Thanksgiving Day football is completely different, and this season’s slate of action will feature three games with six teams vying for the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions open the day in the early afternoon. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will go head-to-head for the main course.
And, for dessert, the Minnesota Vikings take on the New England Patriots.
Lions and cowboys are Thanksgiving Day staples like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and awkward dinner table conversation. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game every year since 1934, and Dallas has hosted a game every holiday since 1966 except in 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 Nagorski threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Bill Hewitt to seal a 19-16 victory in their first meeting.
This year, the NFL will honor the late John Madden throughout the day. Madden died last year at the age of 85, just days after his documentary was released. The league said the inaugural “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” will feature special tributes to CBS, Fox and NBC across the slate of games.
Lions (4-6) vs. Bulls (7-3) – 12:30 pm ET, CBS
The Lions face off on Thanksgiving like they do every year, and they enter the matchup with the Bills looking to derail Buffalo’s playoff hopes. Detroit has won three straight behind Jared Goff, Jamaal Williams and a stout defense.
Buffalo got back in the saddle last week with a win over the Browns. Josh Allen hopes to minimize mistakes against the Lions and not sink Buffalo in such an important matchup 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 to have multiple rushing touchdowns in at least five of his team’s first 10 games of a season.
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The Bulls 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 are meeting on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1992. The teams are in vastly different places than when they first met on Sept. 26 at MetLife Stadium.
Dallas is gaining momentum in its bid for the NFC East title. The Cowboys are seventh in scoring and 14th in receiving 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 home loss to the Lions. But with an injury-riddled team, getting past the Dallas defense will be a tough task. Especially when a guy like Micah Parsons is getting into Reggie White territory.
According to the NFL, Parsons recorded his eighth career game with at least two sacks, tying Shawn Merriman and Reggie White for “the second most by a player in his first two NFL seasons since 1982.” Tied for more play.
The Cowboys are 31-22-1 on Thanksgiving. The Giants are 6-4-3.
Vikings (8-2) vs. Patriots (6-4) – 8:20 pm ET, NBC
Rounding out the Thanksgiving festivities will be the Vikings and Patriots.
New England is coming off an electric win over the New York Jets on Sunday, thanks to Marcus Jones’ punt return touchdown. 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 could be difficult for the Vikings to get their offense going.
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But, of course, they have Justin Jefferson. The star wide receiver enters the game with 4,109 career receiving yards and could pass Randy Moss for the most receiving yards by a player through his first three seasons in NFL history.
Minnesota is 6-2 on Thanksgiving, and the Patriots are 3-2.