NFL Turkey Day betting preview

It’s days like tomorrow that really make me wish I were an American. What can possibly be better than stuffing your face with food, watching a full day of football (with good games for a change), getting plastered, and sweating profusely through your sleep? Nothing. With three games on deck tomorrow I’ll be placing a wager on each one (because I’m sick like that), so here are my thoughts on each game.

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Texans @ Lions

Throw what you saw last week out the window. Houston is a solid football team and despite a near loss at home to the lowly Jaguars, they should still be considered one of the league’s elite. We see this happen quite frequently with favorites prior to having to play a Thursday game as they tend to overlook inferior opponents, and last week was no different.

The most surprising result from last week’s Texans-Jags game was that Houston allowed Chad Henne to tear them apart. Matthew Stafford has a great supporting cast and with Texans’ cornerback Johnathan Joseph nursing a hamstring injury, the Lions should conceivably be able to duplicate the Jaguars’ success through the air. The only problem? Stafford isn’t the quarterback that people think he is. The former first overall pick is on pace to throw 22 less touchdowns than he did last season as he has battled inconsistency all season.

I particularly think the Texans defense has an edge over the Lions offense because they’re capable of forcing Stafford into third-and-long situations. Houston has a really strong run defense that will put the clamps down on Mikel Leshoure and force Stafford to throw the ball to move the chains. That’s nothing new for the Detroit offense as they average 42 pass attempts per game, but that could spell trouble against a Texans secondary that’s intercepted 11 passes this season.

On the other side of the ball, I think the Texans have a slight edge as well. Detroit has a very strong defensive line but for whatever reason, they’re incapable of stopping the run. The Lions give up 114 yards per game on the ground and have given up eight rushes of 20 yards or more this season. It’s no secret that Houston loves to pound the rock and this looks like a favorable matchup for Arian Foster and company.

Don’t get used to Matt Schaub throwing for 527 yards and five touchdowns on a weekly basis. Schaub played outstanding last week against the Jaguars (who doesn’t?), but he’s in for a much stiffer test against the Lions. Detroit can get after the quarterback and their secondary will receive an instant improvement with the return of safety Louis Delmas. If the Texans can get their running game on track, Schaub will be effective in manageable situations, but it could be a long afternoon if Detroit is stout against the run.

Ultimately, I think the Texans have a slight edge on both sides of the ball. You would think that home field would make this game pretty even, but the Lions are 0-8 ATS in their last eight Thanksgiving games.

Prediction: Texans 23, Lions 19

The Wager: Under 50. Houston will be out to prove that they still have an elite defense and the Lions will struggle to score touchdowns against the seventh-ranked red zone defense in the league. Meanwhile, the Texans will look to run the ball as much as possible, keeping the clock moving. Expect a game very similar to the Lions-Packers matchup from last weekend. The under is 5-1 in the Texans last 6 road games and 10-1 in their last 11 games after scoring more than 30 points in their previous game.

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Redskins @ Cowboys

Read the first sentence of the Texans-Lions breakdown above and do the same here. I don’t know why anyone would read too much into Washington’s shellacking of the Eagles considering (a) Philadelphia has completely given up on Andy Reid and (b) Washington was coming off of their bye. Meanwhile, Dallas fell into the same trap as Houston, overlooking the lowly Browns as they prepared for their divisional rival.

The Cowboys get a lot of flack for their horrendous offensive line (and indeed it is horrendous), but the Redskins have only surrendered one fewer sack than the Cowboys this season. Dallas boasts a strong pass rushing tandem in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer that should be able to put pressure on Robert Griffin III for the majority of the afternoon. RGIII will still find a way to make some plays because he’s a natural playmaker, but this will definitely be one of the toughest defenses that he’s gone up against this year.

There’s a slim chance that the likes of Pierre Garcon (who’s still playing hurt), Josh Morgan (who stinks), and Santana Moss (who’s 77-years old) are going to get any separation from the Cowboys’ elite cornerbacks. Washington will have to get their running game back on track but will find it difficult to do so against a Dallas front seven that surrenders just 4 yards per carry.

Washington may have a big edge here in that they’re less likely to turn the ball over. RGIII has tossed only three picks in his 10 career starts, while Tony Romo has thrown 10 interceptions in just four home starts this season. The Redskins aren’t likely to give Dallas many short fields to work with which means that the Cowboys will have to sustain long drives to put points on the board.

Neither DeMarco Murray or Felix Jones practiced this week, so Dallas may have to turn to Lance Dunbar (who?) and Phillip Tanner (who? x2) to handle the workload on the ground. Considering the Cowboys’ offensive line is also in shambles, it’s unlikely that Dallas is going to pick up yards in the running game. The outcome of this game will likely hinge on the performance of Tony Romo.

While Cleveland’s defense was able to wreak havoc in the backfield against Dallas last week, I wouldn’t expect the same from the Redskins. Washington has registered a measly 18 sacks in their 10 games this season and the defense has undoubtedly suffered from the injuries to linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker earlier this season. Dallas’ offensive line may be underwhelming but Washington’s front seven doesn’t exactly have the personnel to exploit that weakness.

To make matters worse for the Redskins, their secondary is an abomination. Washington gives up 289.2 yards per game through the air and have given up eight pass plays of over 40 yards this season. DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson have no chance in hell of containing Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. And of course there’s the reliable Jason Witten who will have a huge advantage over Washington’s terrible safeties.

I love capitalizing on overreactions. The Redskins were limited to a combined 25-points against the Panthers and Steelers, but after a win over the terrible Eagles, people are back on the RGIII bandwagon.

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Redskins 17

The Wager: Cowboys -3. Prior to last week’s games, the Cowboys were a 6-point favorite over the Redskins here, but we’ve seen a 3-point correction because of last week’s results. Tony Romo has NEVER lost a home game in November and we’re getting Dallas laying only a field goal. Sign me up. You won’t find a lot of trends that support Dallas in this spot, but this line is too short.

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Patriots @ Jets

In Week 7, I made the Patriots my top play of the week as a 10.5-point favorite against the Jets. New England was never in a position to cover the spread and were actually in danger of losing that game outright, winning the game in overtime 29-26. Most would argue that the Patriots are in even worse shape this time around due to the injury of their stud tight end Rob Gronkowski.

New England actually didn’t play all that bad offensively against the Jets in their earlier matchup this season. The Patriots ran the ball for 131 total yards and were a solid 9-for-17 on third down conversions, but their passing game just didn’t seem to have much flow. Tom Brady threw for an average 250 yards on 42 attempts, which translates to a paltry 6 yards per pass attempt. You’d figure Brady will struggle again without his best weapon in the lineup, but there’s just something about Brady when his back his against the wall. Last week, many NFL “pundits” were calling for a Colts upset of the Patriots, but Brady quickly silenced any doubters, and it seems as though again this week, these so-called pundits are really worried about the Patriots offense without Gronk. It really wouldn’t surprise me to see Brady go off again.

Regardless of their passing attack, the Patriots should be able to run the ball effectively here. The Jets are horrible against the run and as mentioned earlier, got torched on the ground by New England earlier this season. Essentially, New England should be able to move the ball at will. The Patriots have scored an average of 36.8 points per game on the road this season and a whopping 47.0 points per game over the last three weeks, so the Jets’ only realistic shot of competing here is if they can score in bunches.

Mark Sanchez played pretty well in St. Louis last week, posting a quarterback rating of 118.3. Sanchez also played pretty well last time out against the Patriots, throwing for 328 yards on 41 attempts. I would refrain from feeling confident in Sanchez though, as he has the ability to shit the bed in any given week. He’s thrown just nine touchdowns this season and has turned the ball over 15 times, so I’m not too confident in his ability to match points with Brady. New England doesn’t boast the most formidable secondary in the league but they’ll see a big improvement in the second half of the year with Aqib Talib starting at cornerback.

Fortunately for Sanchez, he’ll have the luxury of relying on his running game. Shonn Greene is a useless piece of trash but Bilal Powell is slowly emerging as a reliable weapon, and won’t have trouble picking up yardage against a Patriots defense that’s surrendered four straight 100+ yard rushing games. The Jets used their running game to their advantage against the Pats earlier this season and allowed Sanchez to operate out of favorable situations all afternoon. That same strategy should work again.

In the end, it’s really hard for me to wager any money on the Jets. There’s actually some good line value with New York here, but I hate betting against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I also don’t want to overreact too much to the Jets’ thrashing of St. Louis last week because the Rams aren’t very good. I’ve read at least a handful of articles this week discussing how much the Patriots offense will struggle without Gronkowski, and personally, I just don’t see it.

Prediction: Patriots 35, Jets 24

The Wager: Over 48. The Patriots are going to score points here. With the exception of a Week 6 trip to Seattle, New England has scored 30 or more points in every road game this season. Mark Sanchez will gift the Pats with at least one short field and Bill Belichick will have his team ready to prove that they’re fully equipped to handle Gronkowski’s injury. The Patriots defense is susceptible to garbage time points, so New York will score enough in the second half to put this game over the total.

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Good luck with your plays on Thursday. I’ll be back on Saturday afternoon with my selections for the weekend. Until then, enjoy your holiday if you’re American, or enjoy another terrible day at work if you’re not.