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Week 12 NFL Thanksgiving Afternoon Preview: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| November 21, 2017 12:00 am PDT
chargers-cowboys

In a tradition that’s almost as old as the National Football League itself, we’ve got NFL games on Thanksgiving, including this annual afternoon showdown hosted by the Dallas Cowboys. This year, it’s Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers coming to town.

For us lucky fans, we get to see Tony Romo announcing his old team for the second time this season.

The former Cowboys quarterback and new lead CBS color commentator has been a real treat to listen to this season, particularly when he is able to seemingly see the future and diagnose plays before they happen. In addition, the sideline clock management tips that Romo offers certainly add some drama.

In this matchup, I think either team would be lucky to have Romo out of the booth and on the sidelines coaching as the head coaches for both teams have struggled.

On the one hand, we see Anthony Lynn with the Chargers trying to turn around a team that developed an identity last season for losing close games. And yet, Lynn’s Chargers have already lost three games by 3 points or less this season, including a particularly bad loss to the Jaguars.

And on the other side, we watched Jason Garrett with the Cowboys struggle early on to remain firm and steady despite the constant uncertainty of whether Zeke Elliott would be able to play. And yet, with Elliott and Sean Lee out, that steadiness has made Garrett rather inflexible.

  • Who: Los Angeles Chargers (4–6) vs. Dallas Cowboys (5–5)
  • Where: AT&T Stadium. Arlington, Texas
  • When: Thursday, November 23, 2017. 4:30 PM (EST) on CBS

It’s safe to say that this matchup on Thanksgiving is less about the players than it is about the coaches.

And I’ve got you covered below with all the information you need in order to make informed gambling decisions about the following wagers:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

On Thanksgiving, stuffed to the brim with turkey and fixings, all of America will get to armchair coach along with Tony Romo. And I, for one, am very thankful for the freedom to do so.

Chargers vs. Cowboys Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Chargers +105
  • Cowboys -110

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams match up holistically in order to assign a mental advantage to one team or the other.

In my experience, when a team is able to maintain its mental toughness for the entire 60-minute contest, it will generally end up winning the game. When a team loses focus though, they start accumulating mental mistakes like drops, penalties, blown coverages, and a whole host of others. The game spirals out of control and ends in a loss.

The first place I generally look for a mental edge is home field advantage, but not in this game.

Just look at the spread: This game is a pick’em. Given the fact that the odds-makers in Las Vegas generally give the home team a 3-point edge just from playing at home, the fact that this game is a pick’em in Dallas means that on a neutral field, the Chargers would be favored by 3 points.

The bigger mental factor at play in this game is whether the Cowboys will play with heart, particularly after Jay Ajayi said that they “definitely” quit last week.

Specifically, Ajayi was responding to a question from a reporter about whether the Cowboys gave up the game in the 4th quarter. But in my opinion, watching the game, it was even earlier – coming out of the halftime locker room – that the Dallas players took their foot off the gas and stopped playing with heart.

In fairness, to say that the Cowboys quit is to say the same thing that the Eagles wore them down with the run game, tiring out the Dallas defensive line.

In addition, it would be an oversimplification if I left out the fact that the Eagles had an excellent scheme in the game and plainly outmatched the injured Cowboys. Jim Schwartz drew up some excellent pressure packages and the offensive line’s plan for how to take on David Irving and DeMarcus Lawrence was excellent.

But no matter how you slice it, the Cowboys got beat last week, and they got beat bad.

And this week, the same Jason Garrett has the same issues with no Ezekiel Elliott and no Sean Lee (arguably the most valuable players on the offense and the defense, respectively), even though they do have some good news on the injury front with the likely return of Tyron Smith and the fact that Anthony Hitchens’s injury wasn’t serious.

Last week I asked the question of whether the head coach for the Cowboys would be able to adjust to the loss of Zeke and Lee, and he failed miserably. This week it’ll be even harder on a short week. I don’t see any way that the Cowboys are able to turn their skid around, and I see them going into a tailspin.

Pick: Chargers to win

FootballSpread
  • Pick (-110)
  • Pick (-110)

Given the fact that this game is a pick’em, the fact that I’ve already chosen the Chargers to win for moneyline odds means that I’ve also made my pick against the spread.

Usually in picking games against the spread, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In my experience, when a team is both able to stay mentally tough enough to win the game and able to score points on offense, they’ll generally be able to both win the game straight-up and against the spread. On the other hand, when the losing team can generate stops, they’ll generally be able to cover.

In order to shore up my case for an L.A. win, I’ll now look at the Chargers’ offense vs. Dallas’s defense.

Looking at the Chargers’ offense, the biggest story I’ve seen over the last few weeks is how their run game is coming alive. Not only is Melvin Gordon in the top 10 running backs in the league, in terms of yards, but recently rookie Austin Ekeler has come on strong, with five total touchdowns this season and three over the last two games.

The Chargers aren’t about to split carries evenly between their two backs – Melvin Gordon is still unquestionably the featured back. But Ekeler has helped in relief.

Two weeks ago, against the Jaguars, Ekeler had 10 carries and Gordon had 16. But last week, Ekeler had only 6 carries to Gordon’s 20. Either way though, the Chargers are moving the ball well on the ground, averaging 130 rush yards over the last three games. And this means trouble for the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys have been considerably worse on defense this season when Sean Lee has been out.

The play from the Cowboys’ D goes down in essentially every single statistical category when Lee is out but the change is most notable in run D. Dallas gives up almost twice as many rush yards without Sean Lee as they do with Lee. The replacements that the Cowboys put out in the linebacking corps simply can’t gap fill as quickly and explosively as Sean Lee and Lee’s intelligence and leadership is irreplaceable.

Even if the Chargers try to give the game away, as they are known to do, I just don’t see any way that they won’t be able to run the ball against the Cowboys.

The play of Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, and the Chargers’ offensive line in recent weeks gives them an edge over the Cowboys’ front seven without Sean Lee. Even if Dallas improves in their third consecutive game without Lee, on a short week I like the team that wins the battle in the trenches to win the game.

In a pick’em, this is all the advantage you need to feel confident in your pick. I’m taking the Chargers in this one.

Pick: Chargers to win in a pick’em

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 48 (-110)
  • Under 48 (-110)

Now that I’ve made my pick for the Dallas Cowboys to lose this game-straight up due to the inability of their head coach to adapt to the loss of Zeke Elliott and Sean Lee, and for the Chargers to win this game in a pick’em due to their ability to run the ball, it’s now time to ask the question of whether this game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In my experience, when a team is both able to score points on offense and able to generate stops on defense, they’ll generally be able to control the flow and the timing of the game to such an extent that the total score goes under. On the other hand, when the losing team can score points on offense, the game can turn into a shootout that pushes the total over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score is the Chargers’ defense vs. Dallas’s offense.

Don’t look now, but even in a division with the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos, I can’t help but think that the Los Angeles Chargers have the best defense in the AFC West.

Last year, the Chargers were very opportunistic, featuring the league leader in interceptions (Casey Hayward). But with a new head coach and a new city also came a new defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, who has sacrificed some turnovers in exchange for a tougher defense overall.

Many people remember Gus Bradley as the ineffective coach of the Jaguars, but few remember that he was also the architect of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl D.

Last year, the Chargers had the worst rate of missed tackles in the league. This season, they are much more well-disciplined and they have a lot more depth and superior coaching on the defensive line. Free safety Tre Boston has developed into not only a team leader but an excellent executor of the “center-fielder” role in Gus Bradley’s defense, a key position.

Gus Bradley has a knack for keeping schemes simple enough to pick up quickly and yet also introducing new wrinkles that keep the opposing offense off-guard.

And last week, even the turnovers came back for Los Angeles. Helped largely by the excellent play from pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa (who combine for an incredible 19 sacks so far this season), the Chargers forced Nathan Peterman of the Bills into 5 interceptions and nabbed 6 takeaways total.

On a short week against a struggling, demoralized Dak Prescott and a struggling, demoralized Cowboys team, I like the Chargers’ surging defense to take care of business. I’m envisioning a lot of pressure on Dallas’s offense and I think that L.A. holds them to so few points that the total goes well under.

Pick: Cowboys 17, Chargers 21

FootballProp Bets

Now that I’ve made my overall prediction for the game, it’s time to see which prop bets hold value based on that view. Specifically, I believe that the following wagers will make good bets on Thursday:

  • The Los Angeles Chargers to go over their posted total for sacks. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have combined for an incredible 19 sacks this season and the Chargers’ 30 team sacks ranks 3rd in the league. With the Cowboys stuck in a rut on offense, I foresee the pressure getting home.
  • Dak Prescott to go over his posted total for interceptions. It’s clear to anyone watching that the 4th-round quarterback is starting to self-combust a little bit and may not be totally healthy. Prescott looks bad and I think there’s a very good chance that he turns the ball over in this one.
  • Melvin Gordon to go over his posted total for yards. Without Sean Lee, the Cowboys give up double the amount of rushing yards. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon and the Chargers’ run game is revitalized and is now getting change-of-pace yards from Austin Ekeler. I see lots of production.

In addition to the props above that will unfold live during the game, keep the following futures in mind as well:

  • The Los Angeles Chargers to make the playoffs. If this bet seems like a stretch, it’s because it is. But think about it: If the Chargers win this game, they’re 5–6, and then they’ve got the Browns, Redskins, Chiefs, Jets, and Raiders. It’s conceivable that they run the table, ending up at 10–6.
  • Jason Garrett for first coach fired. It seems clear to any competent football fan that the Cowboys struggles have started at the top and it’s also clear that Jerry Jones has been spitting fire and brimstone at anyone who gets in his way. It’s possible Garrett takes the blame for it all.
  • The Dallas Cowboys to miss the playoffs. Not only have the Cowboys been in a tailspin since losing Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee, but they also have a very tough schedule. With a loss on Thanksgiving, they’re 5–5 with the Redskins, Giants, Raiders, Seahawks, and Eagles. I see 8–8!

Veteran gamblers don’t just bet on individual games. When you watch this game on Thursday, keep the future bets above in mind, and thank me later.

Summary: Best Bets

The Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving is a tradition that’s almost as old as the National Football League itself. When the Los Angeles Chargers come to town on Thursday afternoon, Tony Romo will be doing the call, but both teams probably wish he was coaching on their sideline instead of up in the booth.

In the battle of two ineffective coaches though, I see Jason Garrett giving the game away before Anthony Lynn does. I just don’t see Dallas adjusting to the loss of Zeke Elliott and Sean Lee and I see L.A. pounding the ball on the ground against Dallas’s D and dominating the line of scrimmage on defense, rattling Dak Prescott and forcing him to make errors.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are my best bets:

  • Chargers +105 moneyline
  • Chargers to win against the spread in a pick’em (-110)
  • The total score to go under 48 (-110)
  • The Los Angeles Chargers to go over their posted total for sacks
  • Dak Prescott to go over his posted total for interceptions
  • Melvin Gordon to go over his posted total for yards

If either of these teams hopes to make the playoffs, they have to get hot right now. I see L.A. being that team, with an easy schedule the rest of the way, and I see Dallas losing and ending up at 8–8. We’ll see on Thanksgiving!

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