NFL Week 12 picks: A bettor’s guide to winning Thanksgiving with the family
Thanksgiving. A day where we get together with the family and give thanks for what truly matters. No. 1 on the list: proving you know more about football than everyone at the table.
We’re going to break down all three Thanksgiving games in this space from a bettor’s perspective and give you a leg up on the competition, whether you’re looking to win some money at the sports book or win bragging rights over the in-laws. You’ll find my basic leans for each spread as well as some props to consider throughout the day, including my best bet for each game.
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Vikings at Lions
- The line: Vikings -3
- The total: 44.5 points
This game is a rematch of a Week 4 matchup that Detroit won 14-7 in Minnesota. So why are the Vikings now favored, you ask? Simple: they haven’t lost since, beating up on NFL lightweights like the Browns as well as potential playoff contenders like the Rams last week. The Lions are on a three-game winning streak of their own, but it’s come against suspect competition: the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers and offensively-challenged Bears on the road, and the 0-infinity Browns at home.
This line opened as a pick ’em, meaning you just had to pick the winner of the game to win your bet. But sharp money (a.k.a, respected professional bettors) has poured in on the Vikings, pushing the line all the way up to Vikings -3. That’s as high as it’s going to get, and if you want to be on the smart side, you should take the three points and the Lions in this matchup.
However, I personally think the Vikings win this game, and I’d hold out hope that this line drops to -2.5 before kickoff and lay the points with the Vikings. The Lions have a reputation of beating up on the dregs of the NFL but coming up short against legit playoff-caliber teams. That’s continued this season, where they’ve beaten the Cardinals and Giants in addition to their current win streak against the Packers, Browns and Bears and the Week 4 victory over the Vikings. They’ve lost to the Falcons, Panthers, Saints and Steelers. Throw out the previous Vikings game, and it’s clear that the Lions are losers against winning teams and winners against losing teams.
The pick: Vikings -3.
To make our best bet for this game, you’ll have to wait until halftime. Why? Because even though I like the Vikings to win the game, taking the Lions to cover in the second half has been worth playing. The Lions have outscored the competition in eight of their 10 games this year, as Matthew Stafford has gone to work with his rushing game largely ineffective. This could be a particularly smart bet to make during Thanksgiving festivities if the Vikings have a lead at halftime after anyone potentially taking the other side has seen Minnesota dominate for 30 minutes.
The best bet: Lions +TBD in the second half.
Looking to the props in this game available at Sportsbook.ag, there’s one that sticks out if you like the Vikings to win. Latavius Murray ran for two TDs against the Rams, and it marked the third time in the last four games that he reached the end zone on the ground. Detroit has one of the worst rush defenses in the league, and only one team has given up more rushing TDs this year. They’ve been particularly vulnerable lately, giving up multiple rushing TDs in each of their last three games despite winning all three.
Murray seems like a great bet to score, and while he’s +105 to reach the end zone in this game (meaning you risk $100 to win $105), that bumps up to +190 if you take him to score and the Vikings to win. You could also take him at +750 to score the first TD if you’re feeling lucky. We’ll play it safe and just bank on him reaching the end zone at some point.
The best prop: Latavius Murray scores TD +105.
Want a fun bet to make before this game starts? Get into a conversation with someone about how you think Adam Thielen. He is, but anyone who hasn’t been watching closely probably would give that honor to Stefon Diggs, who opened the season as the team’s top target and scored two TDs in two of Minnesota’s first three games. But he’s only received 17 targets total in three games since returning from injury, while Thielen has seen at least eight targets in every game except in Week 2. He’s turned those into big plays lately, scoring TDs in each of his last three games and topping 95 yards in four of his last five.
Any bet you can make where you get Thielen and the other side takes Diggs should be a good one. The easiest bet to track is to make it total receptions in the game, and if your mark is still a little hesitant, offer to let them win in the case of a tie.
The fun bet: Adam Thielen over Stefon Diggs in receptions.
Chargers at Cowboys
- The line: Chargers -2.5
- The total: 47.5 points
Like the previous game, this one has seen a massive move to the road team. The Cowboys were initially 3.5-point favorites for this game, but after getting blasted for a second straight game on Sunday night, this line reopened at Cowboys -1. That wasn’t good enough for the sharp money, who quickly pushed this game to pick ’em and then kept loading up on the Chargers, with the line moving all the way to Chargers -2.5 at many books by Wednesday afternoon.
If you want to follow the money, take the Chargers to cover at anything less than three points. However, this time I’m going to be on the opposite side and go with the Cowboys. They’ve struggled in recent weeks without some of their best players, and while Ezekiel Elliott isn’t walking through that door anytime soon and Sean Lee remains sidelined, Tyron Smith was able to practice in a limited fashion all week and is listed as questionable for this game. If he’s able to suit up, it would go a long way toward keeping an excellent Chargers pass rush at bay. The Chargers are also dealing with key line injuries, as Russell Okung has been limited all week as well. He’s the one Chargers lineman that’s been a serviceable pass blocker this year; if he’s not 100 percent, the Cowboys pass rush could also have a field day.
The Chargers are a better passing team than rushing team, but that plays into the strength of the Cowboys’ defense. And the Chargers offense hasn’t been lighting things up in games where they don’t get five interceptions against a fifth-round rookie making his first start. The Cowboys still can move the ball on the ground without Elliott, and they’ve managed to rush for over 100 yards in each of the last two games despite being down big in each. A run-heavy attack takes advantage of the Chargers’ weakness on defense. I like the Cowboys to defy expectations and bounce back with a win here.
The pick: Cowboys +2.5.
My best bet for this game has to do with the total, which I feel is far too high at 47.5 points. The Cowboys have failed to score 10 points in each of their last two games, and while they should have a better showing here, we can’t expect them to suddenly light up the scoreboard. And though the Chargers scored 54 in their last game, they tend to be involved in lower-scoring affairs, with their previous four games going Under the total. The three times they’ve been Over the total, the games have finished with 50, 49 and 45 points. There doesn’t seem to be a high ceiling for points in this game, and if this total goes Over, it’ll be by a hair. I’d rather bank on the Under hitting and root for a low-scoring game.
The best bet: Under 47.5 points.
For our prop bet, I’m looking at the longest touchdown of the game. The line is set at 44.5 yards, and while the Chargers have been involved in several big play touchdowns, with their defense giving up four over 44 yards and the Chargers scoring four over that number as well, that’s not something we’ve seen much in Cowboys games. They’ve scored only one TD longer than 37 yards this year, on a pass to Elliott. They’ve given up just two TDs over 44 yards on defense as well. I expect both teams to be focused on the running game, and this feels like a game with more field goals than touchdowns anyway. I’ll fade the long TD in this case.
The best prop: Under 44.5 yards for longest TD.
Here’s an interesting side bet you can make with someone while watching this game. You’ll take a Chargers RB, he or she will take a Cowboys RB, and whichever scores first wins the bet. But to tilt things in their favor, you say that Melvin Gordon is off-limits for your pick. Why would you want this bet? Pinning down the right Cowboys running back is no easy task; your mark will likely side with Alfred Morris, but Rod Smith got the start last week and could easily poach a score from Morris. So could Dak Prescott, who has five rushing TDs this year. Meanwhile, you’ll take Austin Ekeler, a no-name Chargers running back who has scored five times himself, including three times in the last two game.
The fun bet: Austin Ekeler vs. your opponent’s pick of Cowboys RBs.
Giants at Redskins
- The line: Redskins -7.5
- The total: 44.5 points
The Redskins are coming off back-to-back losses, while the Giants just upset the Chiefs in overtime despite being double-digit underdogs. As a result, I think this line is a bit lower than where it should be, making the Redskins a nice play. That’s doubly the case and shop around for a -7, which should be available even if you have to lay -120 to play it.
Though the Redskins are in the middle of a rough patch in terms of wins and losses, they’ve played an exceptionally hard schedule in recent weeks and had to deal with a massive amount of injuries to their offensive linemen along the way. They lost to the Eagles and Cowboys (when Zeke was still playing), beat the Seahawks in Seattle, then lost to the Vikings and Saints. Their other losses this year came in their other Eagles game and against the Chiefs in Kansas City. There aren’t many teams that are going to have success in those matchups, but the offense has still largely managed to play well all season, ranking 10th in overall DVOA.
This is a massive spot for a team looking to get back in the playoff hunt with all of their most difficult matchups now behind them. And they should be able to take care of business against a Giants team that lost by double digits to the Seahawks (24-7), Rams (51-17) and 49ers (31-21) before upsetting the Chiefs in poor conditions last week.
The pick: Redskins -7 (-120).
My best bet for this game doubles as the prop bet to play. Jordan Reed has again been ruled out, leaving Vernon Davis as the Redskins’ top tight end for this game. He’ll be up against a defense that has been atrocious covering TEs, allowing a tight end touchdown in every game this season except for last week’s upset of the Chiefs. Don’t expect last week to be the start of a trend — the Redskins’ team total for this game is 26.5 points, and if they’re going to score multiple TDs as expected, at least one has to go to Davis. Feel free to gamble on Davis +800 to score the first TD of the game, but taking him to score at least one touchdown on the day at +120 is a virtual lock.
The best bet and best prop: Vernon Davis +120 to score a touchdown.
For the fun bet here, I’m going to assume everyone will be tuckered out after a long day of football and feasting. If you can convince someone to at least watch the beginning of this game, you can bet on when the first score will happen. The current odds set the line at 6 1/2 minutes, with a slight lean on there being a score by then (-120 on Yes). Take that side and hope to knock out your Vernon Davis bet immediately and hopefully call it an early night.
The fun bet: Yes, there will be a score in first 6 1/2 minutes vs. No.
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