Thanksgiving weekend is one fans and players alike look forward to every season. Ben Brown delves into the detail to help inform your NFL predictions this week with insight from Pinnacle's odds.
It’s officially Thanksgiving week in the NFL, which spells the return of every NFL team in action before the final byes are wrapped up in Week 13. We have NFL football on four out of five days over the course of this long holiday weekend.
This is one of the best moments in the season, with teams entering the home stretch of the regular season, and clear distinctions being drawn between the haves and have-nots when it comes to the playoff pecking order. Pinnacle’s Futures markets appear murkier than ever when looking at the Super Bowl and Conference Championship odds, but the division races look to be all but cleared up as we enter the back third of the NFL schedule. Two NFC teams are tied for the shortest Super Bowl odds, followed by the jumbled mess that is the current state of the AFC. Injuries continue to play a crucial role in not only the weekly handicapping, but also in the Futures market pricing. Let’s unearth some value for Pinnacle bettors in what is shaping up to be a wild Thanksgiving weekend of NFL action.
BEST HANDICAP BET
The AFC South showdown that no one expected heading into the season is by far the most intriguing viewing option on the Week 12 main slate. In every conceivable metric, the Texans have vastly outperformed their betting market expectation in 2023, ranking 10th in expected points added (EPA) generated per offensive play and joint-fourth in EPA per pass play. They rank 12th in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), with their offense once again driving most of their bullish ranking, but their defense ranks as a bottom half of the NFL unit.
The betting market seems to be ahead of the curve.
The concerning part is that, despite ranking better than expected offensively, the betting market seems to be ahead of the curve on their ability, as they have just a 5-5 against the spread (ATS) record so far this season. Their Week 11 game was marred by turnovers, but despite throwing three interceptions, C.J. Stroud still somehow managed to have a positive EPA per pass attempt. However, that performance highlights the risk in backing such a young team.
When looking back at their prior performances, they really have only one quality win and cover, which came against this same Jacksonville Jaguars team early on in the season. Their previous win against the Cincinnati Bengals looks less impressive week-after-week, and many of their other quality performances came against teams we would expect them to perform well against.
Jacksonville sit on the other side of this matchup, with the second best ATS record so far this season, yet they have underperformed in most metrics compared to where we projected them to be in the preseason. They rank just 21st in EPA generated per offensive play, and barely crack the top half of the league when filtering down to just passing plays. Lawrence sits in this same mid-tier for quarterback play when evaluating his 2023 season through the lens of EPA and completion percentage over expected (CPOE).
Where the Jaguars have been good is on the defensive side of the football, as they rank as a top 10 unit both against the run and pass. Their two poor performances were two weeks ago against the 49ers, and their Week 3 matchup against this same Texans team. With everyone still questioning whether the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence are going to take the next step and enter the elite tier of AFC teams, no game has a greater opportunity to propel them forward than this matchup.
The betting market predicts a tight game. This could be the perfect opportunity to sell high on a Texans team that may be arriving earlier than expected, but still have a bit of ground to make up to really challenge for this AFC South division. My model predicts the Jaguars to get a statement victory in this matchup, and correct their early season slip up against the Texans to show they are still the class of this division.
BEST MONEY LINE BET
The Rams are clinging to the smallest playoff hopes, with an 11% chance of getting a wild card spot heading into this Week 12 matchup based on this SumerSports simulation. In an injury-riddled Week 11 game, they once again emerged victorious against their division rival, the Seahawks. Matthew Stafford was underwhelming after returning from the thumb injury that sidelined him for one game before their bye, but he was missing Cooper Kupp, who is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury.
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At their best, the Rams are easily one of the seven best teams in the conference. Unfortunately, they haven’t had that line-up on the field for very many games this season. They have the 13th best offense based on DVOA, but are in the bottom-half of the league in EPA-based passing and rushing metrics. However, they are getting Kyren Williams back, so if Cooper Kupp is able to play, it will be the first time that they have all their offensive playmakers on the field at once this season.
There is also no clear reason as to why they should be a slight underdog.
The Kyler Murray hype seems to have gotten out of control after only two games, as he’s ranked 25th in EPA generated per play since returning from injury. This sets up a play to take advantage of a betting market that seems overly bullish on a team that has every incentive to lose as much as possible for the rest of the season. With the market seemingly flipped on this outcome, now is the time to buy into the Rams, who will be overjoyed to see their slight playoff chances increase after a win in Week 12.
BEST TOTAL BET
Pressing on the Carolina Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys caused a painful finish, with Bryce Young having multiple fourth quarter turnovers turning into quick points for Dallas. However, little has changed from that handicap, as the Panthers are still the worst offensive team in football after 11 NFL weeks. The Titans aren’t far behind, ranking 18th in EPA per play. Both teams have a negative pass rate over expectation, and want to shorten every game as much as possible.
Tennessee play at the second slowest pace in football, and will only skew further in that direction if given a lead in an actual NFL game. Under 37 is a criminally low Total, but it is an accurate representation of the current state of football. Outside of another pick-six or multiple late turnovers leading to a blowout occurring, we should expect this game to stay under the Total throughout. It’s not the most appealing of sweats, but this seems like a game that could turn into an easy winner, with neither offense willing to risk anything to turn their sad state of affairs around.