Not everyone is going to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday but football fans everywhere can be happy to celebrate a special Turkey Day Triple-Header. I try to get Week 12 off to a good start by making up some ground on the early games.
(-440) Buffalo Bills 7-3 at (+335) Detroit Lions 4-6(+9.5, O/U 54.5)
Many have echoed the sentiment that the Lions are the hottest team in football because they have won three games in a row. It certainly says something as it counts for 75% of their win total on the season but let’s not blow things out of proportion with hyperbole. Both the Patriots and the 49ers have equally long win streaks and the Chiefs, Ravens, and Dolphins all have longer win streaks, so let’s pump the breaks on this “hottest team in the league” nonsense.
Putting consecutive wins together in the NFL isn’t the easiest thing to do, so I give Detroit credit for starting to play like the team I thought they were at the beginning of the year. However, only one of the Lions’ wins came against a team with a winning record and that was against a Giants team that is dealing with a lot of injuries and looked a bit sleepy coming out of the bye week. It’s also important to keep in mind that Chicago had to cough up a 14-pt 4th quarter lead in their matchup and the Lions got away with a blatant, un-called roughing of the passer. I am not trying to discredit them, I actually like the Lions and thought they were better than their record for much of the season. I picked them many times and had to eat those Ls, but they have found ways to win lately. However, the idea that they are some kind of juggernaut all of a sudden is laughable.
The Bills had a 4-game win streak of their own not that long ago, but a pair of three-point losses certainly took some wind out of their sails. It was probably a blessing in disguise for Buffalo as it forced them to address some tactical issues and they bounced back with a win, playing in Detroit on the Lions’ field no less. They didn’t play a flawless game in their win over Cleveland but they still scored 31 points and built up an 18-point lead before surrendering some garbage time scores. So, now we get to find out what both these teams are made of in the national spotlight.
I know exactly what the Bills are bringing to the table. Buffalo’s three losses are by a combined 8 points and they blew double-digit leads in two of those because they couldn’t get out of their own way. They return to Detroit with the #2 ranked offense in both yards and points, a Top-10 defense in yards and Top-5 defense in points, and a +107 point differential (best in the league). What do the Lions bring to the table?
Well, you may think that they have the superior ground attack but you would be wrong. They do get more out of their running backs, but the Bills average more yards per game and per carry on the ground and they have a dual-threat QB. Detroit does have the 14th-ranked passing attack, but the Bills have them beaten there as well. It’s also interesting to see that the Lions have scored 30+ in their last two games and Jared Goff has 1 TD pass between them.
While the Bills’ defense has struggled a little bit, it’s still significantly better than anything the Lions have seen recently and they showed last week that they can take the run game away from even the best running teams in the league when they dedicate their energy to it. Detroit’s defense is also abysmal. They are 31st in total yards, 28th in pass YPG, 31st in rush YPG, and they are dead last in scoring at 28.2 PPG, giving up nearly 11-PPG more than the Bills who are ranked 5th.
My biggest concern for BUF would be the injuries to Tremain Edmunds, Greg Rousseau, AJ Epenesa, and Kair Elam, but the Bills are still pretty deep. Detroit has less of a luxury there as two of their starting O-linemen are out along with 3 of their 4 left defensive ends and their best cornerback in Jeff Okudah.
This game is a mismatch. Detroit’s strengths on offense play into the strengths of the Buffalo defense and the Bills’ offense poses major threats to the Lions’ defense, both on the ground and through the air. It’s a short week, so the big spread is maybe a little much but nothing of significant concern. You never know, but the Bills should roll.
Pick: BUF | ATS: BUF -9.5 | O/U: Under 54.5
(+360) NY Giants 7-3 at (-480) DAL Cowboys 7-3 (-10, O/U 45.5)
The midday game gives us an interesting NFC East rematch. It’s kind of crazy to think that the (7-3) Giants are bigger underdogs vs Dallas than the Lions vs Buffalo, but I guess recency bias is pretty strong with the oddsmakers. The G-Men got thwacked last week by the aforementioned Lions while the Cowboys did their own thwacking, taking out their Week 10 frustrations on the Vikings.
The Giants seemingly came out of their bye week worse than they went in as they have been decimated by injury. Sterling Shephard had already been lost for the season but Wan’Dale Robinson went down for the year as well last week and they might be missing 80% of their offensive line for this game. That’s not what you want when you rely on the run game to power the offense.
New York is 4th in the league rushing and that’s the area where the Cowboys’ defense is the weakest (ranked 26th), so Saquon might be effective but it’s going to be hard for New York to take advantage due to the O-line injuries. Dallas is bringing their own rush 8th ranked rush attack to the game and going up against 25th ranked NYG defense that gives up 5.3 YPC. Being equal on the ground, DAL is more explosive and healthier.
It just feels like a bad spot for the Giants who have lost two of their last three, going on the road on the short week, and going in severely shorthanded. The Boys have some defensive issues to worry about, but only Anthony Barr is listed as officially out. It is a division game so it may be close, but Dallas also beat this team when the Giants were healthy and did it with Cooper Rush at QB. Both teams are 7-3 against the spread, but I can see why the odds swelled toward the Cowboys because this could get out of hand early.
Pick: DAL | ATS: DAL -10 | O/U: Over 45.5
(+118) NE Patriots at (-140) MIN Vikings (-2.5, O/U 42.5)
The Vikings and Kirk Cousins are having their best season together, but boy did they get shellacked, 40-3, by the Cowboys last week. That has clearly tempered expectations as they head into this matchup not even being field goal favorites at home. Also, the Patriots have won three in a row and boast a +44 point differential while the Vikes are at -2 in that category.
A 10-3 win over the Jets isn’t the kind of confidence boost you wanted as a Pats fan heading into a big game against an 8-2 opponent, but it did keep the wheels moving. Those wheels might be a big sticky as several injuries along the New England offensive line have popped up with Isaiah Wynn out at LG and David Andrews and all their RTs injured in some way. Fortunately for New England, that Vikings’ defense hasn’t been very good cumulatively.
Yes, the Minnesota defense is better than it was last season but they still aren’t what I would call good. They are 2nd to last in pass defense and 18th in run defense, which is where the Pats are going to attack most. The Vikes also give up about a TD more per game and are middle of the pack at best when it comes to getting after the QB. They are opportunistic and tied for 3rd in takeaways but it’s not some huge advantage.
New England is right behind them in that department while also being way better against the pass (3rd), moderately better against the run (12th), and much better in terms of getting pressure on the QB. The Pats are 1st in hurry %, 2nd in sacks, and 2nd in pressure %, but they do blitz a lot more. Did I mention they have the #1 scoring defense as well?
While the Vikings have Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, they actually aren’t a very good rushing team this season at 25th in YPG. New England is 19th, but Minnesota has a higher YPC average and more TDs. That holds up in the passing game too as MIN has fewer interceptions and more YPG. However, NE has the 2nd-best completion % in the league and some comparable numbers in terms of per-catch/pass.
I know the Vikings want to get one back after getting their butts kicked but this is a great spot for a surging New England team to get a win on a short week where their opponent may have not been able to fix all the holes exposed by the Cowboys. It should also be pointed out that Cousins is 0-2 in his career against the Pats. Granted that was the Tom Brady area in NE, but Brady doesn’t run the defense. Belichick does, and he’s still there.
Pick: NE | ATS: NE +2.5 | O/U: Over 42.5
Thanks for reading and, if you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving! I still believe word of mouth is the best way to help, so if you enjoy what I’m doing, please tell somebody. And if you have a comment, I’d love to hear it! Liking, subscribing, and sharing go a long way too. And, as usual, be well, stay safe, and Go Bills!