For people out there who are roughly around 40 and younger, you might not even know that Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day football are two separate things. Some people legitimately believe that Thanksgiving is an NFL-sponsored holiday. That’s how synonymous football is with turkey on Thanksgiving. It really is amazing how much the sport of professional football has grown in America, and how it’s the thing that millions of people are looking forward to on Thursday, not their overly-dry turkey slices and jellied canned cranberry stuff. Las Vegas oddsmakers understand just how popular football is on Thanksgiving, and so they’re taking no holiday when it comes to handicapping the matches.
Throughout this post, we’re going to look at the Las Vegas odds for Thanksgiving Day football games, and speak briefly about how those oddsmakers in the desert are actually coming up with their numbers.
Current Odds For Thanksgiving Day NFL Football Matchups
Let’s go over the odds quickly for the three games being played on Thanksgiving Day. First up, we’re going to have the Minnesota Vikings (6-4) visiting the Detroit Lions (6-4) in a game that will decide the leader in the NFC North. At this current juncture, there may be no two teams in the NFL as evenly matched. The Lions have a top offense, the Vikings a top defense, and each team has an identical record. Though because the offense trumps defense in most NFL games today, the slight edge goes to the home team, and the Detroit Lions are favored at -2.5. The O/U is 43, so it’s not even expected to be much of a high-scoring game. Something about 24-20 for the over seems to be the practical outcome. The Lions get the nod here by, in part, being a hot team, winners of 4 of their last 5, while Minnesota has actually lost 4 of their last 5.
What will likely be the more exciting game, we have the Washington Redskins (6-3) traveling to Texas to face off against the Dallas Cowboys (9-1). The Cowboys have the longest winning streak in the NFL, and with Dak Prescott, they have a young QB who’s set the record for the longest winning streak by a rookie in history. Can this continue? With the Cowboys favored at -7, some seem to believe they will. The Cowboys may just be too much for the Redskins to handle while at home. They have a very strong running game, an unflappable passing game, and a defense that bends but doesn’t break. It will take Kirk Cousins racking up some insane yards to compete, and the edge is going to stay with Dallas in this regard, as the Cowboys’ pass rush should be able to shut that down.
The fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) and Indianapolis Colts (5-5) aren’t division rivals doesn’t make this game any less exciting. The Steelers are favored, going off at -8, and that’s mostly because the Colts are without Andrew Luck, who’s out with a concussion this week. Although we also see Pittsburgh winning, we don’t believe it’s going to be some run-away walk in the park. The Steelers’ offense can be held in check with even a modest set of man coverage keeping Antonio Brown underneath. The Colts are certainly intelligent enough to play tight in the secondary, which may keep the game close going into the 4th quarter.
How Oddsmakers Come up with Their Odds
Before we get into the numbers and data used by oddsmakers to set their odds, here’s something incredibly important to keep in mind: A favorite doesn’t necessarily mean that Vegas is picking that team to win. In other words, having the Cowboys at -7 doesn’t mean the oddsmakers believe the Cowboys will win by a touchdown; it’s simply a number that’s used to hopefully induce the same amount of action from each side. Oddsmakers are trying to balance a book at the end of the day, allowing the proceeds from the bets lost (by people) to pay out the bets won, with a healthy chunk going to the sportsbook in question. To this end, all data used by oddsmakers is used to determine a line you expect to see, want to see, and will bet on.
A good example of this would be the 2007 Super Bowl, played with the New York Giants vs. the New England Patriots. All computer models of facts and figures had the Patriots at only a 9-point favorite, which is pretty big. But Vegas’ oddsmakers realized that, colloquially speaking, the Patriots were more or less invincible, and to get people to bet on the Giants, they were going to have to give up more points. Therefore, the average line out of Vegas for the Super Bowl was Patriots -13. AccuScore provides the data, which is objective, but the way the line is set and moves is subjective to what the gamblers actually want to bet on. Bet you didn’t know that you—and not Vegas—were the entity responsible for the odds lines!
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