NFL Predictions, Picks, Odds: How Experts Are Betting Bills-Saints On Thanksgiving Night Football
Getty Images. Pictured: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, Bills WR Stefon Diggs
Raheem Palmer: The Bills have been dominant on the road, where they’ve gone 15-6 over the last 21 games. For good reason, we’ve seen the market push this number up from -4 to -6 as the Saints have been decimated by injuries.
The offensive line injuries are particularly troubling with both starting tackles Terron Armstead (knee) and Ryan Ramczyk (knee/shoulder) missing practice. Making matters worse, the depth of this unit will be tested as rookie tackle Landon Young is expected to undergo season-ending foot surgery just one week after making his first start.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the injuries don’t stop there — Alvin Kamara continues to miss time with a knee injury and Mark Ingram is questionable. With Kamara hurt and a lack of weapons at receiver, there’s not much for the Bills to fear. Nonetheless, the Saints will certainly have their hands full with this Bills pass rush, which is first in Football Outsiders‘ defensive DVOA, second in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play and second success rate and fifth in ESPN’s pass rush win rate.
It’s tough to imagine Trevor Siemian playing well given the problems on the offensive line.
The Bills haven’t played well offensively recently with Josh Allen throwing five of his eight interceptions over the last three games, but this represents a good bounce-back spot for a team that had everything go wrong last week. The Bills aren’t likely to turn the ball over four times and have two missed field goals again, so I expect Allen and this Bills offense to have a solid day.
The Saints defense isn’t immune to the injury bug either with DE Marcus Davenport missing practice — and that’s aside from the fact this defense struggled to deal with Jalen Hurts and the Eagles last week. Hurts completed just 13 of 24 passes for 147 yards, but he ran 18 times for 69 yards and three touchdowns. Allen presents a similar dual-threat ability, but has more weapons with Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders — who should know this Saints defense pretty well given his time in New Orleans last season.
This is likely to be a game sharps and the public are all over — while I normally don’t want to play these situations, the public typically wins these games on Thanksgiving. As my colleague Brandon Anderson pointed out, Thanksgiving favorites are 32-14 ATS since 2005, covering 70% of the time by 4.7 points.
Brandon Anderson: We might finally get a good Thanksgiving matchup in the nightcap, but that depends on which version of the Bills shows up.
The 6-4 Bills have ugly losses to the Jaguars and Colts, and have lost three of their past five games with Josh Allen throwing six interceptions over that stretch. But the Bills have been the league’s biggest all-or-nothing team of 2021 — they lead the league with a historically high rating in Football Outsiders’ Variance metric.
That means when Buffalo is bad, it’s really bad. But when Buffalo is good, it’s great.
The Bills are still one of the top teams in the AFC and their defense has been elite outside of last week’s Colts letdown. Now this feels like the perfect get-right spot for a pissed off, fired-up Bills defense against a Saints offense besieged by injuries.
The Bills are my top play of the week — I liked them most at the opening line of -4, where I bet them at, but I see value all the way to -6 if necessary.
Bills at Saints
Stuckey: Despite getting absolutely roasted by Jonathan Taylor and the Colts last week, the Bills defense still ranks No. 1 in defensive DVOA, which adjusts for opponent.
I expect a major bounce-back performance here from that Bills defense. Plus, they will benefit from facing an extremely undermanned Saints offense with Trevor Siemian under center and a number of key missing pieces at every level. Alvin Kamara is out and Mark Ingram is questionable for a team that already doesn’t have the services of Michael Thomas and now Adam Trautman. Additionally, the Saints could be without both of their stud tackles.
Master offensive game planner Sean Payton also has only a few days to prepare. Expect him to go heavy run, play slow and lean on his defense after Siemian made some boneheaded throws last week.
On the other side of the ball, I expect a bounce back from the Saints defense as well after they got torched by the Eagles last week. Despite that performance, the New Orleans defense still ranks fifth in DVOA.
Yes, the Bills play on the faster side as the league’s most pass-heavy team, but there are major issues with their offense right now. The offensive line has had to shift a few pieces around due to injuries and COVID, and the pressure allowed has increased. Cole Beasley is also dealing with a rib injury and Dawson Knox remains out.
Opponents have also started to play a lot of 2 deep against Buffalo to take away the big play. That’s super effective when you get pressure against the offensive line and with Josh Allen not being as accurate this season to hit the intermediary stuff. After finishing second in the NFL last year, Allen has dropped to 16th in CPOE (completion percentage over expectation).
I trust that the Bills offense will eventually figure it out over time, especially once they get fully healthy. I can’t see them getting right on a short week on the road against an extremely talented defense.
I expect both defenses to control this battle of two desperate teams coming off losses.
Chris Raybon: If this game doesn’t scream “under,” I don’t know what would.
It’s the second divisional meeting between these two. Both teams are potentially starting backup-caliber quarterbacks. Both are ranked 25th or lower in Football Outsiders’ situation-neutral pace. And both are 7-3 toward the under this season.
It’s also worth noting that when the total is between 38 and 45.5 points, Bears unders are 26-15 with Matt Nagy at the helm, according to our Action Labs data.
I would bet this down to 41 points.
Mike Randle: I’ve noticed all season that teams deploy their backup running back at a much higher rate on Thursdays. Here are some notable lines from RB2s on Thursday nights this season:
- J.D. McKissic: 93 total yards, 1 TD
- Chuba Hubbard: 52 rushing yards
- Sony Michel: 37 rushing yards, 1 TD
- Ronald Jones: 20 total yards
- A.J. Dillion: 78 rushing yards
- Nyheim Hines: 108 total yards, 1 TD
In each of those situations, the player beat their rushing or receiving prop total for that game. In some cases (Hines), they beat both.
Without lead wide receiver Amari Cooper (COVID) and CeeDee Lamb questionable, I’m backing Pollard to beat this low receiving yardage total. Pollard has beat this total in seven of 10 games and has the perfect trio of variables working in his favor: (1) The Thursday trend, (2) no Cooper, and (3) a Raiders defense that’s allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Pollard ranks fourth among all running backs with 2.7 yards per route run, per PlayerProfiler. He just needs to see an increase in opportunity, which should come at home on Thanksgiving.
I would bet this over to 16.5 yards.