Thanksgiving NFL Betting Trends – Cowboys Clutch, Lions Lame on the Holiday

Each Thanksgiving, we talk a lot about family, eat too much food, and watch just enough football.

Whether it be because games are nationally televised and players want to look good, or because they’re inspired by the holiday, there are trends that bettors can take advantage of when betting on Thanksgiving pigskin.

The Lions and Cowboys play each year on Thanksgiving. Prior to last season’s 40-10 win over the Packers (who were without Aaron Rodgers), Detroit had dropped nine straight and gone 2-7 against the spread. During the nine losses, the Lions average margin of defeat was nearly 20 points. Detroit gave up at least 27 points in each game, more than 30 six times, and more than 40 on three occasions.

Dallas is 1-1 straight up and 0-2 against the spread during the last two Thanksgiving games. However, they have a long history of winning on the holiday. The Cowboys are 29-16-1 all time on Thanksgiving, and have won six of their last eight. The six victories have come by an average of more than 18 points, and the Cowboys’ have averaged a shade under 30 in the last eight .

The recent trend for Thanksgiving games, generally, is for a lot of points to be scored. During the last two seasons, overs are 6-0 on Thanksgiving. The average total in those six games is over 58. Interestingly, though, the third Thanksgiving game – the one that does not include the Cowboys or Lions – has tended to be lower scoring. In fact, in three of the last four seasons, the third game has been the lowest scoring of the trio with an average point total of 42.

The slate this season includes Chicago at Detroit, Dallas hosting Philadelphia, and Seattle visiting San Francisco. First, let’s look at some numbers for each of those games and then we’ll draw some conclusions.

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4)

The first game features a Bears defense that is giving up more than 27 points per game (31st in the NFL) against a Lions team holding opponents to a league-best 17.3 points per contest. Chicago’s offense produces over 21 points a game, while the Lions only manage about 18 (28th in the league). The last two times the teams played at Ford Field, the game totals were 72 and 50, respectively (with each team winning one). Chicago has been involved in six overs and five unders this season, while the Lions have played in just two overs and nine unders.

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3)

The Cowboys have scored 30 points or more in each of their last four wins, while being held to 17 in their last two loses. Dallas is sixth in the NFL in scoring, averaging 26.5 points per game. The Eagles are even more prolific on offense, averaging over 31 per game (third in the league), but they give up their fair share of points, as well; Philly surrenders 25 per game and has either scored or given up 40 points in each of their last three. Dallas, on the other hand, is a field-goal better on defense, allowing just under 22 points per game. During their last five meetings in Arlington, the winning team has scored 30 or more three times. On the season, the Cowboys have played in six overs, four unders, and one push. The Eagles have played in eight overs and only three unders.

Seattle (7-4) at San Francisco (7-4)

San Francisco has allowed more than 21 points just once in their seven wins. Two weeks ago, they beat the Giants 16-10 and, on Sunday, they got by Washington 17-13. On average, the Niners score just over 20 points a game while limiting opponents to about the same. The oddsmakers are onto the Niners though, and just four of their games have stayed under, while seven have gone over. Seattle is tallying more than 25 points a game and allowing fewer than 20. During the last five weeks (in which the Seahawks have gone 4-1), their scoring-offense is right around that 25 point average, but their scoring-defense is down around 15. Seven of Seattle’s games have gone over this year and four have stayed under. Only one of the last six meetings between these teams produced more than 40 points, and the winner has stayed under 20 in three of them.

So, keeping in mind what we learned at the outset, what can we conclude from the team-specific trends? The Lions and Bears have very conflicting numbers, but recall that Detroit doesn’t fare well on Turkey Day; Dallas at Philadelphia looks like it will be a shootout, so pay close attention to the over; and the San Francisco and Seattle tilt – i.e. the non-Cowboys/Lions game, which has recently been a low scoring affair – shapes up as another defensive struggle, therefore give the under a look.

(Photo credit: Bigcats lair at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons.)