Carolina at Dallas (CBS, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Of the three games on tap for Thursday, this is the must-see matchup and the game is hovering at a pick ‘em at most betting shops. From a total perspective, the opener (46 ½) seemed too high but Carolina’s offense was coming off a season-high 44-point performance and Dallas is obviously better offensively with Tony Romo under center. The number has been adjusted and is sitting at 45 ½ as of Wednesday morning and I believe it could go lower.
Even with Romo back, the Cowboys are a run-first team. They ran the ball 38 times for 179 yards in last week’s win over Miami and head coach Jason Garrett knows his team is more successful when they run the ball. Dallas should have its hands full trying that approach against Carolina, who is only allowing 19.1 PPG and 94.5 YPG on the ground, ranked sixth and eighth respectively.
Similar to Dallas, the Panthers like to run the ball too and they lead the league with 34.2 attempts per game. Dallas has played well defensively the past couple weeks, only allowing 24 points but Carolina has proven that it can score on the road (27.6 PPG) this season.
The Panthers have only had three ‘under’ tickets connect this season, two of them occurring on the road. Dallas has seen the ‘over’ go 3-2 at home but a couple of those winners (Giants, Eagles) were helped with late surges.
Dallas has seen the ‘over’ cash in two of its last three games on the holiday but is coming off a 33-10 loss to the Eagles last season. The Panthers have never played on Thanksgiving Day.
Chicago at Green Bay (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET)
The Packers defeated the Bears 31-23 in Week 1 and the combined 54 points jumped ‘over’ the closing total of 48 ½. This was the fourth straight game that the pair played to the high side and most of the effort was coming from Green Bay’s offense during this span (39.3 PPG). This game is expected to be more of a slugfest than a shootout and it’s hard to argue for the latter despite the recent history between these clubs.
Green Bay has been a solid ‘under’ bet (7-3) all season and even though it has Aaron Rodgers at QB, the Pack finally got the ground game back on track last week with Eddie Lacy. After starting 0-3, Chicago has produced a 4-3 record and you can see the team taking the shape of its head coach John Fox. The defense has buckled down during this stretch (20.9 PPG) and their doing it without a lot of big names.
The Bears will have running back Matt Forte in the lineup and I believe Fox will try to run on the Packers, who have been suspect (114 YPG) against the run this season. The Broncos and Panthers both ran over Green Bay and Rams rookie Todd Gurley went nuts (159 yards) earlier in the season. With that being said, Chicago should be able to move the ball but an its issue has been scoring. The Bears haven’t been able to close drives, posting more field goals (23) than touchdowns (21) this season. Make a note that tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee) are expected to sit out Thursday.
This will be the 10th season that the NFL will have a primetime game on Thanksgiving. In the first nine matchups, the ‘under’ has gone 5-4. For those wondering, home teams have produced a 6-3 record in those nine games. Chicago played at Detroit on the holiday last season and was beat 34-17 and Green Bay made the Turkey Day trip to Ford Field in the 2013 season and was also humbled, losing 40-10 to the Lions.
Low temperatures expected for this matchup and there is a possibility of snow at Lambeau Field by kickoff.