NFL Best Bets: Experts Pick Every Thanksgiving and Black Friday Game

A trio of sharps look at the four games that'll start Week 12

November 22, 2023 8:18 am
QB Jared Goff of the Detroit Lions stands under center.
Jared Goff will lead the Lions on Thanksgiving for the third straight season.
Cooper Neill/Getty

This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which football experts and handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season.

In this special Week 12 edition, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Mike Golic Jr. of DraftKings share their opinions on the four games that will be played before the NFL’s 12th weekend kicks off, including the Dolphins heading to the Meadowlands for an afternoon date with the Jets on Black Friday.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.

Packers (+7.5, O/U 47.5) at Lions

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Lions listed as a 7.5-point home favorite. Currently, 69% of bets and 76% of the money are backing Detroit and laying the points. However, the line hasn’t budged off Lions -7.5. Home favorites -6.5 or more are 22-12 against the spread (65%) this season. Thanksgiving Day favorites are 34-18 ATS (65%) over the past two decades. Dan Campbell is 7-3 ATS this season and 30-14 ATS (68%) in his career as Lions coach. I’m always wary of laying more than a touchdown in a divisional game. So I’ll take the Lions in a teaser (-7.5 to -1.5), which passes through multiple key numbers. I’ll pair the Lions with the 49ers later in the night (-6.5 to -0.5).

Gable’s Guess: Jordan Love has been a lot better over the last two weeks for Green Bay. He’s been able to make some throws downfield, and while they did lose two weeks ago, they were able to beat the Chargers on Sunday. Now they travel to Detroit for the early Thanksgiving game. The Lions were able to beat the Bears on Sunday, but Jared Goff was showing signs of his old self and turned the ball over three times. Hopefully that’s not a sign of things to come for Detroit because Goff has been a steady force throughout the season. I don’t believe the Lions will have any trouble moving the ball up and down the field against Green Bay. My concern would be the turnovers, and we’ll see if Love continues his positive progress, but I expect some scoring here. I’m taking the over.

Golic’s Gamble: The Packers’ passing offense got to see the ball go through the basket against a porous Charger back end last Sunday. While I think there’s some value there, a lot of their skill players are banged up coming off of that game, headlined by running back Aaron Jones. It’s a short week for both teams and a division game screams gritty, lower-scoring football. I’ll go with the under.

IH Best Bet: The Bears game may have been the wake-up call the Lions needed. Laying the points.

Commanders (+11, O/U 48.5) at Cowboys

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Cowboys listed as a 9.5-point home favorite. Currently, 69% of bets and 67% of the money are laying the big spread with Dallas. This lopsided betting has steamed the Cowboys up from -9.5 to -11. Double-digit favorites are 10-5 ATS (67%) this season. Home favorites who made the postseason the previous year are 34-20 ATS (63%). Pros have also steamed up the total from 46 to 48.5. The over is receiving 57% of bets and 72% of money, a notable sharp contrarian bet split. I’ll tease down the Cowboys from -11 to -5 and then tease down the total from 48.5 to 42.5 and take the over.

Gable’s Guess: The Cowboys continue to do what they do best: beat up on bad teams. They got another blowout win in Week 11 against Carolina, and here they are as double-digit favorites against another bad team. The Commanders appear to be bipolar at times, as they can play tough and then go out and have six turnovers like they did against the Giants. Washington has not won a divisional game all season. While turning the ball over six times in one game is extreme, I do think Washington should be able to score — but the Dallas offense could go off as well. This is another game where I’ll take the over.

Golic’s Gamble: Sam Howell is the most-sacked quarterback (51 times so far in 2023) in the NFL by a wide margin, including four sacks last week to a struggling Giants’ pass rush. The best remaining defensive linemen for the Commanders are on the interior where they will find Zack Martin and Tyler Smith, arguably the league’s best guard tandem, waiting for them. I think the Cowboys continue their trend of overwhelming inferior opponents behind Dak Prescott’s incredible play. Laying the points with Dallas.

IH Best Bet: The Cowboys are steamrolling inferior opponents. Washington lost to the Giants. Laying the points.

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49ers (-6.5, O/U 43) at Seahawks

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the 49ers listed as a 5.5-point road favorite. Currently, 80% of bets and 79% of money is laying the points with San Francisco. This lopsided betting has steamed the 49ers up from -5.5 to -6.5. We’ve seen slight movement on the under as well, with the total dropping from 43.5 to 43. San Francisco went 3-0 against Seattle last season, winning the regular-season matchups 21-13 and 27-7 and then beating the Seahawks 41-13 in the Wild Card round. The 49ers are healthy and the Seahawks are dealing with a lot of injuries. I’ll tease down the 49ers from -6.5 to -0.5 and pair it with the Lions -7.5 to -1.5.

Gable’s Guess: The Niners seem to be regaining their footing as one of the top teams in the NFL after those three losses heading into their bye week. They’ve won their last two games without much effort, but this is a big spot — they’re traveling to the only real threat in their division, as Seattle is only one game back in the NFC West. San Fran quarterback Brock Purdy would be in the MVP conversation if it wasn’t for the name on the back of his jersey. Still, laying almost a touchdown on the road in a division game is tricky, so I’m going to look at the total instead of taking a side. Give me the under.

Golic’s Gamble: I get that it’s a division game, but the Seahawks are really limping out of a lackluster showing in a loss to the Rams. Geno Smith is expected to be a go on Thursday despite missing portions of the last game with an elbow contusion, while running back Kenneth Walker’s oblique strain will likely have his status up in the air. The 49ers are still vulnerable on the perimeter where the Seahawks are best positioned to attack, but, between a newly bolstered 49er pass rush and Brock Purdy continuing to play lights-out football over the last two games, I think the Niners start to separate in the NFC West. Laying the points with San Fran.

IH Best Bet: Don’t have a good feel on the total so will side with the under.

Dolphins (-10, O/U 40) at Jets

Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Dolphins opened as 6.5-point road favorites. Currently, 83% of bets and 85% of money is laying the points with Miami. This lopsided betting (plus the Jets switching from Zach Wilson to Tim Boyle) has driven Miami up from -6.5 to -9.5. Some shops are even up to -10. Pros also hit the under, dropping the total from 42 to 41.5. New York plays good defense, but I don’t expect much offense out of the Jets with Boyle under center. I’ll tease down the Dolphins from -9.5 to -3.5 and take the under (41 to 47).

Gable’s Guess: The Jets’ defense has been keeping them in most games, but Robert Saleh’s refusal to bench Zach Wilson, which he finally did against the Bills, may have lost him the locker room. On a short week, there’ll be very few practice reps for new starter Tim Boyle, and this is an offense that’s only scored nine touchdowns in 10 games. But it’s not like anyone is going to look much worse than Wilson as the starter. The Dolphins will travel to New Jersey for this Black Friday game, but I think they’re probably going to be more concerned about heading to New York to do their Christmas shopping. I know it’s a division game, but I’m going to lay the points with Miami.

Golic’s Gamble: Something weird has to happen. Al Michaels deserves a good game as the NFL migrates its TNF Prime crew to the league’s first Black Friday game. The Jets finally make a QB change, benching Zach Wilson in favor of Tim Boyle. While I don’t think that’s actually going to matter, I do think this Jets defense can be an interesting enough matchup problem for a Dolphins’ offense that has been slowed down some by injuries as of late. I think Miami wins a close one, but I’ll take the points with New York.

IH Best Bet: The Jets might not score and Miami won’t have to. Weather could be a factor. Taking the under.

Last Week: 4-1; This Season: 28-25-2

Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Double-check the odds before betting.

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