The main course on the Thanksgiving Day football slate will take place at 4:30 eastern when the Buffalo Bills take a trip to Dallas. In a rematch of 1993 and 1994 Super Bowls, the Bills head into this game at 8-3 and are poised to cruise into the playoffs with the top AFC wild card spot. Dallas, on the other hand, still has its work cut out for them. Sitting at 6-5 the Cowboys hold a narrow one-game lead over the Eagles in the standings and might be on the outside looking in at the playoffs if they don’t win the division.
However, despite the disparity in the playoff chances between the Bills and Cowboys, Dallas is seen as the clearly superior team. This conclusion is most likely accurate, but is it enough for the Cowboys to be a full touchdown favorite on Thursday? Neither team has shown an ability to beat a quality opponent. Instead, both have simply beaten up on lesser competition. While the Cowboys appear to be the better team, the point differential between these two teams is less clear.
Cowboys Offense vs. Bills Defense
The best thing the Boys have going for them is their offense. While Dallas had been the #1 ranked offense per DVOA for weeks, the Ravens have now narrowly claimed the top spot after their latest beatdown on Monday night. The Cowboys still rank #2, thanks to their #3 ranked run game, and #3 ranked passing game. With Ezekiel Elliot, an elite offensive line, and Dak Prescott performing as the #3 quarterback per QBR, the only thing holding the Cowboys back on offense is their head coach.
However, it doesn’t take a genius at head coach to figure out that the best way to attack the Bills defense is by running right at them. While the Bills excel defending the pass, ranking 5th in efficiency, they rank just 26th in defending the run. Against a team ranked #2 in adjusted line yards, this could quickly become an issue for Buffalo.
Bills Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
Similarly, the Bills will likely try to get their offense into gear with their running game, which is ranked 8th overall in efficiency. Rookie Devin Singletary has shown a quick burst and big-play ability. And he had his most impressive game last week with a 21 carry, 106-yard game against Denver, one of the league’s top run defenses.
Quarterback Josh Allen has similarly shown continued improvement over the year and remains a threat with both his legs and his arm strength. On the season, Allen has completed 60.2% of his passes for 2360 yards with 15 TD to 8 INT. On the ground, Allen has run the ball 83 times for 387 yards, good for 4.7 yards per carry and 7 rushing touchdowns.
Dallas ranks 18th in both run defense and pass defense, which could allow the Bills to score enough points to keep this game competitive.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line on this game was Cowboys -7.5, and that’s where it opened on Sunday morning. By the time the Sunday games were over though, the number had re-opened at -7 and it’s now split across the market at -6.5 and -7.
The Bills currently look like both the public side, and the sharp side, as 61% of the bets and 71% of the money is on Buffalo. Unless there is some serious buyback on Dallas at -6.5, it would be surprising if any +7 lines are still available by the time this game kicks off.
The total on this game hasn’t seen much movement. It opened at 45 and hasn’t moved at most books, although some have it listed at 45.5. With the Buffalo defense vulnerable against the run, and the Dallas D slightly below average in both phases, the over may have some appeal.
Thanksgiving Day Trends
- Favorites are 73.2-percent ATS going 30-11 since 2003.
- In that time, favorites by over six points are 16-3 ATS.
By Kyle Johansen