The NFL is back to three games on Thanksgiving day and night to help celebrate the holiday with a full football feast. The Week 12 challenge that comes with our picks and predictions against the spread for the contests this year is the fact all six teams in the matchups lost their games in Week 11.
What does that mean for Thursday’s action? Something must give as three teams need to rebound while the other half stays cold and thinks about another loss on a much longer week. It seems easiest to trust the two best teams playing and one of the traditional hosts.
Here’s Sporting News thorough Thanksgiving game breakdown, hoping for no turkeys in our latest fearless forecast for the 2021 season:
NFL picks, predictions for Thanksgiving
- Bears (-3.5, 41.5 o/u) at Lions
12:30 p.m. ET, Fox
The Bears are going back to starting Andy Dalton after rookie first-rounder Justin Fields got knocked out with an injury to his ribs against the Ravens. The Lions may stick with Tim Boyle over Jared Goff, who missed all of Week 11 at the Browns with an oblique injury.
Detroit created some ugly games in Pittsburgh and Cleveland with a run-heavy, gritty defensive approach. But its last two home games against Cincinnati and Philadelphia were disasters. Chicago has good recent history in Ford Field, including two consecutive Thanksgiving game wins.
The Bears are missing key defensive players but still hve plenty of offense in this matchup to support Dalton, led by running back David Montgomery and breakout wide receiver Darnell Mooney. The Lions will try to ride D’Andre Swift to victory in the backfield, but their lack of reliable downfield passing game hurts here. Whether it’s Fields or Dalton, the Bears will break out of scoring in the teens and execute enough to delay the end of the Matt Nagy era.
Pick: Bears win 27-17 and cover the.spread.
- Raiders at Cowboys (-7, 51 o/u)
4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Raiders are back to fading hard out of the AFC playoff picture. They can no longer run the ball and play adequate defense, which is putting a lot of pressure on Derek Carr in what’s become a compressed passing game again. All those developments are bad for facing the Cowboys. Dallas had the Denver hiccup at home but has otherwise rolled in Jerry World.
The Cowboys’ offense will be without former Raiders wideout Amari Cooper (COVID-19) and likely also new top target CeeDee Lamb (concussion). They were kept out of the end zone in Kansas City last week as both Dak Prescott and the running game struggled. Look for them to go back to basics with the backield of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, with more short-to-intermediate passing and still just enough receiving pop with Michael Gallup and Cedrick Willson.
The Raiders can do some damage with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow inside for Carr, but again he’ll be under siege and make critical mistakes as Dan Quinn’s defense schemes to confuse him.
Pick: Cowboys win 27-17 and cover the spread.
- Bills (-4, 46.5) at Saints
8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
The Bills have lost their way offensively as the big plays downfield have been taken away from Josh Allen and they struggle to support him with a traditional running game. Allen needs to rely more on his own athleticism to make plays, taking a cue from what Jalen Hurts did against the Saints’ defense. Throwing a lot more to Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox on short-to-intermediate routes is also a smart, patient game plan.
The Saints are uncertain to have Alvin Kamara (knee) back on a short week after he missed the past two games. The Bills’ run defense should be motivated to show the Jonathan Taylor debacle at home was a fluke. Trevor Siemian should see plenty of pressure and won’t see much open available with his limited receiver and tight end committee.
Pick: Bills win 27-17 and cover the spread.