America loves to watch the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but Dallas is 1-10 in their last 11 Turkey Day games. Here's the Cowboys vs. Giants odds.
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Explained: Why Dallas -9.5 is a Trap on Thanksgiving Day


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The second of three Thanksgiving NFL matchups features division rivals squaring off as the 7-3 New York Giants travel to Dallas to face the 7-3 Cowboys. For two teams with identical records, a spread of 9.5 points favoring the home team Cowboys, might surprise some folks. The current over/under point total is 45.5 points. As we look at wagering on this game, we have to answer a few critical questions to ensure our money is on the sharp side of the line. Let's look at the Cowboys-Giants odds. 

Question 1: Are the Cowboys Really 9.5 points Better than the Giants, or is this Recency Bias?

Cee Dee Lamb in action against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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This line opened with the Giants as touchdown underdogs. Despite 56% percent of public bets reportedly on the Giants, the line moved the other way by 2.5 points in favor of the Cowboys. This immediately raises a flag for me and should for any gambler. Why do sportsbooks keep making the line more enticing for Giants bettors when they are already attracting a more significant percentage of the bets? Are they so certain that the Cowboys are much better than the Giants, or are they expecting an influx of bets on Dallas? 9.5 points is a huge spread for a divisional opponent, especially when the teams have the same record.

Maybe the answer is they think Cowboy supporters, influenced by the team's dominant 40-3 win last week on the road over the Vikings, will pay an inflated number. This theory is only compounded if you factor in the Giants losing by two touchdowns at home last week to the Lions. A line-setting algorithm isn't just a victim of recency bias (the idea that human minds overweigh recent events because they're easier to access in our memories). The algorithm often inadvertently uses recency bias against bettors. Is it possible the line makers are leveraging this bias we feel after watching those week 11 games?

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There are also other options about why this line is so high. Dallas is such a popular team with a huge fan base, which means your day-of casual sports bettors (especially on holiday) are likelier to take the Cowboys just based on fan recognition. If you are a sportsbook and know a group of fans will "blind bet" on one side, you want to make that as expensive as possible.

Maybe bookmakers are trying to make it harder for the favorite to beat the spread? Since 2004, favorites on Thanksgiving are 35-16 against the spread. When more than 60% of the bets are on the favorite on Turkey Day, they cover the spread at an astonishing 20-7 clip. These are losing numbers if you're the house, so making it a bit more difficult for the favorite to cover makes sense. 

The saving grace for sportsbooks on Thanksgiving has been the Cowboys. Despite ample fan support, Dallas has been horrendous (1-10) against the spread over the last 11 years. The record makes more sense if you believe "blind fan bets" on holidays can skew the number against the popular team, making it harder for them to cover.

Maybe the Cowboys might be that good. Dallas already beat the Giants by 7 on the road with backup Cooper Rush at quarterback. With Dak Prescott back at quarterback, Dallas is averaging more than 30 points per game and converting over 80 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns.

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The Cowboys also have the defense allowing the least amount of points in the NFL, surrendering less than 17 points per game. The Giants put together a fantastic first two-thirds of the season under new coach Brian Daboll. But they score 4.5 points less per game than Dallas and allow opponents to score nearly 4 points more than the rival Cowboys. Those are certainly some numbers that weigh in the Cowboys' favor.

Question 2: Will the Short Week Favor One Side of the Spread?

Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants tries to avoid DeMarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys

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The stats would lead you to believe the answer is yes. Daniel Jones is 7-0 against the spread, with the Giants on short rest since 2020, which is more profitable than any other team. Dak Prescott is only 4-8 on short rest in his career, and as you can guess based on the Cowboys' poor spread record on Thanksgiving, he is just 1-4 against the number in those holiday games.

The Giants are also 5-1 against the spread as underdogs. Away underdogs (the Giants' status this week) are covering at nearly 57% league-wide this season. That said, they did fail to cover the spread as favorites against Cooper Rush and the Cowboys in week 3.

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Question 3: What about the Point Total? Will this go Under like So Many Games this Year?

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Unders hit an unbelievable 57% this season, but bettors seem to think this game will buck the trend. A whopping 74% of the early bets are on this game to go over the point total. This is particularly surprising when these teams have hit the over in only 7 of their 20 games combined this season. It likely tells us that casual fans believe the Dallas offense is playing at its peak while the Giants' defense might be cooling off after a hot start. These, however, are likely things the bookmakers have factored into this total and could be skewed by fans due to the recency bias concept we mentioned earlier.

In the first matchup this year between these two teams, despite only scoring 39 total points, the Giants and Cowboys still managed to hit the over by half a point.

So What's the Play?

Saquon Barkley runs against the Dallas Cowboys in 2021.

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There are too many strong betting trends for me not to take the Giants in this spot. Daniel Jones has dominated 7-0 against the spread on short weeks; the Giants perform very well as underdogs; the Cowboys went 1-10 the last 11 Thanksgivings. Those facts are too much for me to lay 9.5 points in a divisional game. The line moving away from where the public is placing their money tells us how much casual Dallas fans are swaying this spread. That means it's not a great time to put your money on the Cowboys. Dallas might be the NFC team most poised for a run to the Super Bowl, and it's very likely they will come away with a win on Thanksgiving, but it won't be by 10 or more points.

Now, on to the point total, where the public money is on the over. But the Giants have hit the under nearly 3 out of every 4 games since 2020. Consider how much these teams like to run the ball, and I don't think betting the total is an intelligent decision in this game. I'll treat the total like the political chats at Thanksgiving dinner... stay away and focus on the spread in front of me.

Give me the Giants +9.5 in a 26-20 loss on Thanksgiving. Good teams win, and great teams cover.

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