Who doesn't love Thanksgiving traditions? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, uncomfortable political conversations and Detroit Lions football. The Lions Thanksgiving game is basically the annual Super Bowl in the Motor City; considering the Lions have never made it to the actual Super Bowl, I'm glad we gave them a game to celebrate every year. Detroit heads into this year's contest on a high note after winning their last three games, but they are facing one of the Super Bowl favorites in the Buffalo Bills. At the moment, most sportsbooks have the Bills as 9.5 point road favorites, and the game has an over/under of 54.5.
Let's take a deep dive into the big betting theories going into the game and see if we can figure out where to place a bet with our side of cranberry sauce on Thursday. Let's dive into the Bills vs. Lions odds.
Theory 1: The Bills are Playing their Second Consecutive Game in Detroit and this Eliminates Any Lions Home-Field Advantage into the Point Spread.
After a massive snowstorm dumped 6 feet of snow in Buffalo, the Bills had their Week 11 home game against the Cleveland Browns moved to Detroit. Despite the difficult travel scenarios for the team, the Bills took care of business against Cleveland 31-23. Will a second consecutive game for the Bills in Detroit eliminate any need to factor in a Lions home-field edge into the spread?
The short answer is no. You should still factor in a few points toward the Detroit number because they are hosting the game. One reason this advantage is not impacted is that instead of staying in Detroit for the short week between games, the Bills opted to fly back to Buffalo for a few days before returning. This means the Bills will still have to deal with the travel impact (and any personal issues from that storm back in Buffalo) ahead of this game. Detroit will be rocking for their Thanksgiving Day game, and the team and city seem to love the energy of head coach "Motor City" Dan Campbell. So you can factor in a home-field edge in this contest how you normally would (I assure you Vegas already has).
Theory 2: The Lions Perform Better than Expected on Thanksgiving and We Should Think About that When We Bet.
Unfortunately for Detroit fans, the numbers don't back this theory up. In fact, they are actually pretty dismal and prove this assumption to be false. While the Lions are 37-43-2 overall in Thanksgiving games, the numbers are much worse when you tighten the scope to when the Lions are underdogs on Turkey Day. Since 1990, the Lions are 3-18 straight-up (not factoring in the spread) on Thanksgiving as underdogs, losing their last 15 in a row. Plus, when the Lions are getting points on Thanksgiving, they are only 7-14 against the spread in their last 21. Sadly these numbers not only debunk the theory, they actually tell us the opposite story. One silver lining for Lions fans, despite losing last year's game in heart-breaking fashion on a field goal as time expired, Detroit did cover the spread as underdogs in 2021. So "Motor City Dan" is 1-0 against the spread on Thanksgiving. Plus, home underdogs are 6-0 against the spread in the NFL this year. Still, don't fall into any traps by giving the Lions too much credit for Thanksgiving Thursday magic.
Theory 3: The total of 54.5 points is Way Too High in a Year Where the Under is Hitting at a Historic Pace.
The point total 54.5 sounds like a million in 2022, when scoring is incredibly low. And red-zone efficiency has taken an absolute dive, but it's important we don't extrapolate a league-wide trend to two teams that might not follow it.
The Lions have scored 27 points or more in three of their last four games and are 8th in the league in scoring. Detroit running back Jamaal Williams is the current NFL touchdown leader with 12, and the Lions are 5th in red zone efficiency with touchdowns on 71% of their trips. Meanwhile, the Lions defense has struggled allowing a league-worst 28 points per game.
On the other side of the ball, we all know about the explosive talent of the Buffalo Bills offense. While they have been subpar in the red area this year, they are still second in the league, scoring 28 points per game. On defense the Bills only allow 17 points a contest, but their secondary has really been struggling of late, and they've given up 17 or more in each of their last five games.
With all this in mind, it's not hard to see why this game has the highest point total of any line in Week 12 by roughly a touchdown. Before we bite too quickly on the concept that so many games are going under in the NFL this year, we want to be careful to remember that the sportsbooks are adjusting as best as they can for that concept, too. And yet they still gave this game a total of 54.5. I think we need to proceed with caution if we assume NFL totals are just too high.
So with all this in Mind, What Should be Bet on for the Bills-Lions Game?
Normally, I would say the stats tell us to take the over here. But my fear in this game is that the Bills are beginning to emphasize their rushing attack, and if they get up by two scores, the entire cadence of the game might change. Buffalo knows they need to improve their ability to run the ball with the lead as they prepare for a stretch run to the playoffs, and this is the type of game on a short week where you run heavily with a lead to protect your star QB.
The least sexy thing a gambling writer can say is, "I'll probably stay away from this game," but for me it's the truth. I think this line is really spot on and tough to crack. And unless you've got insane money to throw on a Bills money line that returns almost nothing, there isn't much going for you here.
But it is Thanksgiving after all, and if you need to put your money on something, my suggestion is to take Buffalo to cover a monstrous -9.5 spread, simply because one of the best offenses is playing one of the worst defenses, and that game becomes a blow out fairly often. Let's call it 31-18 Bills.
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