A special day calls for a special edition of NFL mismatches. And in the run of the NFL schedule, rarely do you find a more special day than Thanksgiving. We break down some of the underlying mismatches, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping Thursday’s action:
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-6, 50)
Packers’ passive defense vs. Lions’ turnover troubles
The Lions can blame Matt Stafford’s four interceptions for last week’s upset loss to Tampa Bay. And two fumbles and an INT didn’t help matters in Week 11’s loss to Pittsburgh. Detroit is coughing up the ball at an alarming rate – or it would be alarming if Thursday’s opponent wasn’t the toothless Packers defense. According to Yahoo!Sports, Green Bay is one of only four teams without a pick-six this season.
The Packers have only four interceptions overall and have scooped up just six fumbles – the second fewest takeaways in the NFC. If the Cheese Heads are going to get by another week without Aaron Rodgers, they need the defense to give them some extra touches. And it doesn't look like they have the ball hawks to take advantage of a mistake-prone Lions offense, which sits 26th in giveaways per game (1.9).
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (-10, 46.5)
Raiders’ rush attack vs. Cowboys’ run defense
We usually like to dig a little deeper when it comes to our betting mismatches but this deserves mention, especially with Dallas giving so many points at home. The Cowboys defense has been steamrolled by runners this season, giving up an average of 133.6 yards on the ground per game. They've been extra soft against the run in their last three outings, for an average of 204.3 yards against and five rushing TDs. The Giants, Saints and Vikings all chewed up the turf and control the pace of those games.
The Raiders lost their dual-threat QB Terrelle Pryor to a knee injury but remain a danger on the ground. Oakland is fourth in the NFL in rushing - 140.6 yards per game – and return two key cogs of that run game Thursday. Oft-injured RB Darren McFadden should be back on the field this week, giving the Silver and Black a two-pronged attack along with RB Rashad Jennings, who has 413 rushing yards in his last four games. The offensive line also welcomes back stud LT Jared Veldheer, who will help both the pass and run gameplans.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5, 40)
Steelers’ ramped-up attack vs. Ravens' offense stuck in reverse
The Ravens offense is grasping at straws and QB Joe Flacco knows it. The Super Bowl MVP ripped on his coaches’ use of the wildcat formation this week, stating “I think it makes you look like a high school offense”. Well Joe, the fact that Baltimore has averaged just over 18 points in its last six games makes the team look more like a high school offense. That and the fact you have as many interceptions (6) as you have touchdowns (6) in your last four games. Maybe your coaches are trying to tell you something.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has undergone an offensive renaissance in recent weeks. The Steelers are scoring almost 30 points per game over their last four outings and, as we mentioned last week, are picking up the pace with a no-huddle attack. The offensive line is finally coming together, giving plenty of running room for RB Le'Veon Bell. That’s opened things up for the passing game as well. Ben Roethlisberger has been the anti-Flacco, throwing for six TDs and zero interceptions in the last two games.