NFL Thanksgiving Day Betting Trends: Favorites vs. Underdogs, Lions & Cowboys ATS Records, More

NFL Thanksgiving Day Betting Trends: Favorites vs. Underdogs, Lions & Cowboys ATS Records, More article feature image
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Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Stafford

Editor’s note: The Ravens-Steelers matchup has been postponed for Sunday afternoon.


Wherever it lands on your holiday rankings, there’s little question that Thanksgiving is near the top, if not holding that top spot, on most folks’ rankings of betting holidays — three NFL games will have that effect.

And that annual NFL slate brings with it some questions, specifically for bettors.

Does the short week help certain teams more than others? Does it impact overall scoring? Does doing this every year give the Lions and Cowboys any sort of edge?

Thankfully (ha), using Bet Labs we’re able to break down four of the most notable betting patterns for the fourth Thursday of November.

Note: The following trends come on extremely small samples, and should not be assumed to be predictive. Odds as of Wednesday morning.

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1. Favorites vs. Underdogs

The most eye-catching trend comes simply by comparing the plus- vs. minus-signs in front of the number.

Since 2003, favorites on Thanksgiving have gone a ridiculous 35-13 (72.9%) against the spread (ATS).

There could be a larger theory in play here, too. Over the same span, games played on four days’ rest (which is the case almost every Thursday) have trended significantly toward the favorite, to the tune of a 105-79-4 (57.1%) ATS record.

In other words, rest and preparation have historically been equalizers, so the lack thereof has benefitted the stronger side.

The Favorites

  • Texans (-2.5) at Lions (see live odds here)
  • Cowboys (-3) vs. Washington
  • Steelers (-5) vs. Ravens

2. Fade the Public?

Many of our PRO Betting Systems at The Action Network stem from a foundation of going against a popular team — one that’s on a roll, playing a poor opponent, etc.

As you may expect, though, given that favorites have dominated this holiday, that strategy hasn’t exactly worked in the past.

With the public’s general tendency to back better teams in most cases anyway, sides getting more than 50% of bets on Thanksgiving have gone 30-16 (65.2%) ATS since 2003.

The Public Sides

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3. The Regulars

The Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1934. The Cowboys since 1966. So could that provide them (and us) any sort of edge?

As mentioned our database goes back to only 2003. And to my knowledge there’s been a complete roster turnover for each team since those respective dates. But in any given year, each team should still have a large group of players with NFL experience on Thanksgiving.

It doesn’t seem to matter. Both the Lions and Cowboys are 7-10 (41.2%) ATS on Thanksgiving over the past 17 seasons, resulting in a 20-14 (58.8%) betting record for anyone fading the regulars.


4. The Nightcap

The primetime Thanksgiving matchup has only been around since 2006, but it’s developed some pretty strong trends in its young life.

Following the short-rest theory, favorites in the 14 night games have gone 12-2 (85.7%) ATS. And with the public generally on those sides, teams getting more than 50% of bets have gone 9-5 (64.3%) ATS.

And while the afternoon matchups often bring in non-divisional opponents to keep matchups fresh (20 of the past 34 have been non-divisional), the nightcap has recently become almost strictly a divisional showdown — Ravens-Steelers will make it eight of the past nine years.

That means a good chance that our Divisional Unders PRO Betting System comes into play most Thanksgiving nights.

With the edge illustrated by our PRO System, unders in the 14 Thanksgiving night games have gone 10-4 (71.4%). That’s compared to a 16-18 (47.1%) under record during the afternoon games on file. The eight divisional games have seen a 6-2 (75.0%) record to the under.

The PRO System Match


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