewer interceptions as Adam Gase seems to have toned down his gunslinger nature this year. There’s also a small chance that the Bears 1st round pick, Kevin White, could play as he’s been activated. The Bears defense is also playing better than it has done before. Willie Young and the defensive line caused Denver a lot of problems and the coverage was decent. I think the years of Green Bay crushing Chicago when they come to Lambeau are fading away now. The Packers offense has looked very fallible this season without Jordy Nelson, who has long been the thorn in the side for Chicago. Their running game is very hit-and-miss and the defense can go from ok to downright dreadful seemingly on a whim. Are they going to win this match? Probably. But I don’t think it will be easy, and in any case, +9 is a nice spot for a backdoor cover. I’ll be back tomorrow with rest of my Best Bets and the weekends picks but for now enjoy your Thanksgiving football. I hope our American readers have a good day and don’t get too injured in Black Friday shopping.