Thanksgiving Day football has been a staple for decades. Families gather each year for the holiday in the United States, and football fans (and even non-fans) tune in throughout the day to see some action on the gridiron. It might not always be the best games, but it’s a tradition for sports fans everywhere.

In 2021, three games make up the schedule for a national audience. Picking the winners of the three games can seem pretty difficult, especially with fairly close spreads for all of them. Which teams prevail on Turkey Day 2021? These are the Week 12 picks against the spread for the Thursday games.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Chicago Bears -3.5

Starting the day off is one of the most dreadful NFL games of the season from a neutral fan’s perspective. To say these two teams are terrible in their current form would be a bit of an understatement. They’ve been dreadful most of the year, and one team is still sitting winless. On top of that, the two teams are dealing with some pretty major injury issues as well.

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With all that said, they get the national spotlight to themselves to open up Thanksgiving Day. The Bears will be trotting out Andy Dalton as a starter with Justin Fields out, while Tim Boyle looks like the starter for the Detroit Lions. Both quarterbacks are backups for a reason, but the key here will be how the defenses hold up. The two quarterbacks will likely be game-managers mostly.

Detroit actually looked fairly decent on defense the last couple of weeks, making the game against Pittsburgh and Cleveland pretty ugly. They focus a lot on ball control and forcing the opposition to grind out the game on offense. Chicago isn’t as good as either of those teams, so it might work for the third straight week.

Another thing that is promising for Detroit is that the Chicago Bears look beat up on defense. If Detroit can score early and get the lead, they have a chance of pulling off the first victory. They’ll do whatever they can to make is a long possession type of game, killing the clock and playing as conservatively as possible.

Rumors are flying that Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy is out whether the team wins or loses. Chicago might have some motivation to play hard and potentially save the coach’s job, but Detroit actually looks like the better pick right now. D’Andre Swift is a good enough rusher to exploit some of the defensive issues Chicago has right now. It will be a bit of a battle of running backs, as Chicago likely counts on David Montgomery themselves. With both quarterbacks being subpar, Detroit just seems like the safer pick, as crazy as that sounds to say for a winless team.

In a toss-up game for the home team at Ford Field, take the underdog Detroit Lions. Even if they don’t win, they have a chance of covering with the way the spread is. The line going to 3.5 is huge in that regard.

Pick: Detroit Lions +3.5

Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys -7

There’s no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys come into this contest as a fairly heavy favorite over the Las Vegas Raiders. However, expecting them to win by a touchdown or more might be a bit more difficult than people realize. Injuries are really starting to pile up for Dallas, especially at key positions. Amari Cooper will miss his second straight game after testing positive for COVID-19, meaning Dak Prescott will once again be without his main receiving option.

CeeDee Lamb is also likely to miss Thursday’s game with a concussion. To make matters worse for the offense, left tackle Tyrone Smith is probably going to miss Thursday night’s game, putting Prescott in a tough spot. Without his weapons and protection, Las Vegas might be able to put some pressure on him and stop the offense from pulling away.

Las Vegas is solid, even if they haven’t shown it at all in the last three games. Derek Carr will be relying on Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow to do most of the damage through the air. It’s just a matter of how much pressure Dallas will be able to put on Carr, because it can throw him off of his game and kill field position.

Dallas has a strong record on Thanksgiving Day, and they’ll find a way to win this one as well at home. When looking at the spread, the best pick is the Las Vegas Raiders though. They find a way to stay competitive and keep it close, before Dallas pulls ahead and wins by under a touchdown.

Pick: Las Vegas Raiders +7

Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints

Buffalo Bills -4.5

The night cap on Thursday night should be the most competitive of all the games. Buffalo is a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, but they go to New Orleans to face a very tough team to beat at home. Although they are favored, can they actually pull off an impressive road win in front of a national audience?

If they’re going to pull out the victory, they need to get back to how they were offensively at the beginning of the year. Josh Allen used to be able to pull off a few big plays downfield a game, but teams have started to learn how to stop him because Buffalo lacks a consistent running game. Allen needs to be the rusher to open things up for himself, which is asking quite a bit for any quarterback.

The Philadelphia Eagles gave the Buffalo Bills a good game plan on how to exploit New Orleans’ defense. If the quarterback can run around and cause trouble, that will open up some pretty easy opportunities for Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox to catch easy passes.

For New Orleans, they’re not quite sure just how much Alvin Kamara will give them, if anything at all. He’s missed the last two games, and will be trying to bounce back during a short week. After Buffalo was torn up by Jonathan Taylor, they will be looking to show that it was nothing more than a blip on the screen. If they shut down the running game, Trevor Siemian will have a ton of trouble with pressure at quarterback as well.

It’s easy to get caught up in what happened last week, but Buffalo bounces back in a big way and wins by double-digits in this one. They are able to show the national audience that they are a team that is for real. It’s getting towards the back end of the regular season, and this could be a statement win that helps get them to the playoffs and beyond.

Pick: Buffalo Bills -4.5


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