Thanksgiving may be the best day of the year. Just think about it a whole day built around eating and drinking too much then passing out on a couch to watch NFL football. Plus, it’s a weekday that you don’t have to work on. Sure, you have to put up with your family, but the good far outweighs the bad in most cases. If you are watching the football games anyway then you might as well bet on them. After all, every game is better if you have some action on it. Betting on the Thanksgiving games is largely similar to any other game, but there are some key ways in which it is different. The differences usually aren’t significant enough to dramatically change the outcome of games, but for NFL bettors who are aware of the differences and the impact they can have there can be profitable opportunities that arise that can help you make winning NFL picks. Here are five such differences:
Short rest – The football teams that play on Thanksgiving day typically played the previous Sunday. That means that a routine built around having five or six off days between games now has to be condensed to three games. Both NFL teams face the same rest issues, but it can have a bigger impact for some teams than others. For example, a team that played at home the previous Sunday and is hosting a Thanksgiving game now has a much easier challenge than one that has to build travel time into their short week. The lack of preparation time favors some teams over others – teams with veteran QBs have an edge over young quarterbacks, for example, and experienced coaches who have been through this before have an edge over coaches who are trying to navigate their way through it for the first time. The short rest can create real problems for a team that has suffered injuries at a key position and is trying to get a new starter ready. The shortage of preparation time means that the player has had less time to work with the rest of the starters, and that makes it more likely that the opponent will test the player early and often.
Increased public attention – There are only three football games played on Thanksgiving day, and only one is played at a time. An incredible percentage of people in the country watch at least part of one or more of the games during the day – it’s a cultural institution. Lots of people who will watch these games won’t watch many other games outside of the Super Bowl. That means that there is a lot of relatively uneducated public attention paid to this game. That means that there is also going to be more uneducated public betting action than normal. Casual public sports bettors often have predictable biases. They typically prefer favorites over underdogs, and will especially be drawn to strong favorites. They are also far more likely to like the over when betting the total. The public bets always have an impact on the lines – where they are set and how they move – but they can have a particular impact when the public attention is more significant. You need to be aware of where the public bias is so that you are aware of where the value might be, and what traps there could be to avoid. As a general rule, for example, added public betting attention will make it easier to find value on an underdog, and can inflate the line for a favorite beyond what what would be ideally attractive.
Concentrated media attention – These football games are so significant that the media is obviously interested. There are so many fewer games than on a typical football Sunday, though, that the media attention per game is far more significant and focused than it would be on all but the highest profile games on a Sunday. Sports bettors need to spend the time to be sure of what the media is reporting and what biases they have in a game because that’s going to have a big impact on what the public thinks about the game – especially if the media bias is closely aligned with the typical public betting biases.
Big importance for traditional hosts – The Lions and, to a lesser extent, the Cowboys attach huge significance to this game. It is a tradition to their markets, and something that the teams and the fans take very seriously. These teams never want to lose a home game, but they especially don’t want to lose these games. That means that they could bring an intensity to the game that could make a difference between otherwise evenly matched teams. It also means that the fans are going to be even more involved in the game than normal. A Thanksgiving game in Detroit has the atmosphere of a typical playoff game.
Games can end ugly – NFL players are pros so they are going to be focused on this game just like any other – at the beginning of the games, at least. Later in the game if the result is one-sided and the outcome is certain well before the final whistle things can really get sloppy and ugly. At that point the losing players are more focused on what they are missing – their family and the traditional Thanksgiving – than on the game at hand. For the sports bettor that reality can be useful when betting at halftime or in live betting, and it can have an impact in betting on totals as well.