NFL Thanksgiving Day 2019 Preview
Turkey Day means different things to different people, but to me, it means an over-indulgence in turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dessert, and -- of course -- football.
Thursday will bring us three big matchups that have major playoff implications. To start things off, the NFC North shows off a battle within the division between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, as Chicago desperately needs a win to stay in the playoff race. Perhaps the most pivotal game of the day is the main course -- the 8-3 Buffalo Bills travel to play the 6-5 Dallas Cowboys in a key matchup for both teams. For dessert, we are treated to an interesting NFC South matchup with the New Orleans Saints heading to the Atlanta Falcons to finish things off.
So what should we expect from these three contests? Let's dig in and find out.
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
A new year, but the same old NFC North matchup for our appetizer as the Bears and Lions square off in our first contest. Unfortunately for both of these teams, things did not go as planned this season, and as a result, the Bears (22nd) and Lions (27th) are pretty low in our ranks.
It starts off with somewhat challenging quarterback play -- Mitchell Trubisky has struggled this season with a mark of -0.02 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, one of the worst in the league. On the other side, with Jeff Driskel stepping in for the injured Matthew Stafford, he hasn't been much better with a mark of -0.01. These teams are actually losing points when they step back to pass.
The running game has been both perplexing and inefficient as well. Bo Scarbrough has taken over lead running back duties for the Lions, and he's been average -- over 32 totes of the rock, he holds a -0.04 Rushing NEP per carry mark. On the flip side, both Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery are heavy parts of the offense, but both have posted identical -0.13 Rushing NEP per rush marks here, too. This game likely won't be won by the running backs -- the Bears rank second-worst in the league via our per-play metrics, while the Lions rank fifth-worst.
As we peek at things over at oddsFire, 80% of both bets and wagered dollars have come in on the Bears, who are favored by 3.5 points. Interestingly, history does not favor either team. Two weeks ago, the Bears recorded a 20-13 victory over these same Lions at home, but Chicago is only 1-4 against-the-spread (ATS) away from Soldier Field this year. Conversely, the Lions are only 1-7 straight up and 2-6 ATS in their last eight NFC North games.
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