What to Expect from the 2021 Thanksgiving games
A tradition dating back to 1934, NFL football is a Thanksgiving staple. The idea originated when Lions owner, George A. Richards, attempted to boost ticket sales and gain more attention for his team. It was ultimately successful and led to a 26,000 seat sellout and has become a well-known football tradition. Below is a preview of the 2021 Thanksgiving matchups:
Bears @ Lions 11:30am CT FOX
Line: Bears -3.5
QB Justin Fields, WR Allen Robinson, and DL Akiem Hicks did not practice
S Eddie Jackson and WR Danell Mooney were limited
Jared Goff "has a 60% chance of being a 50/50 decision" (update: Goff will start)
RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai did not practice
DL Michael Brockers was not listed on the injury report.
Combined, the Bears and Lions have 3 wins on the season with all 3 coming from Chicago. The Bears will start QB Andy Dalton after Justin Fields injured his ribs last week against the Ravens and the Lions are "leaning towards" starting Jared Goff as he battles with an oblique injury. Neither team has much that sticks out, especially given that Bears star linebacker, Khalil Mack, was recently ruled out for the season after foot surgery.
The Bears are pretty well rounded with talent on defense. Offensively, they are getting RB David Montgomery closer to full health and have Andy Dalton, who had a respectable 2 touchdown performance last week. While the Lions look poor on paper, they have come within 3 points of the Browns, tied the Steelers, and lost to the Ravens and Vikings by just 2. If Goff holds up, the Lions offense could make the game competitive as they have some interesting weapons like D'Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson and an underrated Offensive Line. In their 81 Thanksgiving games, the Lions are 37-42-2 and have lost 4 straight Thanksgiving games.
Best Bet: D'Andre Swift over 106.5 total yards (-115)
Swift has reached this total in half of his games this season and faces an average rush defense and bottom 5 pass defense. Swift is easily the Lion's most explosive target, can rush and receive, and he has totaled 265 total yards over the past 2 weeks against above average defenses.
Raiders @ Cowboys 3:30pm CBS
Line: Cowboys -7
DE Yannick Ngakoue, K Daniel Carlson, and RB Kenyan Drake were full participants
G John Simpson was a Limited participant
WR CeeDee Lamb is "making progress" after his concussion and did light field work
T Tyron Smith and RB Ezekiel Elliot were full participants
The most interesting of the 3 matchups, the Cowboys are coming off a 19-9 loss against the improving Chiefs where QB Dak Prescott threw for just 216 yards 2 interceptions. The offense struggled overall as they missed Amari Cooper to injury, had other star WR CeeDee Lamb leave mid game due to injury, and the offensive line struggled to protect Prescott: leading to his lowed QBR of the season and being sacked 5 times.
A highlight of their season, the Cowboys defense is much improved. Both teams are top 10 in the league in total yards and have middle of the pack defenses: leading to a likely high scoring game. 2-3 since HC Jon Gruden was fired, the Raiders spent much of the season atop the AFC West. They now face a skidding Cowboys team that still has major potential and could make a deep playoff run.
A Thanksgiving football tradition, the Cowboys are 31-21-1 and 2-0 against the Raiders on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys tradition started in 1966 when GM Tex Schram signed up for the Thanksgiving game in an effort to gain national publicity for his team. It is custom that the Lions play the early game, Cowboys play the midday game and the night game was just added in 2006 and has no set participants.
Best Bet: Derek Carr over 1 interception (-145)
Derek Carr has thrown an interception in every game this season besides 2 and has thrown at least one in each of his last 4 games. Carr is also facing the league leader in interceptions, Trevon Diggs, who leads the league with 8.
Bills @ Saints 7:20pm NBC
Line: Bills -6
WR Cole Beasley was limited
LB Tremaine Edmunds was a full participant
DT Star Lotuleli and OL Spencer Brown remain on the Covid list
RB Alvin Kamara, OL Ryan Ramczyk, DE Marcus Davenport, and RB Mark Ingram did not practice
OL Terron Armstead was limited
QBs Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian were full participants
After being the team to beat in the AFC just a few weeks ago, the Bills currently sit at 2nd in the AFC East at 6-4. The Saints lost their starting QB, Jameis Winston, in week 8 but are still .500 and are 2nd in the NFC South. With Trevor Siemean at Quarterback, the Saints have looked surprisingly good, despite missing their two star offensive players, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.
Both teams have great defensive fronts and poor run games (Saints due to injury) but if the Bills can better mix pass and run plays, their offense can be dominant. This could be another intriguing matchup though the odds are stacked against Saints QB Trevor Siemian as he is missing multiple targets and faces a strong defense led by DE Greg Rousseau, LB Matt Milano, and CB Tredavious White.
Best Bet: Bills ML (-250)
Despite recent struggles, the Bills are a good team. A major concern I have for both teams, though, is the lack of a run game. In the Bills 41-15 loss last week against the Colts, they ran the ball just 13 times which has allowed defenses to prepare exclusively for the pass. I also like Josh Allen Over 316.5 pass + rush yards (-115), a total he has reached 6 times this season.