The Detroit Lions are no doubt hoping to begin a Thanksgiving Day tradition - beating the Buffalo Bills - when they meet in the first game of the NFL’s Thanksgiving trifecta on Thursday.
On November 24, 1994, the Lions scored on the second play of the game and handed the Bills their fourth straight road loss, 35-21 on Thanksgiving Day.
The teams have only met on one other Thanksgiving - November 25, 1976. The Lions were victorious that Thanksgiving as well, due in large part to Bills quarterback Gary Marangi only completing 12 of 51 passes.
“In ‘76, Marangi not only couldn’t complete a pass to save his life, the rest of the Bills offense were only worth an embarrassing 49 yards. It’s surprising it wasn’t more of a blowout than the 27-14 victory the Lions put in the books,” says Barry Barger, senior betting analyst at BetUS Sportsbook.
This year, despite the Thanksgiving Day history between the teams, BetUS oddsmakers have Buffalo as a big –10 point favorite on the pointspread. As of Wednesday morning, Buffalo was also a big –450 favorite on the moneyline, or odds on the outright winner. The Lions were +340.
But the Turkey Day record between these teams might be playing on the minds of BetUS customers, Barger explains. “So far, 70% of the bets we have taken on the pointspread have been backing the Lions +10. But a small majority of bets are also on the Bills moneyline – to win outright. And that’s despite the hefty –450 price on the Bills. That tells me that the betting public is extremely confident in a Bills win but don’t think they will cover the –10 point handicap.”
Still, the story shifts when looking at larger bettors, who tend to be more experienced or professional sports bettors, known in the industry as ‘sharps.’ “When looking at wagering volume in terms of total dollar volume instead of the number of wager tickets, we can often deduce what the sharp bettors are thinking. Here, we see them taking the complete opposite position of our customers at large: almost 69% of the dollar volume on the pointspread is on the Lions to cover +10,” Barger explains.
“Even in terms of the outright winner, more than 58% of the dollar volume is riding on the Lions on the moneyline. But that isn’t as much of a surprise, as we often see the general public prefer to bet on underdogs on the moneyline because of the much larger payout potential,” Barger continues.
Last week, the Bills’ Josh Allen threw a go-ahead, 5-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs late in the first half for the first touchdown of the game against the Cleveland Browns (the Bills went on to win that game 31-23).
What team and what player will score the first touchdown between the Lions and Bills on Thanksgiving Day? In case you haven’t guessed – you can bet on that, too.
And if you hadn’t guessed it yet - Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs has the highest odds (+600 or 6:1) of scoring the first touchdown. That translates to an implied probability of Diggs being the first player in an endzone on Thanksgiving Day of 14%.
Fellow Buffalo teammates Devin Singletary and Gabriel Davis are tied as the second-most likely to score the first TD. Both are posted at +700 (7:1) odds, an implied probability of 12%.
Josh Allen and Lions running back, Jamaal Williams (DET) are also both posted at +900 or 9:1 odds to score the first TD of the game, a 10% implied probability.
“Of course if you’d like to just bet on which team to score first, you can do that as well. The Bills are currently favored at –165 to score first – including field goals, while the Lions are +135,” Barger adds.
Bear in mind that the Bills are coming off a win against the Cleveland Browns, which coincidentally was played in Detroit due to the snowstorm that ravaged Western New York. Meanwhile, the Lions are on a three-game winning streak after taking down the New York Giants.