There's a feast of football for us on Thanksgiving Day, with three big games taking place. Neil Harvey brings us his take on the action and picks out the meatiest looking bets on offer...
"At 8.1 yards per pass, only Atlanta give up more distance through the air than Chicago. And that should mean a mega-day for Megatron."
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Thursday November 27, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports
The Detroit Lions (7-5) are Thanksgiving stalwarts, having hosted a home game on this day going all the way back to 1945. And they may be giving thanks to the guys who drew up the fixture list this year, who handed them struggling Chicago (5-6) for this latest primetime showdown.
The Lions have a tremendous defense on paper, ranking them in the top echelons of the league against both the pass and the run. They didn't look that good last week against the Patriots, but that was against a deceptively strong New England offense who played particularly well. Against the much more generous Bears, there should be plenty more for the Lions to feast on. Detroit will also be glad to be back on their home (artificial) turf, where they've had considerable success this season - including wins over Green Bay, New Orleans and Miami.
Detroit have relied a lot on their defense this season, with the offense struggling to get much going. The running game has been stilted, with backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush averaging a little over three yards per carry. And there's no reason to expect their output to pick up against a Bears side that's been solid against the run, ranking 12th in the NFL.
It could be a bumper day though for Detroit's passing game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been below his best this season, but should find plenty of opportunities to pick apart one of the league's worst pass defenses. At 8.1 yards per pass, only Atlanta give up more distance through the air than Chicago.
And that should mean a mega-day for Megatron. Calvin Johnson was smothered last week by the the Patriots. Expect him to out bounce back, by putting up big yards and probably coming up with a score on Thursday. And Golden Tate can play Robin to his Batman by also having a productive game.
Chicago have some big name players in Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, but often add up to less than the sum of their parts. Jay Cutler has also been turning over the ball far too often under centre. As a result, they were thumped in their last two road games, by the Packers and Patriots. It seems the Bears have already lost their appetite for the battle this season and so I'm not expecting them to put up much of a fight inside the Lions' den.
Detroit (-6.5) to beat Chicago @ 2.1011/10
Back first touchdown type to be passing touchdown @ 1.501/2 or better
Back Matthew Stafford passing yards to be over 280.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back Calvin Johnson receiving yards to be over 80.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
Thursday November 27, 21:30
Live on Sky Sports
The scoreboard operator could be working as hard as anyone during this game, when (8-3) Dallas take on (8-3) Philadelphia. There've been points a plenty in every one of Philly's away games, with the lowest total being a healthy 44. And that came against stingy Arizona. The Cowboys meanwhile have remained highly potent on offense throughout the season. But they've also continued to give up enough points to keep the result in doubt right until the end.
I sense that the Dallas bandwagon is now starting to slow down a touch. Last week, Dallas sneaked past the Giants by just three points. And in their last home game they were stunned by the struggling Redskins, as they lost by three. They've also been involved in three point games against Houston and St. Louis, neither of whom have set the league on fire. For me that makes this arguably much stronger Philly team a solid call getting three and a half points on the handicap.
In particular, Philadelphia are starting to tick on offense, with the introduction of Mark Sanchez proving the perfect lubricant for Philly's offensive engine. While after a quiet start to the season, Eagles' running back LeSean McCoy has finally sprung into life and seems to be getting better with each game, making him my fancy to play a starring role here.
DeMarco Murray will continue to run hard for the Cowboys, who'll also lean heavily on Des Bryant at receiver. But with the fragile Tony Romo just one hit away form the sidelines it's hard to place too much confidence in him. The Eagles also have more options at receiver, with Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews both in fine form and likely to prove a handful for the Cowboys' tiring secondary.
Philadelphia (+3.5) to beat Dallas @ 1.9010/11
Philadelphia (+1.5) to beat Dallas at half time @ 1.9110/11 or better
Total Points over 54.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Friday November 28, 01:30
Live on Sky Sports
What a feisty encounter this should be, as the (7-4) Seahawks take on the (7-4) 49ers with both desperately clinging to hopes of clinching a play-of spot via the NFC West. And with leaders Arizona two wins clear in the division, it makes this particular game all the more important.
Both teams are in decent form win wise, but the manner of their victories has been less than impressive. For example, San Francisco are on a four game winning streak but the average winning margin has been just four points. Indeed, there are many similarities between these sides. Both have been grinding out the results by leaning on their defenses to keep them in games.
Both though have struggled offensively, driven by quarterbacks who are more adept at running with the ball than they are at throwing it, as illustrated by Russell Wilson's failure to pass two hundred yards more than once in Seattle's last five games. And both teams like to play pound-and-ground football, with Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch set once again for busy games.
Right across the board, it's hard to find anything to separate these sides. So perhaps it's best not to. Instead focus on each sides inability to score. The 49ers have posted on average just 18 points over their last five matches.
The Seahawks have been only a little better, with 24 points, and even that figure is skewed by games against the Giants and Raiders. With so much riding on this result and the margin of victory likely to be so small, both Head Coaches will surely be playing safety first in this game. This makes a low-scoring encounter, especially in the first half when risk-taking should be at a minimum, the pick of our options.
Total Points Under 40.5 @ 2.001/1
Second half to be highest scoring half @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back Russell Wilson passing yards to be Under 199.5 yards @ 1.9110/11 or better