NFL betting: Analyzing divisional Thursday night games

·3-min read

Football bettors often have a few systems they follow, even if they aren't doing it cognitively. Some bettors love backing teams coming off ugly losses while others will always make sure to fade a West Coast team playing in the early time slot. Some of these trends are currently more profitable than others, but at one point, they all were moneymakers. That's why we started following them in the first place. 

With the expansion of "Thursday Night Football" over the past 15 or so years, many were quick to realize that home teams were profitable on Thursday nights. It makes sense; traveling during a short week should theoretically put a team at a disadvantage. 

Divisional road teams fared a bit better on Thursday nights, but they still weren't a winning proposition. With the New York Giants currently a 3.5-point underdog Thursday night in Washington, let's take a look at a potential change in the tide. 

When did things start to change?

During the 2017 NFL season, home teams in divisional games on Thursday nights went 6-0-1 against the spread. It didn't matter whether the home team was a favorite or an underdog; you could blindly bet the home side and basically compile free money that season. 

Over the course of the next two seasons, things started to level out. Finally, in 2020, the pendulum swung in the complete opposite direction as road teams went 5-1-0 against the spread in divisional games on Thursday night. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 12: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants reacts against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 12, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Daniel Jones of the New York Giants reacts during a Week 1 game against the Denver Broncos. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The 2020 season was obviously a bizarre one, where teams had to endure strict protocols when traveling and on the road. Most of those protocols are still in place this season. However, there is one major change in 2021, and that is of course the return of full stadiums. With that being said, I wouldn't necessarily use that as a reason to go back to blindly betting the home team. In Week 1, home teams were just 6-10 against the spread. 

Over the past three seasons, road teams in divisional games on Thursday nights are 11-7-0 against the spread. 

What about the Washington vs. New York Giants game?

Washington finds itself a 3.5-point favorite at home against the Giants on Thursday night. This puts the Football Team in danger if recent trends hold up. 

Over the past three seasons, home favorites on Thursday nights in divisional games have covered just three times in 11 opportunities. 

A deeper look into the game itself shows that the Football Team has it's work cut out for them if they want to cover the 3.5 point spread

With Ryan Fitzpatrick being placed on injured reserve, Washington turns to Taylor Heinicke as its quarterback. The 28-year-old out of Old Dominion came onto the scene during last year's playoffs, but it's hard to put much trust in the undrafted journeyman. 

Oddsmakers seem to agree, as the total sits at just 40.5 points. A divisional underdog getting 3.5 points in a low-scoring game against a backup quarterback? It sounds appealing. 

In Joe Judge's first season as coach of the Giants, New York went 6-1 against the spread as a road underdog. They might not be a great football team, but they are pesky. 

Daniel Jones hasn't done much dominating in his NFL career, but he's dominated the Washington franchise. Jones has won all four games he's played against Washington to begin his career. The Giants have won five straight against the Football Team. 

It might not be the sexiest matchup in the world, but the Giants getting 3.5 points might be worth a shot on Thursday night. 

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