Football on Thanksgiving is a tradition almost as old as the holiday itself and this year, three games will be played, the first of which is between the (4-6) Philadelphia Eagles and (3-7) Detroit Lions (12.30pm ET, Thursday on FOX).
Before we get to the meat of the Eagles vs Lions predictions, preview and betting picks for this game, a bit of history is not out of place. Thanksgiving day games began in 1876, shortly after the game of American football itself was invented. Initially, this was a college football tradition as the first official game was between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons. As the leagues that would become the NFL started to form, the tradition continued with G.A. Richards, first owner of the Lions, making the game part of Detroit’s annual schedule as a way to get fans to attend the games. Many teams followed Richards and began to play regular Thanksgiving games as part of their tradition as well.
In 1945, following WWII, Thanksgiving games resumed with only the Lions being given a permanent one each year. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys, who had been founded six years prior, became the second team to begin playing regularly on Thanksgiving. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Cowboys and Lions have hosted a Thanksgiving game every year.
Perfect Thanksgiving History
The Lions carry a record of 35-38-2 into Thursday’s game whereas the Eagles, despite the small sample size, are a perfect 6-0. But not only are they undefeated, they own a 100-point differential over their opponents in that time and have recorded three shut outs, including a 12-0 win over the Lions. As such, the Eagles are the only team to have played at least twice and recorded zero losses, making them the NFL’s best team when it comes to the Thanksgiving day game.
But while perfect has been the case and the Eagles have always seemed to play big statement games in time to carve the turkey, 2015 may tell a different story. Not only are the Philadelphia Eagles in disarray but they are meeting a Lions team that has won their last two games and is finally fully healthy. It may be too little too late in the cramped NFC North, but the Lions have played some of their best football all season in the last two and there is no reason to suggest the same won’t be the case again in this game.
Philadelphia’s Quarterbacks in Flux
For starters, the Eagles are on the road after a short week and will be heading into the game unsure of who their starting quarterback will be. For any team this is a huge disadvantage but for the Eagles especially, who can’t seem to get anything consistent going on offense, an unknown QB situation is a problem they just can’t afford.
Mark Sanchez could be expected to go after starter Sam Bradford left the game against the Miami Dolphins with a shoulder injury and concussion. According to reports, Bradford has passed concussion testing and has been cleared to play. However, it is likely this will be a game-time decision for the Eagles.
Bradford, who finally looked to be turning the corner before his injury, is the team’s best chance for victory. He had combined to complete 73.1 percent of his passes for 531 yards, two TDs and no interceptions in his last two games. When Bradford left the game against Miami, the Eagles were actually up 16-13 after he led them to a strong start.
Sanchez meanwhile threw three interceptions in the team’s blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and didn’t look particular confident or comfortable with the ball either. Philly got on the board early in Sanchez’s best drive but after that, the team shut down and managed just a field goal and four turnovers over the final 36 minutes.
Quarterbacks aside, Philly has had its struggles this year with its receivers. The team led the league at one point in drops and it has been very clear no true number one exists on the roster. Now, this is the complete opposite of what can be said in Detroit.
Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson Return to Dominance
Matthew Stafford (pictured) is not a perfect quarterback. In fact, in his career, he has had his own problems with interceptions and control of the ball. But one thing Stafford has always garnered praise for is his arm and he has been able to connect with one of the NFL’s best receivers, Calvin Johnson.
Prior to this year, Stafford and Johnson had been one of the most prolific offensive duos in the entire NFL. This year, Johnson hasn’t been the unstoppable force of year’s past. His numbers are still great, with less than 50 yards in a game happening only once, but they are well off his own pace. That said, Johnson is coming off of four straight 80+ yard games and has been targeted at least seven times in each of those contests, at least nine in three of the four.
It is no coincidence that Stafford also has played some of his best games as of late. The 27-year-old veteran has thrown for over 215 yards in each of the last four, over 240 in three of them. He has totaled five touchdowns to only three interceptions as opposed to 10 and nine in the previous six, all but one of which was a loss.
The Lions need Johnson and Golden Tate to really run the show because this team has one of the worst rushing attacks in the entire league. The 71.1 yards on the ground is the lowest in the league and the 3.4 yards per carry is the worst in the NFC. Additionally, the Lions are one of very few teams yet to have a 100-yard rusher.
Our Preview’s Philadelphia Eagles vs Detroit Lions Betting Picks Predictions
Personally, I find myself getting swept up in trends as it relates to betting predictions and picks and this preview is another example. Neither the Philadelphia Eagles nor the Lions are particularly good (even in Detroit’s winning streak they’ve only managed to score 18 points a game) and neither should really be expected to do much.
That said, the Eagles are 6-1-2 at Detroit going back to the late 1940s and are that perfect 6-0 in Thanksgiving games. In cases like these, with two teams that both have their share of flaws, this record might make the difference.
The sportsbooks agree that this is a hard game to call and they can’t split the teams here, with 5Dimes offering -110 pk (ie: take your pick at -110 either team). This effectively makes their spread the same as a moneyline bet. BetOnline similarly go ‘pk’ but make the Eagles marginal favourites @ -115 with the Lions a best price of -105. Bovada‘s betting lines aren’t out for this game at the time of writing.
- Our betting picks advice is to take the Eagles to get the win and to place your bet at those best odds of -110 pk with the reputable 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & 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.