N.F.L. Thanksgiving: Our Picks Against the Spread

N.F.L. Thanksgiving: Our Picks Against the Spread

You expect to see certain things every Thanksgiving: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, Jerry Jones receiving a lot of attention during a Cowboys game and the Lions struggling against whichever team the N.F.L. put them against. For the last few years, the league has provided a night game as well, assuming you’re not sleeping off dinner.

Here is a look at Week 13’s Thursday games, with all picks made against the point spread. The remainder of Week 13’s picks will be published on Friday.

Bills at Cowboys, 4:30 p.m., CBS

Line: Cowboys -6.5 | Total: 46.5

With Coach Jason Garrett’s job potentially on the line, the Cowboys (6-5) have their work cut out for them against the Bills (8-3). The Buffalo defense is not up to the standards of San Francisco and New England’s, but it manages to make a mark nearly every week.

The question is how Garrett and his offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, will approach this game. For most of the season, the offensive burden has been on quarterback Dak Prescott. It has gotten to the point that running back Ezekiel Elliott has had to answer questions about his yardage totals being down, even after games his team has won.

“You guys kind of make me feel awkward,” Elliott said to reporters after Dallas beat Detroit in Week 11, letting it be known that he should not have to feel angry about having 45 rushing yards (and 28 as a receiver) in a game his team won.

Against Buffalo, however, Garrett and Moore might want to revert to a style more focused on the team’s bell cow of a running back. The Bills are ranked third in the N.F.L. in fewest passing yards allowed per game and have given up just seven passing touchdowns, which trails only New England. Against the rush, however, they have not been nearly as stout, allowing an average of 104.4 yards a game, which ranks 14th. Once you adjust for their opponents, it gets far more grim, with Football Outsiders ranking them 26th in run defense efficiency.

Assuming Elliott is up for the challenge, he will have room to work. Combine that with this game being at Dallas and the motivation of Garrett’s being on the hot seat, and it makes perfect sense for the Cowboys to be favored. The spread is generous, but it is safe to assume they will try to make a point with a big win. Pick: Cowboys -6.5

Saints at Falcons, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Saints -7 | Total: 48.5

It is hard to forget the beating the Falcons (3-8) gave the Saints (9-2) in Week 10. Atlanta looked the best it had all season, and that quality on both sides of the ball carried through to the next week when the Falcons routed Carolina. That surge came to a crashing halt last week in a loss to Tampa Bay, with quarterback Matt Ryan not having nearly as good a game as he should have at home against the Buccaneers’ subpar secondary. But assuming that running back Devonta Freeman returns from injury, as expected, and that Julio Jones can play his way through a shoulder injury that has him listed as questionable, the Falcons should not be counted out at home. Being a full touchdown underdog to a team they beat so recently does not add up, even with New Orleans having a chance to clinch the N.F.C. South division title with a win. Pick: Falcons +7

Bears at Lions, 12:30 p.m., Fox

Line: Bears -3.5 | Total: 38

The Lions (3-7-1) have lost four consecutive games, including one against the Bears (5-6) and another against lowly Washington. With quarterback Matthew Stafford still not practicing, and his backup, Jeff Driskel, banged up after last week’s loss to the Redskins, it is hard to imagine Detroit making a dent against Chicago’s defense. Also, the Lions’ secondary is bad enough that even Mitchell Trubisky should be able to find holes in it. This one appears headed for something of a Thanksgiving tradition: a Lions loss. Pick: Bears -3.5

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