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NFL Picks & Predictions: Cases For Both Sides of the Cowboys vs. Washington Spread

NFL Picks & Predictions: Cases For Both Sides of the Cowboys vs. Washington Spread article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott

  • It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without football to bet on. And the main course this Thursday afternoon will be Washington at Dallas.
  • Our staff details how they're betting this NFC East showdown, with cases for both sides of the spread.

NFL Picks & Predictions

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Washington at Cowboys
4:30 p.m. ET
Texans at Lions
12:30 p.m. ET

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Cowboys -2.5 vs. Washington

Raheem Palmer: The last time these two teams played, Washington completely dominated the Cowboys, holding them to only three points and 142 yards of offense on 2.6 yards per play.

Washington’s pass rush had six sacks and pressured the quarterback on 50% (16-of-32) of pass plays. Andy Dalton left the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker Jon Bostic and subsequently missed a month, contracting COVID-19 not too long after clearing the concussion protocol. Just four days removed from leading the Cowboys to victory as 7-point home underdogs over the Vikings, the former Bengals quarterback certainly has payback on his mind.

This time the Cowboys should be far more equipped to deal with Washington’s vaunted pass rush.

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— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 26, 2020

Last week, the Cowboys moved All-Pro guard Zack Martin to right tackle replacing struggling rookie Terence Steele while moving Connor McGovern back to his original spot at right guard. This move might have potentially saved their season as the offensive line had its best performance of 2020 against the Vikings. Minnesota’s front seven isn’t as talented as Washington’s, but given Dallas’ performance against Pittsburgh — the NFL’s No. 1 pass rush — in Week 9, we should see a much better performance from the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Despite being fourth in sacks (32) and seventh in pressure rate (25.2%), Washington’s defense hasn’t been very good recently.

The Football Team has given up 250 yards in each of the last two first halves and have been down at the half in eight out of the last nine games. They were fortunate to throw themselves back into games against the Giants and Lions after both opponents held double-digit leads, and even more fortunate that Joe Burrow left last week’s matchup with a torn ACL. Burrow moved the ball up and down the field, completing 22-of-34 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown in the first half of Washington’s eventual win that they likely would’ve lost had he not gotten injured.

This Washington defense is trending in the wrong direction, particularly against the run as they gave up 166 yards on 4.7 yards per carry against the Giants and 105 yards on 5.0 yards per carry against the Lions — below-average rushing attacks. With weapons everywhere in Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, if the Cowboys can protect Dalton, they should score into the 20s on Thursday.

Unlike earlier in the season, the Cowboys defense isn’t a complete sieve, and facing a statue like Alex Smith should allow them to get enough stops to pull thus one out. I’m laying the 2.5 points with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys were my preseason NFC East pick, although they looked dead in the water after the loss of Dak Prescott. But with the rest of the division also struggling, they’re worth taking a shot on to win the division at +325.

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Washington +3 at Cowboys

Brandon Anderson: Against all odds, we somehow have a Washington and Dallas Thanksgiving game that actually matters. The season was totally gone for both of these teams a month ago already. Both teams have run through at least three quarterbacks. Dak Prescott is long gone. Kyle Allen joined him in the horrifying injury list. Alex Smith is somehow back from his. Dwayne Haskins feels like an eternity ago.

And somehow, despite all of that, the winner of this game will hold the outright lead in the NFC East. Absolutely astounding.

This game matters, at least for these teams. Getting to 4-7 probably gets one of these teams within a couple wins of the playoffs even in a lost season. So which team is better?

Well, if you’ve been watching this season, the answer should be pretty obvious. It’s Washington.

Neither team can throw the ball much. Alex Smith vs. Andy Dalton was not a dream matchup five or 10 years ago, and it sure as heck isn’t now.

The difference is on defense. Dallas’s defense sunk their season even before all the injuries did, while Washington has been terrific on defense. Their pass rush has carried the team and dominated games at times.

Dalton has never been good under pressure, and that looks like the difference in this game. Washington has also gotten better running the ball as the season has progressed. Expect Washington to run the ball a lot, control the clock, play defense and win an ugly, very NFC East game.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Landon Collins #26 of the Washington Football Team causes Andy Dalton #14 of the Dallas Cowboys to fumble

Maybe you’re afraid to bet against Dallas because it’s Thanksgiving and the Cowboys always show up for these Thanksgiving games. Your memory has betrayed you. Dallas is 1-8 against the spread over the last decade on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys blowing it on Thanksgiving again is the real tradition.

Dallas got a big win last week and can take control of the division with another victory. Which is exactly why they won’t. Take Washington to cover, and sprinkle some on the money line too. Another Dallas letdown is on the way.

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Texans -3 at Lions

Brandon Anderson: Ahh, Thanksgiving traditions. I love the feeling of waking up on Thanksgiving morning, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, catching those early turkey and stuffing fragrances wafting through the house, and profiting against the forlorn Lions.

The Lions always show up on Thanksgiving in your head, right? Well, they don’t, or if they do, the bookies are already pricing that in. Detroit is just 5-11 against the spread in their last 16 Thanksgiving games. That’s an entire season’s worth of Lions ineptitude.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Lions are not good.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Stafford (right) and Lions head coach Matt Patricia.

It sure feels like Detroit quit on its coach last week. How many times in NFL history do you think a team has broken a five-game losing streak by starting their backup quarterback and shutting out the opponent?

Because that’s what Carolina did to Detroit in an absolutely embarrassing performance. And no, the Lions are not healthy right now, but the Panthers were giving an XFL dude his first NFL start ever at quarterback.

If this game was on Sunday instead of Thursday morning, I have little doubt that Matt Patricia would not be the coach anymore. His time is done, and it’s time for the Lions to start over. But it would have been impossible to fire a coach on Monday and get the team ready 72 hours later, so here we are.

Another ugly loss on national television ought to do the trick.

And besides, the Texans are just better. Deshaun Watson is having a sparkling season, even if he’s not getting much help, and he should put on a Thanksgiving show. Neither of these defenses is any good, but Watson will definitely score on Detroit, and how confident are you that a team who couldn’t score on Carolina can keep up?

Take the Texans -3 and you’ll be richer before the pumpkin pie hits.

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Lions +3 vs. Texans

Raheem Palmer: The outlook isn’t particularly optimistic for Matt Patricia and the Lions after last week’s shutout loss to the Panthers. With a 13-28 record over his three seasons in Detroit, Patricia appears to be on his way out. That aside, the value lies still lies on the Lions on Thursday as there’s a number of trends working against the Texans.

If you’re looking for a telltale sign that a team is being overvalued, look at ones that were a road favorite the week after being a home underdog. The Texans meet that criteria this week as they closed as 2.5-point underdogs against the Patriots last week and are now 3-point road favorites against the Lions.

According to our Bet Labs database, teams in this spot are an abysmal 79-96-6 (45.1%) against the spread (ATS) since 2003.

On the Lions’ side, teams that have been shutout in their previous game typically have a favorable response. Since the 2015 season, there have been 27 instances of teams being shutout. And in games following a shutout loss, those teams are 20-5-2 (80%) ATS.

You never want to blindly play trends, however there is strong evidence that the Texans are being overvalued at the current number. The lookahead line for this game was Lions -1.5 and now we’ve crossed the zero and hit the key number of +3. Are the Texans now 4.5 points better?

I’m not seeing it and this feels like recency bias rearing it’s ugly head.

I’m going to fade that as this is still a bad Texans team with just three wins on the season, two of them coming against the 1-9 Jaguars who have a point differential of -96.

I would recommend waiting for definitive injury news for Danny Amendola and D’Andre Swift before placing a wager, however if they’re in the lineup, this is an automatic value play on the Lions at +3 or better.

I would also recommend placing the Lions in 6-point teasers — crossing out key numbers of 6, 7 and 9 — as the Texans have yet to beat a team by more than seven points the entire season. You can tease the Lions with the Titans from +3.5 up to +9.5 (shop real-time lines here).

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