Football and Thanksgiving are the perfect marriage as no other sport is so uniquely tied to a holiday. The NFL has been playing games on Turkey Day for a full century now, and these days the league features three nationally broadcast games on the holiday. These games not only garner massive TV ratings, but are also some of the most wagered-on games of the year. Here is a betting guide with Thanksgiving football odds to get you ready for one of the best days on the US sports calendar. We will feature point spreads for the Bears versus Lions game, the Raiders versus Cowboys tilt and the Bills versus Saints showdown. This year, Thanksgiving in the US will take place on Nov. 25.
Thanksgiving football odds
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions – 12:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Because of the betting interest in each Thanksgiving Day football game, lines have been up at sportsbooks for months. The Bears (3-7) were -3 road favorites over Detroit (0-9) a week ahead of the Turkey Day game and the matchup had a total of 44.5 points. Chicago is currently a favorite and the over under is .
A low-scoring affair is expected as these are two of the worst offensive teams in pro football. Both teams have shaky quarterback situations heading into this one as the Bears will start Andy Dalton and Jared Goff will be a game-day decision for the Lions.
The Bears rank 26th in Offensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders, while the Lions check in at No. 30. Chicago’s defense is more stout per defensive DVOA as the Bears are 16th and Detroit is 28th.
One bright spot for the Lions in recent weeks has been RB D’Andre Swift. The second year man out of Georgia gashed the Steelers for 130 yards on Nov. 14 and then racked up 136 yards on the ground against the Steelers this past Sunday.
Chicago somewhat surprisingly ranks 14th in Rush Offense DVOA with David Montgomery leading the way. Montgomery had 106 yards rushing and 2 TDs on 23 carries in the first meeting between these two teams this season (a 24-14 Bears win on Oct. 3).
Full betting preview: Bears vs. Lions
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys – 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Raiders (5-5) remain in contention in the AFC and Dallas (7-3) is one of the top teams in the NFC, making this an extremely important game as far as playoff positioning is concerned. Dallas was a 7-point favorite a week ahead of this game and the over under for the contest was 54.5. The Cowboys are currently a favorite and the over under is .
Las Vegas is reeling heading into this one as it has dropped three straight, with the last two losses not particularly close. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t had a game with a passer rating over 100.0 in a month and many Raiders backers are calling for Rich Bisaccia to replace Carr with backup Marcus Mariota. Dallas is fourth in defensive DVOA, so it could be a long afternoon for whomever is under center for the Raiders.
Dak Prescott hasn’t been his usual sterling self of late, as he posted a 73.9 passer rating in the Cowboys stunning loss to Denver earlier this month and he put up an ugly 57.9 rating in a 19-9 loss to the Chiefs this past Sunday. Fortunately for Prescott, the Raiders defense is average at best as they rank 22nd in defensive DVOA.
Full betting preview: Raiders vs. Cowboys
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints – 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
The nightcap will feature one of the top teams in the AFC in Buffalo (6-4), and a Saints (5-5) squad looking to return to the NFC playoffs despite featuring a backup quarterback. The Bills were -4.5 favorites for this one on Nov. 18 and the game had a total of 47.5. Buffalo is currently a favorite and the over under is .
Both of these teams are not as intimidating as they were a month ago. Buffalo has lost three of its last five games, including an embarrassing 9-6 loss to the Jaguars and the more recent 41-15 blowout home loss to the Colts. That said, the Bills do rebound pretty well following a loss. After losing Week 1 to the Steelers they came back the next week with a 35-0 victory over Miami. When they lost to the Titans in mid-October they rebounded with a 26-11 win over the Dolphins. And after falling to the Jags, Sean McDermott’s group came back with a 45-17 blowout win at the Jets.
The Saints will provide a much stiffer test than the likes of the Dolphins and Jets, of course. New Orleans is fifth in defensive DVOA, ranking No. 1 in Rush DEF DVOA but 14th in Pass DEF DVOA.
Offensively, Sean Payton is still rolling with Trevor Siemian at QB while sprinkling in Taysom Hill. Siemian had been limiting turnovers after taking over for the injured Jameis Winston in late October, but this past Sunday Siemian had an ugly 2-pick day in a 40-29 loss to the Eagles. Buffalo is No. 1 overall in defensive DVOA, highlighted by its top ranking in pass defense.
Full betting preview: Bills vs. Saints
Live Thanksgiving football betting updates
TheLines will provide betting info and injury updates for each Thanksgiving football game below.
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How to Watch Thanksgiving football
Thanksgiving Day games are currently televised by FOX, CBS and NBC. The Lions always host the first game of the day, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET, while the Cowboys host the middle game, which kicks off at 4:30pm ET. The Thanksgiving Night game kicks off at 8:20 p.m. ET. Since 2012, CBS and FOX have rotated the early and middle games on an annual basis. CBS gets the first game in even-numbered years, while FOX has that distinction in odd-numbered years.
This season’s Thanksgiving games will air as follows:
- Bears vs. Lions: FOX
- Raiders at Cowboys: CBS
- Bills at Saints: NBC
Games are also viewable on a number of authorized streaming services, such as Amazon Prime, NFL Network, FOX Sports GO, Twitch, PlayStation Vue, Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV for those who don’t have cable or satellite programming subscriptions. However, subscriptions to these streaming services are required.
How to bet Thanksgiving Day games like a sharp
Many of the same caveats that apply to betting Thursday Night Football games during the regular season are also applicable when it comes to looking at Thanksgiving football odds. After all, the teams are on the same type of shortened week as in a conventional Thursday Night Football contest, and the fact these games typically unfold in Week 12 of the regular season often makes the physical toll harder on players who have only three full days to recover from their prior contest.
All six teams playing in this year’s Thanksgiving Day games will have played their Week 11 games the previous Sunday. As is often the case, the visiting Thanksgiving Day teams will play home games in Week 11, in order to limit their travel to one trip on the short week. The Bears host the Ravens in Week 11 while the Raiders host the Bengals and the Bills host the Colts. Detroit is at the Browns in Week 11 while the Cowboys play at Kansas City and the Saints play at Philadelphia.
Thanksgiving Day games can also offer the host teams a particularly pointed home-field advantage. The holiday contest is a long-entrenched tradition in Detroit and Dallas, where the Turkey Day game is a legitimate sell-out each season.
Needless to say, home-field edge undeniably carries the most weight when the hosts field a quality, healthy team. As is the case with many late-season games, injuries are a pivotal factor when considering a bet on the contest. Key absences can derail even the most formidable of home-field advantages, especially on a short week.
- The Lions, who have suffered through extended periods of ineptitude, are just 37-42-2 straight-up in Thanksgiving Day games, including 4-8 since the 2009 season. In contrast, the Cowboys, who have enjoyed much more overall success than Detroit in the last several decades, are an impressive 31-21-1 straight-up in Thanksgiving games – although only 5-7 since 2009.
- Last year’s Thanksgiving games featured a pair of blowouts with the Lions being trounced by the Texans 41-25 and the Cowboys being blasted by Washington, 41-16.
- Point spreads are a different story, with the Lions actually outperforming Dallas in that category over the last decade-plus. While the Lions are 6-6 ATS over their last 12 Thanksgiving Day games, the Cowboys are a paltry 2-10 ATS on the holiday over that same span.
- Favorites – be they visitor or host — have actually had a solid track record on Thanksgiving against the spread. Since 2009, favorites have gone 20-15 versus the number.
History of Thanksgiving Day football
The first official NFL games to be hosted on Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1920. However, in terms of current teams still playing annually on the holiday, the Detroit Lions have hosted a Thanksgiving Day game since the 1934 season, while the Dallas Cowboys, with the exception of the 1975 and 1977 seasons, have done the same since 1966, their seventh season in existence.
A third game, often between divisional rivals, was added as a primetime game beginning in the 2006 season with a Broncos vs. Chiefs tilt at Arrowhead Stadium. That contest aired on NFL Network. The only existing franchise that has yet to play in a Thanksgiving Day game is the Jacksonville Jaguars, which came into the league in 1995.
The first televised Thanksgiving Day game occurred in 1953 between the Lions and Packers, which aired on the now-defunct DuMont Network.