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

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


Thanksgiving is a time when families get together to eat traditional foods, have traditional arguments and, most important, observe the tradition of remembering that the Detroit Lions exist.

As has been the case in recent years, the usual Lions and Cowboys games will be bolstered by a third N.F.L. game, in prime time. Fans can watch football for the better part of 12 hours should they so choose.

Here are our picks against the spread.

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

Just three days after the Rams and the Chiefs played a game with the highest over-under in N.F.L. history (63.5 points), the Saints (9-1) and the Falcons (4-6) will play one in which Las Vegas is nearly as optimistic: Oddsmakers have put the over-under at 60.5.

This game may not have the Super Bowl preview vibe of the epic showdown in Los Angeles — no one is confusing Atlanta for being a real contender — but there are offensive stars all over the field for both teams, and a wild game could ensue.

Drew Brees of the Saints issued a challenge last week when he said that a strategy of shutting down Michael Thomas, New Orleans’s star wide receiver, would just result in the team winning with its other options. It was a point he had just proven by beating the Eagles with throws to the rookie Tre’Quan Smith.

Smith may miss this week as a result of a foot injury, but New Orleans would presumably turn to Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr or even the veteran Brandon Marshall to replace some of that production. And it’s not like Atlanta has anyone to stop Thomas. (There is a reason his Twitter handle is @CantGuardMike.)

The Saints are on a nine-game winning streak, and their run of games with 45 or more points will come to an end at some point. But between the Falcons’ poor defense — it is particularly bad against the run, which could lead to big games by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara — and New Orleans’s home-field advantage, it is not the week to start betting against the Saints. The line is big enough that the Falcons are the smarter pick, but another option is to stay away from this one. Pick: Falcons +13

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

The Bears (7-3) have blossomed this season, and giving Khalil Mack all the credit is hardly fair to a defense that has produced an N.F.L.-leading 27 takeaways in 10 games, with five of the turnovers resulting in defensive touchdowns. It is a defense that should terrify any team, even the Lions (4-6), who typically do a decent job of avoiding interceptions.

For Detroit to snap Chicago’s four-game winning streak, the Lions’ defense would most likely have to produce turnovers of its own, but Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense know there is no need to be overly aggressive or force plays, because the defense will get them the ball back. Pick: Bears -3

Redskins at Cowboys, 4:30 p.m., Fox

At one point, this game seemed like a formality. The Redskins (6-4) were running away with the division and the Cowboys (5-5) could not find anything approaching consistency. But in the wake of Alex Smith’s season-ending injury, the N.F.C. East is wide open, and Dallas, playing at home, is in a prime position to stake its claim.

In truth, Washington should not be counted out. While Colt McCoy has a 7-18 record as a starter in his eight-year career, the team seems to have confidence that he can reasonably approximate its normal offense. Dallas is rightly the favorite, but the point spread is large enough that Washington should sneak in for a cover. Pick: Redskins +7.5.





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