Jersey Sides & Totals: Thanksgiving Thursday Football – Bird is the Word

It’s a shorter week with Thanksgiving football upon us this Thursday, so I will focus on the 3 NFL games scheduled.

Thanksgiving is the original “Thursday Night Football” with NFL games scheduled every Turkey Day since 1920.

Thanksgiving Football History

The mainstay of Thanksgiving Day football is the Detroit Lions.

  • The Lions have hosted a game on Thanksgiving every year since 1945. 
  • The Lions last NFL title was in 1957 and they’ve never appeared in a Super Bowl.

Despite this, they have provided some truly memorable Thanksgiving moments. Let’s flash back to 1997 with Barry Sanders running roughshod all over the Bears:

The Dallas Cowboys hosted their first Thanksgiving game in 1970 and they follow the Lions early game with a mid-afternoon kickoff.

While there are some epic Cowboys games from Thanksgiving including the Leon Lett play and the Clint Longley comeback, but I’ve included the 1994 Cowboys game against the Green Bay Packers.

Amazing to watch this clip 25 years later. So much to see here. John Gruden as a Packers assistant coach. Reggie White in the backfield on almost every play.

An injured Troy Aikman wearing a “Planet Hollywood” jacket on the sidelines.

To top it off, current Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett leading a second-half comeback and a Dallas win:

Thanksgiving Football Lineup

  1. 12:30 PM: Bears at Lions (CBS)
  2. 4:30 PM: Bills at Cowboys (FOX)
  3. 8:20 PM: Saints at Falcons (NBC)

New Jersey bettors will be able to wager on all three (3) of the Thanksgiving games on DraftKings Sportsbook, both online and via their mobile app.

For Thanksgiving, DraftKings is giving everyone a free $5 bet when they opt-in:

DraftKings Sportsbook nj



draftkings promo thanksgivingIn addition to the free bet, DraftKings also has three (3) other Thanksgiving promotional offers:

  1. A risk free $5 Flash Bet (bet on result of drive or next team to score) on any Thanksgiving game.
  2. Place 3-team team parlay on Thanksgiving games with a 33% profit boost (equivalent on an extra leg at -300 odds)
  3. Bet $25+ on the point total of any Thanksgiving game and receive a bonus of $5 for every turnover and $1 sack in that game.

DraftKings Thanksgiving Football Props

DraftKings has a full plate of team and player and team props, parlays and specials available for all 3 games. Also, check out their new “stats” feature offered for each game.

It’s a great tool to add to your handicapping with great trends and information. I’ve taken a deeper dive at some stats and trends via Draft Kings for each of Thursday’s games.

Bears (-3) at Lions

[odds-feed game=17159 sportsbooks=DraftKings styling=small]

The Lions (3-7-1) have covered the spread in 5 of their last 7 Thanksgiving games.

That said, 2019 has been a challenging one for the Honolulu Blue and Silver. Starting QB Mathew Stafford has broken bones in his back and may not return this season.

Back-up Jeff Driskel took over for Stafford in week 10 and lost at Chicago in his first start for the Lions. Driskel also reportedly has a sore hamstring and his playing status is up in the air for Thursday.

The Lions 3rd string option is rookie David Blough who has never taken an NFL snap.

  • Sharp money has moved the spread from Bears (5-6) -1 to -3 favorites in the last 24 hours.

draftkings promo thanksgiving

In terms of key betting trends:

  • DraftKings note that the Bears are 3-8-0 (Over/Under/Push) but have gone under in their last 5 games.
  • The Lions are 7-4-0 and have gone over in 3 of their last 5. 

With a Chicago offense that is far from potent, coupled with the potential of an injured 2nd string or a 3rd string rookie QB facing the Bears defense, I think it’s worth it’s work giving the UNDER a long look here.

Bills (+6.5) at Dallas

The Cowboys (6-5) may still be drying out after their soggy loss to the Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday. They begin their final 5 games of the season with a slim 1-game lead in the NFC East over the Eagles.

The Cowboys are 2-2 at home this year and face an upstart Bills (8-3) team that has exceeded all expectations this year.

The Bills are anchored by a ferocious defense that has allowed the 3rd fewest points in the NFL (1. Patriots; 2. 49ers) and have received solid performances from 2nd year QB Josh Allen and ageless RB Frank Gore.

A noteworthy historical trend is the Cowboys are 1-3 against the spread in their last 4 Thanksgiving games and the total has gone OVER in 3 of the last four (4) Dallas Thanksgiving Day Games.

The DraftKings Sportsbook stats hub neatly summarizes each team’s 2019 performance in a concise, side-by-side comparison:

thanksgiving dallas bills

There is also a drop-down menu that allows the bettor to select trends since 2010, very well done by DK!

Saints (-6.5) at Falcons

The Saints and Falcons stage a divisional rematch after the Falcons shocked the Saints with a 26-9 in New Orleans in Week 10.

While logic might point to an offensive shootout when these 2 Dome teams play each other, recent history suggests otherwise as 4 of the last 5 meetings have gone under the total.

For those that like to isolate and bet individual quarters and/or halves, DK has a great feature in their stats portal that isolates a team’s performance by quarter. 

Below, I have highlighted the quarter by quarter performance of both the Saints and Falcons since the start of the 2018 season:

draftkings promo thanksgiving

There are some really great features on the DraftKings stats portal that are all well worth checking out before placing your bets.

The NFL Local Line

While none of the three (3) local teams will be playing on Thanksgiving, they are all in action this Sunday. The Jets will try to win their 4th straight game when they visit the winless Bengals in Cincinnati.

The Giants will play their second consecutive NFC North opponent when they host the Green Bay Packers and, given their performances at home over the last 2 weeks, the Eagles will gladly welcome a change in scenery as they visit the Miami Dolphins.

Here are the current local betting lines as of Thursday afternoon via DraftKings:

  1. Jets: -3.5 (-115) at Bengals +3.5 (-106), Total 41.5
    • Jets Money line:  -186; Bengals +150
  2. Eagles: -9 (-110) at Dolphins +9 (-110); Total 45
    • Eagles Money line:  -435; Dolphins +330
  3. Giants: +6.5 (-110) vs Packers -6.5 (-110); Total 46.5
    • Giants Money line: +225 Packers -286

After the 3 Thanksgiving games, Sunday’s schedule feature eight (8) 1PM starts and three (3) 4PM window games. The BYE weeks are over, with every NFL team in action in week 13.

My 3 Picks – from the Jersey Side

I had a decent bounce back last week going 2-1. The Broncos failed to bounce back from their 2nd half meltdown in Minnesota in week 11 and were totally dominated by the Bills.

The Jets won convincingly, and the Steelers won a battle of punts and field goals with an easy UNDER the total against the Bengals. 

My Week 12 Recap

Week 2-1, Season YTD 15-20-1

  1. BRONCOS (+4) over Bills (Bills 20, BRONCOS 3)
  2. JETS +3 over the Raiders (JETS 34, Raiders 3)
  3. Steelers and Bengals UNDER 39 Points (Steelers 16, Bengals 10)

My Week 13 Thanksgiving Day Selections

Here are my picks for the 3 Thanksgiving Day games: 

  • Bears and Lions UNDER 38.5 

This total line has crept lower during the week. The Bears managed only 19 points vs the Giants last week and the Lions were able to score only 1 touchdown vs the redskins last week.

Add in the questions this week around the Lions QB situation and a fierce Bears defense and the under almost looks like stealing money on Thursday afternoon.

  • Bills (+6.5) over Cowboys 

The Bills have adopted a “Why Not Us” approach as they gear up for the final 5 games of the season. At 8-3 they trail the Patriots by 2 games in the division, but they have a 2-game lead in the AFC Wild card race.

The Bills stout defense that will face a Dallas offense has looked both potent and anemic at various points of this season. I will look at the consistency of the Bills to keep this game within reach and to cover the spread against the Cowboys. 

  • Saints (-6.5) over Falcons

The Falcons teased their fans with back-to-back convincing road wins against the Saints and Panthers only to return home last Sunday to lose to the Buccaneers.

They will have their hands full with a Saints team looking for revenge from their week 10 loss at home to the Falcons.

I can’t see the Falcons beating the Saints twice this year in the same season and look for a dominant Saints win on Sunday. 

Some interesting Thanksgiving NFL facts of note:

  1. While Dallas began their regular hosting of a Thanksgiving Day game in 1970, they were replaced on the schedule by the St. Louis Football Cardinals in 1975 and 1977.
  2. Every NFL team has played on Thanksgiving Day at least once, except for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have played in London seven (7) times but have yet to play on Turkey Day.
  3. Outside of the Jaguars, the Los Angeles Rams have the longest Thanksgiving gap with their last appearance coming in 1975 and the Browns since 1989. 
About the Author

Mike McGough

Mike McGough is a consultant who advises clients in such areas as media buying, sponsorship analyses, and procurement best practices. As a New Jersey-based sports fan and handicapper, he gives a unique perspective from business operations all the way to the betting windows. He specifically covers sports betting apps and online betting.