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Thanksgiving weekend gambling guide: Best NFL, college football bets

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Good morning! It’s me, Tom Fornelli, coming to you a little earlier than usual as I fill in for Pete Blackburn today. Don’t worry, Pete’s fine. He was just up all night playing video games and needed to take a nap so he can be refreshed when it’s time to play more video games.

I hope your Thanksgiving was nice, even if it was a little different than what you’re used to. Mine was good, thanks. I’m not much of a turkey guy, so we switched things up and went with a pork tenderloin, which was delicious. And there are leftovers which I’m already eyeing for lunch, and maybe dinner too. Who knows? It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. There are no rules.

Of course, just because Thanksgiving has come and gone, that doesn’t mean the holiday weekend is finished. Not. Even. Close. We’ve got a bunch of sports on tap today, tomorrow and Sunday as well, and you know I couldn’t allow you to head off into the rest of your weekend without gambling advice. So, consider this our Thanksgiving gift to you. A weekend full of leftovers and winners.

Let’s get this money.


All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

No. 22 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Over 62.5 (-110)
: Even before the Nick Saban news broke, my initial instinct when seeing the line for this game was, “that’s a lot of points for Auburn to be catching in the Iron Bowl!” We’ve all seen it before. Auburn has a way of making this game a lot more interesting than it should be when you least expect it, but those surprises tend to come when the game is played at Auburn. In Tuscaloosa, not so much. The last time this game was played there, Alabama was a 26-point favorite and it beat the Tigers 52-21.

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Still, 24.5 points is a lot in the Iron Bowl! Auburn is 4-3 ATS against Alabama since Gus Malzahn took over, but it’s only 1-2 ATS in Tuscaloosa. So, I think it’s best we ignore the spread entirely and instead go after the total. You know what I’ve noticed with this game the last couple of years? It’s a high-scoring affair. I just told you about the 52-21 game in Tuscaloosa in 2018, and last year the final score was 48-45. Alabama’s defense has taken a step forward in recent weeks (basically since halftime against Georgia), but I can’t help but believe Gus has something in store for this game. He always does. It might not be enough to cover, but it should be enough to help nudge this game past the total.

Key Trend: The over is 6-2 in Alabama’s last eight SEC games.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine’s projection model generated selections for Saturday’s Iron Bowl matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers.

💰 The Picks



Raiders at Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Falcons +3 (-115) — 
Oh, Falcons, I just cannot quit you. This game opened as a pick em at most books and was quickly bet to Raiders -3. Now, I like the Raiders. I think Derek Carr has made some significant strides and is one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the league. It’s just … I’m still not ready to trust the Raiders as three-point favorites on the road. Not with a defense that ranks 24th in the NFL in DVOA. That’s worse than Atlanta’s, and nobody considers the Falcons’ defense good. The Raiders also allow 2.74 points per possession on defense, which ranks dead last in the league. 

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Key Trend: The Falcons are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games as a home dog.

Titans at Colts, Sunday, 1 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 51.5 (-110) — 
I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to betting totals in the NFL. Earlier in the season, I’m more inclined to take overs. As we get later in the season, however, my attention turns to unders. Particularly in divisional matchups like this one, where it’s the second time these teams have met in the season. The first meeting was only 17 days before this one. These teams are familiar with one another, know what the other is trying to do, and both have a lot on the line. A Colts win would be huge because while they’d only be up a game on the Titans in the division, they’d hold a tie-breaker having won both meetings. In other words, the Titans would effectively be two games behind. And if the Titans win, they’re in first place. Combine the familiarity and the possibility of both teams getting a bit more conservative with so much on the line, and the under just looks enticing. 

Key Trend: The under is 14-5 in the last 19 games between these teams in Indianapolis.

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Chiefs at Buccaneers, Sunday, 3:25 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Chiefs -3 (-115) — 
I know it’s dangerous to say it, but I think we’ve seen the beginning of the decline phase for Tom Brady. Or at least an acceleration of the decline phase. He’s playing in an offense in which Bruce Arians wants him to bomb the ball down the field, but his accuracy doing so has been missing. The Tampa offense still ranks eighth in DVOA, but it’s been trending in the wrong direction lately, and I have a hard time imagining that Brady will be able to keep pace with Patrick Mahomes and the best offense in the NFL. 

Key Trend: The Chiefs are 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 games as a favorite.

🏈 College Football

No. 13 Iowa State at No. 18 Texas, Friday 12 p.m | TV: ABC
The Pick: Under 56.5 (-110) — 
The spread in this game is only a point for a reason, and depending on where you do your shopping, either side might be favored. Let’s avoid the spread and concentrate on the total. As long as that total is over 56, I like the under a lot. While the results have been uneven on the scoreboard since Tom Herman arrived in Austin, the under has been a solid play; it’s gone 20-14 in Texas’ Big 12 games under Herman. On the other side, the under is 15-5-1 in the Cyclones’ last 21 games. The under has also managed to hit in each of the last five meetings between these two. I like its odds of reaching six straight this weekend.

Key Trend: The last five meetings have stayed under the total.

No. 2 Notre Dame at No. 19 North Carolina, Friday 3:30 p.m | TV: ABC
The Pick: Notre Dame -5.5 (-110) — 
I enjoy watching the Tar Heels play because their games are fun, but the reason for that is that they’re not good defensively. The Heels allow 2.34 points per possession (77th nationally) and have a success rate of 53.1% against the run (104th nationally). Now, they’re better against the pass as their success rate of 61.3% ranks 19th, but they also allow 12.93 yards per reception (92nd). That tells you that it’s boom or bust, and when it busts, it really busts. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is much stronger on defense, and has a dominant offense of its own. So when I look at this matchup, I think the Heels are too good offensively not to put points on the board, but how often do they keep the Irish from doing the same? Probably not often enough.

Key Trend: Notre Dame is 5-1 ATS in its last six road games.

No. 8 Northwestern at Michigan State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m | TV: ESPN2
The Pick: Under 41.5 (-110) — 
Do you think Pat Fitzgerald is even interested in winning games by enough to cover the spread? Frankly, I think Fitzgerald is perfectly content to beat teams 13-3 and call it a day. It’s hard to blame him, considering how his offense has struggled this year. The Wildcats are scoring only 1.95 points per possession this season, which ranks 84th nationally. That number doesn’t tell the entire story, though. Northwestern averaged 3.91 points per possession in its opener against Maryland; in four games since, it’s averaging 1.56. Of course, both of those numbers are miles ahead of the 1.07 Michigan State’s offense is scoring per possession (122nd nationally), so, yeah, 20 points should be more than enough for the Wildcats on Saturday.

Key Trend: The under is 6-1 in Northwestern’s last seven road games.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine expert R.J. White is an astounding 40-9 in his last 49 spread picks in games involving the Packers. He just released a confident pick for Green Bay’s Sunday Night Football game against Chicago.

💸 The DFS Rundown



Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo — I love the matchup for Allen and the Bills offense on Sunday. Not only are they coming off a bye, but they’re facing a defense that ranks 20th in the NFL in DVOA. While they’re about average against the pass, the Chargers defense has been awful against the run. This is why I think Allen is a terrific play on Sunday because a large chunk of his points come thanks to his legs. He’s going to have a good day passing, but he might have an exceptional day rushing the ball


Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings It can be frustrating watching Vikings games. There’s a strong argument that Justin Jefferson is the most potent weapon on Minnesota’s offense, yet they prefer to hand the ball off to Dalvin Cook and look for Adam Thielen in the passing game first. And I don’t blame them — both have been good to the Vikings — but Jefferson is a difference-maker. Facing a Carolina defense that ranks 23rd in the NFL in success rate against the pass, I think Jefferson could have a big day

Full lineup advice

SportsLine’s team of DFS insiders has you covered for daily fantasy sports. Mike McClure has won almost $2 million playing DFS, and Jacob Gibbs was ranked as one of the nation’s most accurate Fantasy experts last year. Plus, use SportsLine’s all-new DFS Optimizer to get optimal NFL DFS picks from 10,000 simulations.

🏈 Sunday Parlay

A three-leg parlay paying +184

  • Buffalo -245
  • Miami -310
  • Vikings -190

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