NFL Betting Odds: Thanksgiving Wagering Primer
We have reached the inevitable point in the NFL season - the one day every year in which I, as a Canadian, am jealous of my American neighbors. Don't get me wrong, I like you guys all the time. But on Thursday while we're up here working away like any other day, you guys are eating turkey and watching football. One of the very few things I love more than football is turkey. Now, I'd be more jealous if the games were better than they are this year - there isn't a game here that I was crying to see - but I'm still jealous. Here's a look at the three games and what they have to offer us:
Chicago (-4) at Detroit: This is a divisional contest, but one with much less meaning than divisional contests can have in later November. Chicago needs the win to keep their lead in the division and maintain the control that they have right now. They control their own destiny. But the Lions are playing for nothing at all. They sit at 4-6, and they are playing like a team that is 4-6. You can always tell when a team isn't in a good place when a story comes out like we saw from Detroit last week. Coach Patricia decided to have a practice outside when it was snowing even though the team has an indoor facility. Doesn't sound like much of a big deal, and for a lot of teams it wouldn't be. But in Detroit it was as if Patricia had forced the team to use live grenades instead of balls. It was hopelessly overblown, and when you are focusing on the small things it's hard to do the big things that help you win. It's obviously not a fatal situation - the Lions beat the Panthers after practice-gate. But this Chicago team is playing a lot better than Carolina right now and presents some big troubles. There is a swagger in Chicago that we haven't seen for far too long. The league is just plain better when football matters in Chicago. The offense has turned a clear corner, and the defense is really good. Things aren't perfect, of course - Mitch Trubisky threw an interception that was nine kinds of ugly against the Vikings. But they are doing more things right than wrong when they have the ball, and on defense they have the ability to be terrifying - having the best defender in the league will do that for you. This is one of those proving ground games for the Bears - if they want to prove that they are indeed a contender then this is the kind of game that they need to be winning.
Washington (+7.5) at Dallas: Never has a battle for a divisional lead been this bad. Some have been as bad, I'm sure, but none have been worse. Washington is going with the dynamic duo of Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez under center after the gruesome Alex Smith injury. And as if Mark Sanchez alone isn't scary enough, this is an unprepared Sanchez since he just joined the team Monday. It should be an opportunity for the Cowboys, but their QB game isn't exactly strong, their coach is working very hard to get himself fired, and they are playing far from a complete game right now. This was the least inspiring division in the league even when Smith was playing, but now it is even more wide open, and even less relevant. It feels like this number is giving the Cowboys a lot of credit given what we have seen from them at times. But then again, this is Colt McCoy we are talking about. This is, by a pretty wide margin, the least interesting of the three games on offer - and that's saying something, because none of the three are nearly as compelling as they could be.
Atlanta (+13) at New Orleans: This is going to be a lopsided blowout that will be over by the half. And that is probably a good thing given how sleepy you will inevitably be by this point in the day. New Orleans is dialed in right now like few teams can be. They are not only having fun winning, but obviously having fun making teams suffer. And Atlanta is a 4-6 team that has lost two in a row and looks utterly lost and defeated. As I see it, there are two interesting things about this game. First, watching this New Orleans offense right now is a treat. Drew Brees is completing 77 percent of his passes and doing whatever he wants to do. It's absolutely amazing and unbelievable even in a time when passing seems to be easy. And second, with every game Atlanta plays, we get to watch another nail driven into the coaching career of Steve Sarkisian. The offensive coordinator was a horrible hire when the team tabbed him to replace Kyle Shanahan, and he has proven his ineptness in new and creative ways every game since. It's a mess, and I will admit to taking pleasure in watching teams struggle badly when they face a situation entirely of their own making. I mean, when they hired Sarkisian there was precisely one possible outcome, and now it is playing out. So, watch this game for those reasons, but don't expect anything close to a classic. There have been times when these two teams meeting would be a massive game. This is not one of those times.
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