Thanksgiving brings many traditions, perhaps none as popular as watching football while eating until you pass out. But unless you’re a Cowboys or Lions fan, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have any sort of emotional investment in the games, aside from cheering for Jerry Jones to experience sadness. There’s an easy way to change that: put some (but not all of your) cash on the games. This year’s slate includes the Vikings at the Lions, the Cowboys hosting the Chargers, and Washington battling the Giants in DC. You can find the our best against-the-spread plays for those games on the ATS Checkdown podcast later this afternoon. For now, let’s focus on the most intriguing props available on Turkey Day.
What Quarterback Will Throw For the Most Yards on Thanksgiving?
Pick: Philip Rivers (15/4)
The favorite is Washington’s Kirk Cousins (5/2) who faces the Giants, but the spread in that game is just over a touchdown in Washington’s favor, meaning the result is likely to be lopsided and the game-script will lead to a lot of running plays. Cousins could certainly throw for a lot of yards early on, but it is reasonable to expect his team to be ground-heavy later on.
Matthew Stafford (11/4) is up against a Vikings defense that allows opposing quarterbacks just an 80.7 passer rating (ninth in the NFL) and 213 yards per game (11th). Stafford will have opportunities, but doesn’t present great value.
The bet to make is Philip Rivers. LA’s veteran signal-caller is involved in a pick’em game; he’s likely to be chucking it in hurry-up mode at the end of second quarter and needing big plays throughout. He’s also facing a Dallas defense that is giving up a 96.3 passer rating (25th) and 65.7% completion percentage to opposing QBs. Rivers, meanwhile, is turning it on after a mediocre start, going 20/32 (62.5%) for 251 yards last week, despite the Chargers going ground heavy thanks to a big early lead. Expect Rivers to have a big game in the air.
What Running Back Will Rush For the Most Yards on Thanksgiving?
Pick: Samaje Perine (3/1)
This is a three-horse race because the Vikings split carries, the Giants are likely to be behind and forced to the air, and Ameer Abdullah has eclipsed 55 yards just twice this season.
Dallas’ Alfred Morris (5/2) is the favorite. The Cowboys will want to establish the run to protect Dak Prescott, who’s been sacked 12 times the last two weeks, and the Chargers do struggle against the run. That said, how much volume will Morris get? He ran 11 times for 53 yards in the first game Ezekiel Elliott missed. He got 17 rushes for 91 yards Sunday against the Eagles, while backup Rod Smith carried eight times against Philly. Morris is a reasonable favorite, but not a lock by any stretch. His last 100 yard rushing contest came in 2015.
Chargers back Melvin Gordon (11/4) is ninth in the NFL in rushing yards, but is averaging only 3.8 yards a carry. While he gets opportunities, he has topped 100 yards just once in the past five weeks, and Austin Ekeler has started to eat into his workload. The Cowboys defense is mediocre (21st in the league against the run) and Gordon has a decent chance to have a big game, but it’s still not an inspiring bet.
Perine is the bet for several reasons. The Giants rank 30th in the NFL against the run, the spread is big so he should get plenty of carries, and Washington doesn’t really have any other options with Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson hurt. Last week (with Kelley out and Thompson going down early), Perine saw 23 carries for 117 yards against the Saints. Backup Byron Marshall has one carry for two yards this season. Last year he had 19 carries for 64 yards with the Eagles. Perine should have the chance to protect a big lead, and the rookie has been solid if not spectacular when given a chance this year.