NFL expert Tom Selwyn (@Tom_Selwyn) shares his expert opinion on the best bets available from Thursday night's Thanksgiving action.
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions | Thursday 22nd November 2018, 17:30 | Sky Sports
The first of this year’s all inter-divisional Thanksgiving match-ups comes from NFC North, where the fourth-placed Detroit Lions will welcome the first-placed Chicago Bears.
Even this far into the season it’s tough to work out what this Detroit team is – they’ve beaten some very good teams, yet also gone out with a whimper to teams they should at least be competitive with and as a result they sit in the cellar of their division.
Chicago, on the other hand, have been fairly consistent in their performances, battering most of the league’s lesser lights as they should do and then being in close games with those you’d consider on their level.
Despite a vast improvement on offense thanks to the acquisition of Matt Nagy as their head coach, the defence is the soul of this Bears team. They were already a good team before, but bringing in Khalil Mack via a trade from the Raiders has really pushed them into the top tier defences, where they rank third in yards allowed (314.4) and fourth in points allowed (19.5).
Chicago have only been getting better as the season goes along too, giving up just 15.25 in the four games since their loss to the Patriots and given that, as I type, the status of QB Mitchell Trubisky is up in the air, it makes sense to back a defensive play – I’ll be backing Chicago to hold Detroit to Under 20.5 points at 10/11 (Betway).
Despite this being a short week on the road for the Bears, they still have the talent to hold a Lions team that has been held to under 21 points in three of their last four games. The one game they did top that was against the Bears, but these were garbage time scores and I don’t anticipate another offensive explosion from Chicago.
With Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones missing practices early this week, Detroit could be without two of their best playmakers. If so, it will be even more of a struggle to move the ball against one of the league’s best defences that will be looking to assert itself over a division opponent.
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys | Thursday 22nd November 2018, 21:30 | Sky Sports
The second of this Thanksgiving triple-header comes from the NFC East where the Washington Redskins, who still sit atop the division despite a horrendous few weeks of injury luck, will face off against the Dallas Cowboys.
QB Alex Smith was added to Washington’s injury report after a nasty looking leg break during this past Sunday’s game. Thankfully for the Redskins, they do have a capable backup in Colt McCoy, who didn’t look bad at all when thrust into the game last week. Certainly, there was no noticeable drop off and he should be able to at least steady the ship, but Washington is trending down for sure.
Dallas, on the other hand, has been rounding into some semblance of form lately and will fancy their chances of taking the division lead.
The addition of Amari Cooper has sparked some life into the offense, by forcing teams not to just play Ezekiel Elliot the entire game, and given how well the defence is playing, they really just need to be above average to win games – which is handy, because that’s what the offense is at the moment.
Both of these teams feature in the top five defences (Dallas in third allowing 19 points a game, Washington in fifth allowing 19.8) and an offense that goes through its running game, so I think this should be quite a close game despite the Redskins fielding a backup at QB.
Ultimately, I think Dallas has the edge on both sides of the ball, so I’ll be taking an odds-against shot of 7/2 (Ladbrokes) and backing them to win by 1–6 points.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints | Friday 23rd November 2018, 01:20
Finally, we head to the NFC South and at the start of the season, you’d of had this game as a blockbuster match-up, but the season has not gone the way a lot of people thought it would.
The Atlanta Falcons caught the injury bug early on and are having a miserable season that sees them sitting at 4-6, whereas the New Orleans Saints are arguably the best team in the league right now and have been just flat out crushing teams of late.
New Orleans has averaged 48 points over their last three games and have been showing no mercy along the way, going for it on fourth down when up 30 points and generally piling it on. Indeed, their margin of victory over the last two games has been 41 and 37.
Such relentless scoring helps those of us that like the Scoring In Every Quarter bet and I think the Saints are going to do this once more at 10/11 (Bet365). New Orleans have done so in three of their last four games and face a Falcons defence that is 29th in both points allowed (27.6) and yards allowed (405.2).
The odds are as short as you would expect after their recent exploits, but given the talent that’s on Atlanta’s offense, it’s tough to back New Orleans with a 13-point handicap. Instead I would rather back the consistent scoring machine that is Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints offense.