Thanksgiving Day football is just different and this season’s schedule features three games with six teams vying for the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions start the day as an aperitif in the early afternoon. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants go head to head for the main course.
And for dessert, the Minnesota Vikings take on the New England Patriots.
The lions and the cowboys are Thanksgiving Day staples, as is turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and awkward table talk. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game every year since 1934, and Dallas has hosted a game every holiday since 1966 except 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 seal a 19-16 win in their first meeting.
This year, the NFL will honor the late John Madden all day long. 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 on CBS, FOX and NBC throughout the series of games.
Lions (4-6) vs. Bills (7-3) – 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Lions are in the mix on Thanksgiving like every year, and they go into a game with the Bills to upset Buffalo’s playoff hopes. Detroit has won three behind Jared Goff, Jamaal Williams and an energetic defense.
Buffalo got back in the saddle last week with a win over the Browns. Josh Allen hopes to curtail the mistakes against the Lions and not sink Buffalo in such a crucial game at this point in the season. Also on Thanksgiving, Allen is undefeated (2-0). He had 204 passing yards and a touchdown pass in his previous Thanksgiving game against the Lions
Detroit will hope that Jamaal Williams can continue his tear. He had three rushing touchdowns last week to become the fourth player since 2000 with multiple rushing touchdowns in at least five of his team’s first 10 games of a season.
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The Bills are always 5-4-1 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 places than when they first met at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 26.
Dallas is gaining momentum in its bid for an NFC East title. The Cowboys are seventh in points scored and 14th in yards gained, 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 recover from a home defeat to the Lions. But getting past the Dallas defense with an injury-plagued 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 Thanksgiving festivities are concluded by the Vikings and the Patriots.
New England gets an electric victory over the New York Jets Sunday, courtesy of a Marcus Jones punt return touchdown. The Patriots have one of the best defenses in the league. That Pats are second in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed. It can be difficult for the Vikings to get their attack underway.
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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 in his first three seasons in NFL history.
Minnesota is 6-2 on Thanksgiving and the Patriots are 3-2.