Thursday, November 24
NFL Thanksgiving Day action: What bettors need to know
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+6, 55.5)
THE STORY: The Green Bay Packers have seemingly been on cruise control ever since they won the Super Bowl. With an unblemished record after 10 games this season and a franchise-best 16 consecutive wins overall dating to last season, Aaron Rodgers and Co. have resembled a runaway locomotive as they've run roughshod over the league. Despite their considerable accomplishments, the Packers will ride into the Motor City for their Thanksgiving Day matinee against the NFC North rival Detroit Lions with an uneasy feeling. Why, you ask? Well, this situation played itself out nearly a half-century ago – with the 1962 Lions putting an emphatic stop to the Packers' plans for an undefeated season with a 26-14 triumph. Back to the present, the Lions have amassed at least 45 points in two of their last three games, showing that they have the firepower to keep up with the high-octane Packers.
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. ET.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (10-0): Rodgers (3,168 yards, 31 TDs) is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,100-plus passing yards and 30-plus TDs in the first 10 games of a season. He has thrown for at least two scores in every contest this campaign. Although WR Greg Jennings exited last week's 35-26 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a knee injury, fellow wideout Jordy Nelson continued his solid play by scoring twice. Nelson now has five TDs in his last three games, but will face Detroit's stingy passing defense that allows an NFL fifth-best 192.8 passing yards per game.
ABOUT THE LIONS (7-3): Running back Kevin Smith is making the most of his second chance. After being reduced to second fiddle behind Jahvid Best – and then eventually unemployed – Smith returned with a vengeance by rushing for 140 yards and amassing a career-high three touchdowns in last week's 49-35 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Matthew Stafford showed no ill effects of a fractured index finger last week, tossing a team record-tying five touchdowns and amassing a franchise-best 121.9 passer rating. Stafford could have a field day against the Packers' 31st-ranked pass defense (289.3 yards per game).
1. Although it is a staple on Thanksgiving, Detroit hasn't emerged victorious on the holiday since it defeated Green Bay in 2003. The Packers bested the Lions on Turkey Day in both 2007 and 2009.
2. Green Bay RB James Starks (knee sprain, ankle) and Jennings (knee) were limited in Tuesday's practice, but are both expected to play versus the Lions.
3. While the accomplishment in 1962 is nice, Detroit can also look to a more recent event for success against Green Bay. The Lions posted a 7-3 win over the Packers at Ford Field on Dec. 12, 2010. It should be noted that Rodgers was knocked out of the contest with a concussion during the second quarter.
Not much to report on this game on the short week. Some shops opened as low as +5.5 while others are using +6.5. Every sportsbook in Nevada and offshore has this one under a touchdown spread with +6 seen as the most common number being dealt.
Maybe the most surprising adjustment was the bump on the total. The over/under line opened at 55.5 – about as high of a total you’ll see for an NFL game – and has been bet up to 56.5 at a few places.
The Packers are 6-0 ATS in their last six games following an ATS loss and 19-6-1 ATS in their last 26 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
The Lions are 6-1 in their last seven games as underdogs and 10-3 ATS in their last 13 home games.
The over is 16-6-1 in Detroit’s last 23 games overall and 4-0 in Green Bay’s last four games.
PREDICTION: Packers 38, Lions 28. Stafford and stud wideout Calvin Johnson will give the home fans a show, but Rodgers and Jennings will keep Green Bay on its path for an undefeated season.
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-7, 44)
THE STORY: Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore never got a chance to make an impact in his brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys. A fellow undrafted free agent by the name of Tony Romo was playing pretty well at the time. Four years later, Moore’s doing his best to secure a permanent starting job – just as Romo did with the Cowboys. Moore will try to lead the resurgent Miami Dolphins to a fourth straight win against Romo and the first-place Cowboys in a Thanksgiving Day matchup that suddenly has much more intrigue. Dallas, which has won three straight for the first time since 2009 to move into a tie for first in the NFC East, is 27-15-1 on Thanksgiving.
TV: CBS, 4:15 p.m. ET.
ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (3-7): Miami has outscored opponents 86-20 during the team’s first three-game winning streak since 2008. The Dolphins were one of the front-runners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes before Moore and the defense caught fire. Moore (160 yards, 3 TDs in a 35-8 win over Buffalo) has thrown six touchdowns and just one interception in that span. Meanwhile, the defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown this month. Miami has allowed the second-fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL (3) and ranks sixth in the league in scoring defense (18.6 ppg). RB Reggie Bush has also come on strong, rushing for 274 yards and four touchdowns in the last four games.
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (6-4): Dallas eked out its third straight win, 27-24 over Washington as rookie Dan Bailey booted a 39-yard field goal in overtime. Romo was at his best, eluding the rush while throwing for 292 yards and three touchdowns. He has thrown for 841 yards with eight touchdowns and, more importantly, zero interceptions in the last three games. Romo is 18-2 in November and 12-0 at home during the month. Dallas needed him more on a day when rookie RB DeMarco Murray was held in check (23 carries, 75 yards) after rushing for 601 yards and four scores in the previous four games. WR Laurent Robinson has been outstanding while filling in for Miles Austin (hamstring), scoring five touchdowns in the last four games.
1. Romo has been outstanding on Thanksgiving, completing 69 percent of his attempts (83 of 120) for 1,141 yards with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in four starts. He sat out last season’s 30-27 defeat to New Orleans – a loss ended the Cowboys' four-game winning streak on Thanksgiving – with a broken collarbone.
2. Dallas tried to sneak Moore onto its practice squad during the 2007 preseason, but he was claimed by Carolina. He was 15 of 28 for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 20-13 loss to the Cowboys that season.
3. Bailey has made 24 straight field goals, three shy of the team record set by Chris Boniol in 1996.
Oddsmakers all thought Dallas -7 was the right line for this game and the bettors seem to agree. There’s been no movement on the line and the juice seems to be staying put at -110. The total has gone up from 44 to 44.5 at some locations but it’s also dropped back down to 44 at other shops.
The Dolphins are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 road games against teams with winning records and 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
The Cowboys are 17-7 ATS in their last 24 games in November but 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games as home favorites.
The under is 8-0-1 in the Dolphins’ last nine games overall and 20-6 in their last 26 road games. The over, on the other hand, is 11-3 in Dallas’ last 14 home games and 17-6 in its last 23 games overall.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 27, Dolphins 17. Miami’s defense is playing well, but Romo usually shines in November, especially on Thanksgiving.
San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5, 38.5)
THE STORY: When celebrating Thanksgiving, it’s always nice to have family around. Even if that family happens to be separated by 160 feet of football field at M&T Bank Stadium. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will guide his team east to visit brother John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night. The old adage is that teams win football games by running the ball and stopping the run. The 49ers are proving that remains true even in today’s pass-happy NFL. Winners of eight straight, San Francisco ranks first against the run and sixth in rushing. John Harbaugh has a similar philosophy, with the Ravens ranking sixth against the run, but prefers to air it out a bit more on offense. The 49ers can clinch at least a tie for the NFC West with a win Thursday while the Ravens are tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North.
TV: NFL Network, 8:20 p.m. ET.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (9-1): A San Francisco win and a Seattle loss to Washington on Sunday clinches the NFC West, though at this point the 49ers have loftier goals. Last Sunday’s 23-7 victory clinched the franchise’s first winning season since 2002 and marked the 32nd straight game in which San Francisco’s defense has held an opponent under 100 yards rushing. The 49ers lead the NFL with a plus-17 turnover margin.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-3): Baltimore bounced back from a loss at Seattle by earning a key division win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week. Joe Flacco continued his up-and-down season by posting a 105.5 rating after putting up a 67.4 in the Seattle loss. Running at the San Francisco defense will be Ray Rice, who went for 104 yards and two touchdowns last week to reach the century mark for the first time since Week 6.
1. “It’s about football. I’m sure both of our focuses are going to be on the game and out teams.” – John Harbaugh, when asked if he and his brother would be taking some time out for turkey. “There’s really no time for anything else.”
2. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis passed Brent Jones for first in franchise history with his 34th touchdown last week.
3. Ravens LB Ray Lewis missed last week with a foot injury and is questionable for Thursday.
Oddsmakers all opened with the Ravens giving more than a field goal but bettors have brought the spread down to home-field line. Some shops had Baltimore as high as 5-point chalk but most opened either at -4 or -3.5. It still can be found at both -3 and -3.5 depending on the sportsbook.
The total was as high as 39.5 earlier this week but has been bet down to 38.5 pretty much across the board.
It’s been said many times on this site but it bears repeating, San Fran is undefeated against the spread this season at 9-0-1.
The Ravens are 3-0-1 ATS against teams with winning records and 4-1-1 ATS in their last six games following an ATS loss.
The under is 4-1 in the Niners’ last five games overall while the over is 4-0 in the Baltimore’s last four games.
PREDICTION: 49ers 21, Ravens 10. San Francisco will stop the run and force Flacco into mistakes.