Thanksgiving Weekend has arrived, and there will not be a PM edition of the newsletter on Thursday or Friday this week. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I love you, and there’s no way I would send you into a holiday weekend full of sports without the picks to get you through it.
Much like your plate this weekend, tonight’s newsletter is overstuffed with picks. There are three NFL games on Thanksgiving, and I’ve got a pick for each of them. I’ve also got college football picks to get you through Friday and Saturday and a college basketball pick that I love for tonight.
All because if there’s anything this newsletter is thankful for, it’s our subscribers. Thank you for subscribing, and thank you for reading these stories.
OK, time to talk turkey.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Cincinnati vs. Louisville, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPNU
Key Trend: Louisville is 0-5 ATS and failing to cover by 10.4 points per gameThe Pick: Cincinnati -8.5 (-110)
Every year in college basketball, there is a team that the market is slow to adjust to. This year, that team is the Louisville Cardinals. Expectations for Louisville were tempered as this is its first year under Kenny Payne, and the roster underwent a makeover. Still, it was Louisville. How bad could it be?
The Cardinals are 0-5 to start the season and 0-5 ATS. They began the year with three straight one-point losses, to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State. Then they went to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, where the competition got a lot tougher, and the results got worse. They lost to Arkansas 80-54 and followed it up with a 70-38 loss to Texas Tech yesterday that was somehow worse than the score indicates.
Now, Cincinnati isn’t as good as Arkansas or Texas Tech, but it’s in much better shape than Louisville right now. Louisville ranks 304th nationally in eFG%, 304th in 2-point shooting percentage and 249th from three. They’ve turned the ball over on 26.2% of their possessions. That ranks 355th of 363 teams. So they either keep the ball and miss a shot or lose it before taking it. Cincinnati’s overall defensive numbers aren’t great, but they’re skewed heavily by losses to Arizona and Ohio State. They’ve been solid in their other games and should be fine tonight.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model doesn’t see much value in this one, but SportsLine expert Bob Konarski is in agreement with us on the spread.
💰 The Picks
🏈 Thanksgiving NFL
Bills at Lions, Thursday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Over 54.5 (-110) — How about we start our Thanksgiving with some fun? The Bills were able to end their two-game losing streak with a 31-23 win over Cleveland, but there’s one thing that concerned me about them going forward: the Bills defense is not nearly as good as most expected. It’s been slightly worse on the road this year, too. So now, on the road, on a short week, it’s hard to be confident in the Bills’ defense.
Meanwhile, the Lions are suddenly feisty. They’ve won three straight, including two on the road against the Bears and Giants. In five home games, the Lions have averaged 31.6 points. I don’t know if the Lions will extend their win streak to four games and launch themselves firmly into the playoff hunt, but I think this game could see both teams moving up and down the field.
Giants at Cowboys, Thursday, 4:30 p.m. | TV: Fox
New York Giants
The Pick: Giants +9.5 (-110) — Much like sides are a staple of Thanksgiving dinner, buying back on outlier performances the week before has long been a staple of my NFL betting diet. We have a Cowboys team that just blew the doors off Minnesota facing a Giants team that was upset at home by the Lions. And it’s led to the Giants being undervalued here as the world races to anoint the Cowboys as a Super Bowl contender.
These two met earlier in the season, with Dallas winning 23-16 in New York. Even though Cooper Rush started that game for Dallas, I don’t think things will be too different here. Particularly on a short week, because the Giants averaged 6.7 yards per carry against this Cowboys defense in that game. Teams tend to get a little more run-heavy on short weeks, and on the road, I expect the Giants will lean on their ground game to keep the Cowboys offense on the sideline and slow down that pass rush as much as possible.
Patriots at Vikings, Thursday, 8:20 p.m. | TV: NBC
The Pick: Vikings -2.5 (-115) — These two things can be true simultaneously: the Vikings were vastly overrated because of their 8-1 start, and the Vikings are being underrated in this spot following a 40-3 loss to Dallas. They’re better than the team we saw against Dallas. They’re also more than 2.5 points better than the Patriots. Particularly at home.
The Pats are 6-4, but the wins have come against Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and the Jets twice. Those five teams are a combined 20-30-1. The only team with a winning record that they’ve beaten has been the Jets. The two best teams the Patriots have seen, Baltimore and Miami, beat them by 13 and 11 points. I don’t think the Vikings are a Super Bowl contender, but they’re better than New England.
🏈 College Football
Florida at No. 16 Florida State, Friday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
Florida State Seminoles
The Pick: Florida State -9.5 (-110) — If I told you there was only one team in the country which ranks in the top five in points scored per drive and points allowed per drive in November, would you be able to guess who it is? Because it’s Florida State. The Seminoles are flying right now and have a chance to make a statement this weekend, and I think they will.
The Gators should be able to move the ball against the Noles better than most teams have lately, but I don’t see how they get any stops. Florida State has been one of the country’s best third and fourth-down offenses this season. The Gators’ defense is one of the absolute worst in those situations. The Noles can get stops, and I don’t know that Florida can.
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Under 56 (-110) — This game depends on the status of Blake Corum, as well as Donovan Edwards. Corum left Michigan’s narrow escape against Illinois last week at the end of the first half and played a snap in the third quarter before spending the rest of the game on the sideline. If his injury was serious enough to keep him out of a game the Wolverines trailed until the final seconds, it’s fair to question how healthy he’ll be for Ohio State.
That’s a significant question, considering how dependent the Wolverines offense has been on Corum and the run game. The Wolverines rank 4th nationally in EPA per rush but are a more modest 26th in EPA per dropback. And if I’m trying to exploit Ohio State’s defensive weakness, I’m not doing it on the ground. So, while the Wolverines are certainly better with Corum, I’m not sure how many points they score either way. Defensively, they should be able to contain the Buckeyes as well as anybody else can. I don’t see this becoming a shootout often.
Iowa State at No. 4 TCU, Saturday, 4 p.m. | TV: Fox
Iowa State Cyclones
The Pick: Iowa State +10 (-110) — Iowa State is a team that plays in the muck and drags every opponent it faces down into the muck with it. That certainly doesn’t mean the Cyclones will beat you when they do so — they’re only 4-7, after all — but even when you beat them, you’ll leave covered in grime and feeling bad about yourself. Only one of Iowa State’s losses (a 27-13 loss to Oklahoma) has come by double-digits. The other six losses are by a combined 24 points.
Now it’s TCU’s turn, and even though the Horned Frogs have everything left to play for, nobody escapes the Iowa State muck. Also, have you seen TCU’s offense lately? Through their first seven games against FBS opponents, TCU had an offensive success rate of 45.2%, scored 3.27 points per possession and had an explosive play rate of 16.4%. Those numbers have dropped in its last three games to a 38.4% success rate, 1.92 points per drive and an explosive play rate of 11.4%. TCU is limping to the finish line. That doesn’t mean it won’t get there, but it’s hard to trust it to cover this number. Not in the muck.
No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 6 USC, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Pick: Notre Dame +5.5 (-110) — For those who stopped paying attention to Notre Dame following its loss to Stanford, the team you saw then is not the same team you’ll see this weekend. In its first six games, Notre Dame averaged 2.06 points per possession, scored touchdowns on only 66.7% of its red zone possessions, and had an explosive run rate of 8.8%. In five games since, the Irish have averaged 2.92 points per drive, have scored touchdowns on 73.1% of their red-zone drives and have an explosive run rate of 11.3%.
It’s not the kind of output that can compete with what USC does, but the kind of output that can cause serious problems for USC. This is still a vulnerable USC defense. They have forced 24 turnovers this season, but 18 have been interceptions. You can’t intercept the ball when a team doesn’t throw it, and when teams don’t throw it, they have plenty of success against the Trojans. The USC defense ranks 117th nationally in EPA per rush and 114th in defensive success rate against the run. The Notre Dame defense ranks 10th in sack rate and 19th in EPA per dropback. They may cause a problem or two, and things could get messy.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine has your Thanksgiving NFL slate covered from every angle.