Thanksgiving Football Predictions - 2018

Time is definitely flying by. It seems that we were just celebrating Halloween and here we are with today being Thanksgiving. As has been the case since the NFL's inception in 1920, games have always been played on Thanksgiving but the current slate of Thanksgiving games involving home games in Detroit and Dallas did not start until 1978. Then in 2006, the NFL added a third game to be played in the evening once all of us are ready to pass out with huge servings of tryptophan and starches!

We are not sure how we feel about these games. Some years have had awesome matchups and some subpar games. This year, we get to see two awesome teams with the Chicago Bears travelling to Detroit and the New Orleans Saints hosting the Atlanta Falcons. The game in Dallas is so-so as the Cowboys square off against the Washington Indigenous People (we suppose we should avoid the derogatory team name on a day celebrating the Pilgrims and Native Americans).

As usual in the NFL, we are thrown a couple of curve balls with injuries to two of the starting QBs. Mitch Tribusky is doubtful with a bum shoulder. He could barely move it on Wednesday so there is a very good chance that Chicago does not want to risk major injury to their star QB. Alex Smith unfortunately suffered a horrific leg injury which might end his career. There is concern of infection with bone piercing through the skin. That means we get Chase Daniel and Colt McCoy. Both were incredible in the college game several years ago but both are journeymen QB who have been relegated to backup duties for most, if not their entire, careers. We feel OK about McCoy but not Daniel. Chicago's offense takes a huge hit with Daniel replacing Tribusky. The Bears offense will be limited and very predictable. At least they have a great pass rush!

Here are the lines (provided by Westgate) and our predictions (based on our model).

Chicago (-3) at Detroit
Washington at Dallas (-7)
Atlanta at New Orleans (-13)

Chicago 24
Detroit 20

Washington 20
Dallas 23

Atlanta 24
New Orleans 34

Last week we went 3-2 again with our Big Five picks bringing our season total to 31-23-1 or 57.4%. Weeks 1-5 were brutal with an 11-13-1 record and 0-5 in Week 5. Since Week 6, we are 20-10 or 66.7%. That would rank in the top 50 in the Super Contest so we are very confident with our model.

Here is our analysis.

  1. Our model has Chicago winning by 15 points so with a healthy Tribusky, we would predict a 31 - 17 victory. We still the Bears can win with Daniel since the Chicago pass rush is that good and Matt Stafford has been sacked 20 times in the last 4 games. Detroit is missing RB Kerryon Johnson and of course they traded away WR Golden Tate. WR Marvin Jones is still injured so the Lions are trotting out the B team once again. This game could be ugly and in those kind of games, take the better defense which of course belongs to Chicago. Detroit defense is nothing special and the Bears will have playmakers in their backfield. As long as Daniel manages the game well, the Bears should win and cover the spread.

  2. This could be another sloppy game. Two mediocre teams. The Cowboys are a tough team to figure out though. Some weeks they look great and other weeks they come out flat. Well the Cowboys better bring their A game on turkey day since both Dallas and Washington are the top two teams in the NFC (L)East and with Dallas a game behind Washington in the standings and already having lost to Washington earlier this season, this is pretty much a must win game for Dallas with just 6 weeks left in the regular season. Washington is another tough team to figure out. Just like the Cowbouys some weeks they look like playoff team and other weeks you wonder how they have winning record. Our model has the Redskins winning this one by three. True, Smith is out but McCoy is very capable of leading this team. He has been the backup QB for Washington since 2014 and has started a few games for them. He also has decent chemisty with tight end Jordan Reed who had a great game last week. However, we are going to flip the script here and predict a 3 point win for the Cowboys. Just look at the rushing numbers for both teams based on adjusted yardage from Football Outsiders.

Dallas allows 3.61 adjusted rushing yards per carry (ranked 1st in the NFL)
Washington allows 4.92 adjusted rushing yards per carry (ranked 28th in the NFL)

Dallas gains 4.70 adjusted rushing yards per carry (ranked 8th in the NFL)
Washington gains 4.06 adjusted rushing yards per carry (ranked 23rd in the NFL)

The way we see it, Dallas has a young and dynamic RB in Ezekiel Elliot facing a weak run defense. On the other side you have an aging RB in Adrian Peterson who just lost their QB for the season and are facing a tough run defense. Washington simply has not been nearly as effective at running the ball and stopping the run as Dallas. With this game being a must for Dallas and the game being played in Dallas, the Cowboys win this one. Just don't expect Dallas to cover since Washington can make this a competitive game.

  1. This Saints team is an offensive juggernaut. They are clicking on all cylinders and will need to keep winning to guarantee home field after the Rams won an epic game at the LA Coliseum earlier this week on national TV. The Falcons pass defense is non-existent and is arguably the worst in the league. Both QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas rank 1st for their positions according to Pro Football Focus grades. There is no stopping that duo and don't forget that the Saints also have Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Tre'Quan Smith who went off last Sunday. Yes, the Falcons have a good offense and the Saints defense is nothing special but this game is in the SuperDome where Brees is nearly unstoppable. This will be the most entertaining game of the day and should be worth the wait. Saints will win but the Falcons will keep pace preventing a Saints cover.

As for our Big Five Picks, Washington made the cut. We will have our four other picks ready by Friday. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy time with family!