Thanksgiving Day: Overcoming the Odds – 3 Games to Watch

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Richard Graves

Presenter, Writer and Broadcaster

NFL Week 12: Overcoming The Odds - 3 Games to Watch

Big Battle In Big D – Giants v Cowboys. Can the Bills Thwart Resurgent Lions & Are the Vikings the Real Deal???


Buffalo Bills (7-3) @ Detroit Lions (4-6) (Detroit Lions +9)

Thanksgiving Day starts with a matchup between two of the better offensive teams in football this season.  The Buffalo Bills have the no. 2 ranked offense but are ranked 3rd in passing, 9th in rushing and 2nd in scoring (28.1 points per game). While the Detroit Lions come into the game with the 6th ranked offense – 11th in passing, 10th in rushing and 8th in scoring (25 ppg).

This will be the 83rd time Detroit have play on Thanksgiving and it could well be a shootout! The Lions are riding a 3 game win streak and after waiting two years for a road win, they come into this game having secured back to back wins away from home – including a 31-18 take down of the in form New York Giants last weekend.

The Bills finally got back to winning ways on Sunday – at this venue. That was after a snowstorm forced their home game against the Cleveland Browns to be moved to Detroit. The one cause for concern though, is the fitness of QB Josh Allen. After tweaking his elbow a couple of weeks ago, once again there were some throws on Sunday which were uncharacteristically inaccurate.

This is something the Lions may see as a potential opportunity to exploit. CB Jeff Okudah has been impressive in recent weeks. As has rookie DE Aiden Hutchinson – once again showing off his athleticism on Sunday, claiming his second interception of the season. Meanwhile, in De’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, the Lions have one of the better running back combinations in the NFL and if they are to win this game, they will need to run the ball well.

All that said, it’s a short turn around and while the Lions are without doubt improving, the Bills are still the more complete team. No strangers to playing on Thanksgiving themselves – beating both Dallas and New Orleans in the past 3 years and with the benefit of playing at Ford Field on Sunday – Buffalo should win but expect Detroit to keep it close.

PICK: Detroit Lions +9



New York Giants (7-3) @ Dallas Cowboys (7-3) (Dallas Cowboys -9)

This is a huge NFC clash – and a pivotal one within the division. The Cowboys coming off the biggest road win in franchise history after thrashing Minnesota, 40-3. The Giants, desperate to get back to winning ways after losing at home to the Detroit Lions.

The formula for the Giants is simple – play good defense, run the ball well with Saquon Barkley and take advantage in the 4th quarter. It’s a formula which has worked for much of the season with Barkley leading the NFC with 1163 scrimmage yards. The big question mark hanging over a good Dallas defense this season, is their ability to stop the run.

They went some way to easing those concerns last weekend with a dominant display. Holding the Vikings to just 3 points, recording 7 sacks and a fumble recovery. However, Dalvin Cook still ran for 72 yards on 11 carries and this is the key to Thursday’s game.

The Giants aren’t going to set the scoreboard alight.  The Dallas defense is the no. 1 ranked scoring defense in the NFL (16.7 ppg); however, if the Giants can limit Dallas to field goals rather than touchdowns, they can continue to run the ball. Potentially exploiting the weakness in this unit. Dallas have scored 40 points or more in two of their last 3 games though and if they get off to a fast start here, New York’s game plan goes out of the window.

With the division leading Philadelphia Eagles sitting pretty at 9-1, this feels like a must win game for both teams if they are to stand any chance of reeling them in. Dallas is the better team, on both sides of the ball. The offense appears to be hitting its’ stride with Dak Prescott back at QB. Expect them to win – and win big!

PICK: Dallas Cowboys -9


New England Patriots (6-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (8-2) (NE Patriots +3)

Just when you think it might be time to write off the Patriots, Bill Belichick comes up with the type of game only Bill Belichick can. For the causal fan, a 3-3 tie through 59 minutes might not be the spectacle they were hoping for against the New York Jets on Sunday but the game winning kick return for a touchdown with just 8 seconds remaining, certainly led to a few wry smiles. Surely though, the Patriots – even with their no. 2 ranked scoring defense (16.9ppg) – couldn’t do the same to the Vikings, could they? After all, the Minnesota Vikings are at home. They have Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and TJ Hockenson amongst their weapons.

Well, the Dallas Cowboys just went into Minneapolis and vaulted to top spot in scoring defense on the back of holding the Vikings to only 3 points. One of the knocks on Kirk Cousins at QB, is that he doesn’t so easily diagnose defensive schemes when there’s pre-snap movement. Is there a better coach in the entire National Football League than Bill Belichick to exploit such a weakness?!

Add into the equation, despite holding an 8-2 record, the Vikings actually have a minus 2 point differential through 10 games (they are the first team in NFL history to have 8 wins through 10 games and have a negative point differential) and there’s increasing reason to feel this matchup favours the Patriots.

Kirk Cousins was sacked 7 times by Dallas on Sunday. Matt Judon leads the league with 13 sacks this season and must be chomping at the bit at the prospect of facing a beat up offensive line. The Vikings’ Star left tackle, Christian Darrisaw is in the concussion protocol, and it would be a surprise if he was available on Thursday – that is a huge problem for a unit which gave up sacks to 5 different Cowboys players last weekend. Put simply, if Minnesota can’t protect Cousins, they won’t win this game and with New England just one game outside of first place in the AFC East, there’s plenty to play for.

PICK: New England Patriots +3

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