Thanksgiving Day football just hits differently, and this season’s schedule of action will feature three games with six teams vying for the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions kick off the early afternoon as an appetizer for the day. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants face each other for the main dish.
And for dessert, the Minnesota Vikings will face the New England Patriots.
The Lions and the Cowboys are Thanksgiving Day staples like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and awkward dinner table conversations. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game every year since 1934, and Dallas has hosted a game every holiday since 1966 except for 1975 and 1977.
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In 1925, the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals played to a 0-0 tie at Wrigley Field in front of a crowd of 36,000. In 1934, the Lions played the Bears Thanksgiving Day in the first nationally televised football game. Bronko Nagurski threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Bill Hewitt to secure a 19-16 victory in their first meeting.
This year, the NFL will honor the late John Madden throughout the day. Madden died at the age of 85 last year, just days after his documentary was released. The league said the first “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” will feature special tributes on CBS, FOX and NBC throughout the slate of games.
Lions (4–6) vs. Bills (7-3) – 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Lions are in the mix on Thanksgiving as they are every year, and they head into a matchup with the Bills looking to upset Buffalo’s playoff hopes. Detroit has won three straight behind Jared Goff, Jamaal Williams and an energetic defense.
Buffalo got back in the saddle with a win over the Browns last week. Josh Allen hopes to limit the mistakes against the Lions and not sink Buffalo in such a pivotal game at this point in the season. Allen is also undefeated on Thanksgiving (2-0). He had 204 passing yards and a touchdown pass in his previous Thanksgiving game against the Lions
Detroit will hope Jamaal Williams can continue his tear. He had three rushing touchdowns last week and became the fourth player since 2000 with multiple rushing touchdowns in at least five of the team’s first 10 games of a season.
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The Bills are 5-4-1 all-time on Thanksgiving, and the Lions are 37-43-2.
Cowboys (7–3) vs. Giants (7-3) – 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX
The Cowboys and Giants meet on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1992. The teams are in completely different locations than when they first met at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 26.
Dallas gains momentum in its bid for an NFC East title. The Cowboys are seventh in points and 14th in yards, and their defense is first in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed. The Cowboys have won 10 of their last 11 games against the Giants.
New York is looking to bounce back from a loss at home to the Lions. But getting past the Dallas defense with an injury-riddled team is going to be a tough task. Especially when a guy like Micah Parsons steps into Reggie White territory.
Parsons recorded his eighth career game with at least two sacks, tying Shawne Merriman and Reggie White for the “second most such games by a player in his first two NFL seasons since 1982,” according to the NFL.
The Cowboys are 31-22-1 on Thanksgiving. The Giants are 6-4-3.
Vikings (8-2) vs. Patriots (6-4) – 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
The Vikings and the Patriots end the Thanksgiving feast.
New England is coming off an electric win over the New York Jets on Sunday, thanks to a punt return touchdown from Marcus Jones. The Patriots have one of the best defenses in the league. That the Pats are second in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed. It can be tough for the Vikings to get the offensive going.
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But of course they have Justin Jefferson. The star wide receiver enters the game with 4,109 career yards and could pass Randy Moss for most receiving yards by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history.
Minnesota is 6-2 on Thanksgiving, and the Patriots are 3-2.