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Columns - Magazine

The Gambling Solution: 11/26

by Jeff Baldwin
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Since it is Thanksgiving week, Jeremy and Jeff will be changing things up as we will be picking the spread winner in all three games plus one over/under selection.  We will apply units for each pick similar to the format we use for the weekly Friday column.  The Thanksgiving Day picks will count towards our season-long contest.  Jeff nailed both the side and total last Thursday night as the Jaguars came away with a six point win while the game stayed under the posted total.  Jeremy split his selections as he hit on the Jaguars, but came up short with the over.  There are three games on tap for Thanksgiving Day including a big NFC clash between the undefeated Panthers and Cowboys.  Let's get to the picks for Thanksgiving Day.


Thursday night record

Jeremy: 1-1 (last week); 10-10-2 (season)
Jeff: 2-0 (last week); 12-8-2 (season)


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Jeff Baldwin

Record: 28-16

Units: 1,440


Jeremy Wardwell

Record: 25-19

Units: 1,180


Panthers (PK) at Cowboys - 50 units
The Cowboys got a much needed win at Miami 24-14 as QB Tony Romo's return to action was a success.  The Panthers continued their dominant season as they dismantled the Redskins 44-16.  The Panthers currently sit at 10-0 and in great position to make a run at home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Cowboys, on the other hand, are two games back in the NFC East behind the Giants.  This team needs to win football games to have any hope of catching the division leader.  Since this line opened, a lot of action has been placed on the Panthers.  It wouldn't surprise me if the Panthers go off as a three point favorite in this contest.  QB Tony Romo changes the entire dynamic of this team.  The Cowboys are very confident with Romo behind center.  Before Romo's injury, the Cowboys were off to a 2-0 start with expectations very high.  The Cowboys now host the undefeated Panthers which will be a huge test, but I think the Cowboys will be up for it.  Look for the Cowboys to lean heavily on their run game with RB Darren McFadden as he comes off a solid performance last week versus the Dolphins as he finished with 129 yards rushing.  Romo will look to his favorite target in WR Dez Bryant as these two hooked up on a 16 yard touchdown passing play last week.  Bryant will have his work cut out for him as he'll likely be shadowed by CB Josh Norman for a good portion of the game.  The Cowboys defensively need to contain QB Cam Newton.  They can't afford Newton to burn them with his legs.  The return of LB Sean Lee last week was key for this unit after he sat out their loss to Tampa the week prior.  I think the Cowboys play with a tremendous sense of urgency here as it is imperative to get a victory in order to stay in the divisional race.  In what will be a close game throughout, a late field goal by Dan Bailey will be the difference as the Cowboys get the win. 
Pick: Dallas Cowboys

Eagles (-1) at Lions - 30 units
The Detroit Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field in a Thanksgiving Day matchup. Detroit is coming off an 18-13 win over Oakland and has now won two games in a row for the first time this year. They will look to make it three in a row against the Eagles who suffered an embarrassing home loss to the Buccaneers and QB Jameis Winston who passed for five touchdowns. Philadelphia struggled on both sides of the ball and remains in a second place tie in the NFC East. The Eagles have now lost three of their last four. Over that stretch, they have allowed 11 passing touchdowns and have now given up the 3rd most in the league. The Lions and QB Matthew Stafford will rely on their air game as their running game has been virtually nonexistent, ranking dead last in the league with only 71 yards per game.  WR Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate have combined for 1,400 receiving yards and should be able to take advantage of the Eagles’ mediocre secondary. After a horrible performance by Mark Sanchez, it looks like the Eagles will be getting QB Sam Bradford back as he has cleared the league’s concussion protocol and returned to practice on Monday. How good this news is remains to be seen though as Bradford has been awful this year throwing 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Lions have looked better on defense since they shook up the coaching staff and will provide a significant challenge at home in this one.  The Lions are 34-38-2 on Thanksgiving Day but have struggled at Ford Field where they are just 1-10. I expect that record to improve as the Eagles are a mess right now and Chip Kelly could be on the hot seat soon. Detroit has started to turn a corner defensively and should be able to move the ball against the Eagles who are giving up nearly 400 total yards per game.
Pick: Detroit Lions +1

Eagles (-1) at Lions - 25 units
The Lions made it two straight wins as they defeated the Raiders 18-13.  The Eagles were pummeled at home by the Buccaneers 45-17 as their defense couldn't stop the Bucs through the air or on the ground.  The Eagles now travel to Detroit looking to snap their two game losing streak.  The Eagles are a mess internally as there were players arguing with each other during the game, and others calling out the lack of effort by RB DeMarco Murray.  This is a team that has many issues both on and off the field.  As for the Lions, the difference over the last two weeks has been the play of their defense.  They have only given up an average of 14.5 points per game with solid wins over the Packers and Raiders.  CB Darius Slay has elevated his game and has shut down opposing receivers as he held rookie WR Amari Cooper to one catch for four yards.  The Lions’ offense will once again struggle running the football as they have all year.  QB Matthew Stafford will need to make plays in the passing game if this team wants to come away with a win on Thanksgiving.  WR Calvin Johnson and WR Golden Tate will be leaned on heavily from a target perspective.  This is an Eagles’ defense that gave up five passing touchdowns to rookie QB Jameis Winston.  There are a lot of question marks on the Eagles’ side heading into this game.  The first one is who will start at quarterback.  Given the performance of both QB Mark Sanchez and QB Sam Bradford, you can't be too impressed with either one.  RB Ryan Mathews sat last week as he is still recovering from a concussion against the Dolphins.  Given the short week, the chances of him playing against the Lions aren't good.  With all the turmoil this Eagles team is going through, I think it will be tough for this team to turn things around.  I'll side with home team in this matchup as they are playing better and look like they want to finish the season off in a positive way.
Pick: Detroit Lions +1
Panthers (PK) at Cowboys - 40 units

Four days after throwing five touchdown passes for the first time in his career in a 44-16 drubbing of the Redskins, Cam Newton leads the undefeated Panthers into Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Dallas got QB Tony Romo back for a 24-14 win over the Dolphins. He had missed the last seven games with a fractured collarbone. Romo did show signs of rust getting picked off twice but shook it off to connect on touchdown passes to Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant. The Cowboys are now 3-0 in games Romo plays in and his return creates a balance for the offense between run and pass that had been missing in his absence. Another part of that balance is RB Darren McFadden who rushed for 129 yards in last week’s win but will face a stiff test against the Panthers’ defense who are allowing 94 yards per game to opposing runners. There are few quarterbacks hotter than Newton in the league right now. In addition to his success in the air, he has rushed for six touchdowns on the year which is more than 11 teams. Dallas sits in the middle of the pack against the run but has given up the fourth-most rushing touchdowns. I expect Carolina, who rushes more than any other team in the league, to give Dallas a heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart and Newton. Stewart is averaging 93 yards per game in his last five and should have another solid game in this one. I am a bit surprised at the line in this game given how hot the Panthers have been. However, Romo’s return certainly makes Dallas an attractive play. The Cowboys are 6-4 in their last ten Turkey Day games. I like Carolina in this game despite the return of Romo. I do think it will be a close game but the Panthers’ rushing attack will take advantage of the Cowboys’ soft run defense. Carolina is 7-1 straight up in their last eight road games. That record improves in this one.  
Pick: Carolina Panthers

Bears at Packers (-9) - 25 units
The Bears fell at home to the Broncos 17-15 as they were unable to convert a late two-point conversion.  The Packers got a huge road win in Minnesota 30-13 as they are now tied with the Vikings at 7-3 in the division.  QB Aaron Rodgers had a solid game against a very good Vikings’ defense.  Rodgers finished the game throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns.  Other than the win, a key takeaway from this game was the running of RB Eddie Lacy who has been a tremendous disappointment all season.  Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries as the week off versus the Lions seemed to help him get a little healthier.  The Packers now host their division rival Bears in what will be an emotional night at Lambeau Field as they'll honor Brett Favre at halftime.  The Bears will have some question marks heading into this matchup given the short week.  WR Alshon Jeffery sat out last week's game against the Broncos with shoulder and groin injuries.  It appears Jeffery will play against the Packers, but you have to wonder how effective he'll be playing in the cold and possibly snowy weather in Green Bay.  RB Matt Forte will also return to action this week as well, but most likely in a limited role as he will split carries with RB Jeremy Langford.  After dropping their last game at home, I expect the Packers to play well here as their offense will move the ball effectively both on the ground and through the air against this Bears’ defense.  Rodgers will have this passing game clicking as it seems they got some things worked out last week against the Vikings.  I can see this game being close at halftime, but look for the Packers to pull away in the second half as they'll win this game by double digits.  The Packers have covered four out of the last five games in this series.  That trend will continue Thanksgiving night.
Pick: Green Bay Packers -9

Bears (+9) at Packers - 30 units
The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears face off in an NFC North matchup at Lambeau Field. The Packers are coming off a win over Minnesota while the Bears suffered a close loss to the Broncos at home. Despite the loss, Chicago has looked much better recently than they did at the beginning of the season, specifically on the defensive side of the ball where they have allowed just over 15 points per game in their last three. That defense will face a stiff test Thursday Night at Lambeau where the Packers are 4-1 and have averaged 26 points per game. Bears QB Jay Cutler will have his hands full trying to keep up with the Packers’ offense, especially given the injuries facing several of his main weapons. RB Matt Forte (knee), WR Alshon Jeffery (groin) and TE Martellus Bennett (ribs) are all dealing with injuries and are questionable for Thursday night. Forte appears to be closest to returning and will form a strong running back tandem with Jeremy Langford who has filled in nicely with Forte out, scoring four touchdowns and averaging 122 total yards in his last three games. Cutler has shown significant improvement over last year under new offensive coordinator Adam Gase. While Cutler’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, he has reduced his penchant for committing a back-breaking turnover and has shown significantly more reliability late in games. Offensively, the Packers will rely heavily on their passing game but had to be encouraged by the performance of Eddie Lacy last week after the big running back had been nearly invisible in his previous four games. He will split time with James Starks again in this one but expect Lacy to get the majority of carries. This should be an exciting game to watch with two solid passing attacks airing it out on prime time but I see the final staying within a touchdown. The Bears are 4-1 ATS on the road this year while the Packers are an average 3-2 at home. Take the Bears getting 9 points and if Jeffery and Bennett are able to go look for an outside shot at the outright win.
Pick: Chicago Bears +9

Eagles at Lions (Total: 46.5 points) - 20 units
The Lions will host the Eagles as they'll look for a third straight win after they were destroyed in London by the Chiefs.  The Lions have been playing much better defense as they have held the Packers and Raiders to a combined 29 points during their win streak.  The Eagles’ defense looked awful against the Buccaneers as they gave up five touchdown passes to QB Jameis Winston.  If that wasn't bad enough, they let RB Doug Martin rush for 235 yards on 27 carries.  The one bright spot in this matchup with the Lions is their inability to run the football with any effectiveness.  The Lions are ranked last in the league as they rush for only 71 yards/game.  The Lions will once again struggle running the football as they'll turn to their passing game to move the football down the field.  The Eagles’ defense was embarrassed last week against the Buccaneers.  I expect them to play better in this matchup especially since they are facing a one-dimensional offense.  As for the Lions’ defense, CB Darius Slay has been playing great football as he has shutdown WR Amari Cooper and WR James Jones over the past few weeks.  It is not clear who will be under center for the Eagles on Thursday, but given how both quarterbacks have performed this year there is clearly not much upside either way.  QB Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions last week as the Eagles went pass-heavy playing catch-up.  RB Demarco Murray surprisingly only rushed the ball thirteen times.  Look for the Eagles to run the football more in this contest in an attempt to take pressure off the quarterback.  I expect this game's point total to land in the low- to mid-40s as it will fall just short of the posted total.
Pick: Under 46.5
Panthers at Cowboys (Total: 46.5 points) - 20 units
The Panthers/Cowboys game promises to be one of the most exciting matchups on the Thanksgiving Day schedule. Dallas will have QB Tony Romo in his second game back from a collarbone injury and are expecting him to have shaken off the rust. Carolina QB Cam Newton has accounted for 26 total touchdowns and despite not having a game breaking receiver has torched opposing defenses all year. Dallas has averaged just 19 points per game but with Romo under center that number jumps to 24. In addition to the passing game, as well as Darren McFadden has been playing of late, the Panthers will be forced to keep the Dallas running game honest which could open up some plays downfield for Dez Bryant. Carolina ranks third in the league at 30 points per game and have averaged 36 in their last three. As I mentioned above, I expect Carolina to exploit the Cowboys’ run defense and have success moving the ball forcing the Cowboys to go to the air to keep up. Dallas will be fired up at home with their chances for the NFC East title still alive. Six of the Panthers’ games this year have gone over the posted total and I expect this one to as well.
Pick: Over 46.5

Editor's note: Both Jeremy and Jeff started with 1,000 units as they go head to head all season long.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffBaldwin4 and Jeremy @jdwardwell5.

Jeff Baldwin
Jeff Baldwin has written Rotoworld's 'Gambling Solution' on Season Pass since 2011. He can be found on Twitter @JeffBaldwin4.