Week 13 in the NFL begins with a premiere Thursday Night Football matchup between the Cowboys and Saints. For this game and every other primetime contest, we’ll break down the sports betting lines and recommend where to place your bets at DraftKings Sportsbook, BetStars, and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kick off since things can change quickly in the NFL. Any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if he doesn’t respond well in warm-ups.
Week 13 Thursday Night Football Betting Odds
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
The Saints are quite clearly the best team in the NFL right now, and Drew Brees has separated from the field as the frontrunner for MVP.
While Brees and his team have struggled in outdoor road games, that hasn’t been the case during their 10-game winning streak. Whether it’s home or away, Brees is lighting it up under domes with a 131.1 passer rating, 24:2 TD:INT ratio, and 78 percent completion rate over eight games this season.
The Cowboys rank 20th in DVOA pass defense and are strong on the outside with CBs Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones playing well. Dallas actually allows the third-highest catch rate in the NFL due to a Cover 2 scheme that aims to take away deep passes. Correspondingly, the ‘Boys have coughed up the third-fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards. That said, they are very vulnerable against interior receivers.
Brees boasts a league-best 76.4 percent completion rate and will dink and dime his way up and down the field if that’s what is offered. The Saints rank 30th in pass play rate but are adaptable enough to change the game plan. Plus, there is chatter that Sean Payton is juking Brees’s numbers in an effort to get him a first MVP trophy.
Because Dallas ranks sixth in DVOA rush defense and yields a meager 3.6 YPC, this game sets up for Alvin Kamara to do more damage than Mark Ingram. The Saints ought to lean on short passes as an extension of the running game. Kamara is one of the better bets in DFS contests on DraftKings and FanDuel at a diminished price tag. Dallas has allowed the eight-most receptions (66) to opposing RBs this season and should still be without their best coverage LB, Sean Lee (hamstring).
Michael Thomas has not flashed much upside since blowing up for a franchise-record 213 receiving yards in a shootout with the Rams. He’ll likely remain in a possession role against a Cowboys secondary that can be beat inside.
Beyond Thomas and Kamara, the Saints are spreading the ball out more than any other team. Tre’Quan Smith (foot) is expected to return from a one-game absence but doesn’t match up well against a Cowboys secondary that, again, is strong on the outside and limits big plays.
Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr continue to see more reps at WR. Carr is a low-cost option to consider as the Saints’ slot receiver against a Cowboys team that struggles in that area.
While Dallas ranks 24th in DVOA pass defense, the Saints’ TE rotation has devolved into a three-way committee. Ben Watson and Dan Arnold hold an edge over Josh Hill. Good luck trying to guess which TE will be utilized in the red zone, if it all.
Dallas will hope to get DE Randy Gregory (knee) back to generate pressure on Brees. Of course, Dallas ranks 21st in adjusted sack rate, and New Orleans has the top-rated offensive line in football.
Let’s turn our attention to the Dallas offense. It’s no secret the Cowboys want to run their offense through Ezekiel Elliott.
Yet the Saints are a brutal draw for a run-heavy team. They rank first in adjust line yards and second in “stuff” rate. Meanwhile, they should get first-rounder Marcus Davenport back on that defensive line. New Orleans also holds opponents to 3.6 YPC, but that number rises to 3.9 in road games.
Elliott is not getting the same help from his line as in years past, and all-pro LT Tyron Smith (stinger) is a game-time decision. What’s more, LG Connor Williams and RG Zack Martin have been dealing with knee injuries.
Game flow often works against RBs facing the Saints. They’ve yet to allow a 70-yard rusher and even held the mighty Todd Gurley to 68 yards on 13 carries. Elliott does have 22 catches on 26 targets over the Cowboys’ last four games and has been fed liberally by OC Scott Linehan since he was firmly placed on the hot seat along with HC Jason Garrett after a Week 9 loss.
New Orleans ranks 28th in DVOA pass defense against opposing RBs but has held the position to a modest 440 receiving yards this season.
Amari Cooper has seen 32 targets over four games with Dallas and emerged as a true No. 1 WR with 8 catches for 180 yards and 2 TDs against Washington on Thanksgiving.
The Saints rank 27th in DVOA against opposing No. 1 receivers and 32nd against No. 2 wideouts. They’ve yielded the most yards (2,346) and third-most TDs (16) to the position, so there is potential for Dak Prescott to post a big line.
Prescott idolized Brees growing up and will certainly be motivated to perform at home against a Super Bowl contender. The problem is he has very limited receiving options outside of Cooper, and the Saints have completely erased TEs all season. Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns will look to draw coverage away from Cooper, but Saints DC Dennis Allen should be able to maintain his hot streak by bracketing Cooper with top CB Marcus Lattimore and safety help.
The Saints have been burned by slot WRs since losing CB Patrick Robinson for the year. Thus, Cole Beasley is worth a look as a low-cost option in PPR formats.
Dallas has been a capable defensive team, allowing the fifth-fewest points per drive (1.79) and fifth-fewest points per red zone trip this year.
But the Saints are unlike any other opponent. They lead the league in points per drive (3.79) and drive success rate. They also boast the third-highest red zone success rate.
It’s worth noting the Saints rank 29th in three-and-outs forced and 26th in red zone defense, so the Cowboys should be able to string together long drives and potentially match points early on.
The Over has seen a lot of action after opening at 51.5 points, it moved all the way to 53, before settling back at 51.5. As you might expect in a Saints game, over 80 percent of bets are coming in on the Over. That said, the past two Saints games have gone Under, but the effectiveness of both these teams in rush defense should lead to a longer game with more pass attempts, and a higher score.
New Orleans (-7) is 5-0 on the road both straight up and against the spread. The Saints have outscored their hosts by an average of 36.2 to 22.4 in those games.
While the Cowboys yield the fourth-fewest PPG (19.3) this season, they won’t be able to stop Brees and Payton’s ingenious attack and the Saints’ superior offensive line. Dallas has been great in terms of taking care of the ball, but Payton’s teams are 14-2-1 ATS when facing a team that commits fewer than a turnover per game. The Saints are also 8-1 ATS when coming off 14-point win since the start of last season.
With 70 percent of bets coming down on the Saints, the public agrees it’s unwise to bet against the seemingly unstoppable Super Bowl contenders.