It’s a tradition almost as old as the league itself. That’s right, it’s the NFL’s annual Thanksgiving slate of games. So, prepare to watch the parade, carve the turkey, and in between those things, tune in for three marquee NFL matchups during the holiday gathering.
For this preview, we will be focusing on today’s night game, Buffalo Bills vs New Orleans Saints (8.20pm ET Thursday; TV: Live on NBC) which is arguably the most intriguing matchup of the three contests.
With both teams coming off somewhat shocking and lopsided losses, which team will get one step closer to the playoffs and which will need to go back to the drawing board? Hopefully our predictions and ultimate betting picks will be on the money regarding that question.
Thanksgiving and Football: A Match Made in Heaven
Before getting into the matchup between the Saints and Bills, it’s time for a quick recap of the NFL and Thanksgiving. At USA Betting, we’ve told this story before so here is the cliff notes version. In 1934, while looking to improve ticket sales and draw media attention to the Detroit Lions, owner George Richards introduced the concept of the Thanksgiving Day game.
One sellout crowd later and a new tradition was born as every year, with the exception of 1939 to 1944, the Lions have played on Thanksgiving. A few decades later, also looking to create a marquee with their name on it, the Dallas Cowboys began playing their own turkey day game. This tradition began in 1966 and ever since then, the Cowboys have played annually for each year except 1975 and 1977.
The Cowboys and Lions have been synonymous with the Thanksgiving games as even when the two franchises have experienced down periods, both have still taken part in the tradition. In 2006, the NFL grew that tradition even further, this time fueled by ratings and profits.
People around the country, whether fans of the Cowboys or Lions or not, would tune in to these games. So, in 2006, NBC decided they wanted a special Thursday Night edition of Sunday Night Football and began hosting a non-team specific matchup. Unlike the two early games, which will always see the Lions and Cowboys, this third game is fair play, open to any of the league’s other 30 teams.
This year, the honor of the game goes to the Saints and Bills, who are playing each other on Thanksgiving for the first time. However, both have taken part in this tradition before as today will mark the 10th such Thanksgiving game for the Bills (4-4-1), and the fourth for the Saints (3-0). Both most recently took part in the Thanksgiving games in 2019 as the Bills defeated the Cowboys and the Saints beat their NFC South rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.
Bills vs Saints: Battle of Contenders or Pretenders?
There has been a fascinating phenomenon in the NFL this year. Week after week, it is really difficult to determine which teams are good and which teams are not so good. The fact that we are still saying that after Week 11 is pretty amazing. Among the league’s division leaders, at this point in the season, it’s hard to say which ones will still be standing atop the pack come playoff time and that’s rare.
In the NFC, the Cowboys looked like real playoff contenders before the Falcons came to town and shocked them in an upset that led to national TV coverage swapping the game for one deemed more competitive midway through the fourth quarter. The Green Bay Packers are probably legit, save for an opening day loss to the 5-5 Saints. That Saints team beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost to the Washington Football Team just a few weeks ago. The Arizona Cardinals seem like the real deal, and they may be the only team in the NFC that really does at this point.
Flipping over to the AFC and there is even more confusion as the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Bills, all have some head scratching losses and surprising wins to boot. As things stand, the Patriots have leapfrogged the Bills in the AFC East, a shocking outcome given preseason predictions for Buffalo not just to win the division but to have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy as well. Kansas City, two-time AFC Champions, have also looked confusing, like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Point being, it’s week 11 and the season is far from over. Sure, the Saints are a .500 team, coming off a bad loss to an equally confusing Philadelphia Eagles squad, but in all, they are just two games back of Tampa Bay. The Bills, who aren’t quite living up to the preseason hype, are just one game back of the Patriots. For that reason, today is kind of an important game. Because sure the season isn’t over, but neither team wants to head into Week 13 down more in the loss column in their respective divisions than they already are.
So that brings us to the actual matchup. On paper, the Bills are the better-built team. Last week’s big loss to the Colts though, showcased why some are questioning Buffalo’s true contender status. The Bills turned the ball over four times and the Colts took advantage. The Saints meanwhile, have a not-so-great quarterback doing things you’d expect from a not-so-great quarterback. Their loss to the Eagles didn’t look so bad at the end, but the garbage time scores aided that final outcome as New Orleans was down 33-7 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Our Preview’s Buffalo Bills vs New Orleans Saints Predictions & Betting Tips Verdict
The Saints are a perfect 3-0 in Thanksgiving games, but will that record still be unblemished come Friday morning? It’s hard to say. New Orleans is struggling right now as their offensive line is in shambles and their running game is looking questionable as well. Top rusher Alvin Kamara is out for the third straight game and his replacement, Mark Ingram, didn’t practice much this week either. Swiss army knife Taysom Hill has also struggled with injuries, limiting his unique skillset as well.
Then there are the Bills. Buffalo has a good team with a good offense. Josh Allen is a good quarterback but at times this year he has struggled when the lights have shone the brightest. Plus, his running game has been all but nonexistent. You know it’s a bad sign when your QB is second in the team in rushing yards, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns. No Bill has recorded an individual rushing performance of over 85 yards yet this year.
Both the Saints and Bills have top ranked rushing defenses, which should limit these run games even more. That means it comes down to Allen and Trevor Siemian and how well these two can hold onto the football. It’s often said that the team with the fewest turnovers wins and well, that’s been the case for both the Saints and Bills in games they’ve lost this year. The Bills are towards the bottom of the pack with interceptions thrown and have the second highest rate in the NFL when it comes to fumbles with 17. The Saints haven’t fared much better.
The sportsbooks’ odds have the Bills (-6.5 points) favored in this one, but at home in the Superdome, with franchise legend Drew Brees set to be honored, it is hard to imagine the Saints won’t play their hearts out. Will that be enough? Time will tell. Look for New Orleans to keep the margin within less than a touchdown as they seek out their fourth straight Thanksgiving victory. So these are our betting predictions and picks for this NFL game preview:
- Bet New Orleans Saints +6.5pts on the spread @ -110 with Bovada. Alternatively, you could go +6pts at +103 with BetOnline and that same spread is -105 with Intertops.
- Take over 45 total points in this game @ -107 with BetOnline. It is -110 with Bovada and Intertops. This should be a showcase of offense, not defense.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.