Thanksgiving Day football just looks different, and this season’s action list includes three games with six teams battling for the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions start in the early afternoon as appetizers for the day. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants compete for the main course.
And for dessert, the Minnesota Vikings take on the New England Patriots.
The Lions and the Cowboys are like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and awkward table talk on Thanksgiving Day. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game every year since 1934, and Dallas has hosted a game every holiday since 1966, with the exception of 1975 and 1977.
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In 1925, the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals played to a 0–0 draw in front of a crowd of 36,000 at Wrigley Field. In 1934, the Lions played 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 throughout the day. Madden died last year at the age of 85, just days after the release of his documentary. The league said the first “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” throughout the playlist will include special tributes to CBS, FOX and NBC.
Lions (4-6) vs. Bills (7-3) – 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Lions are in the mix as they do every year on Thanksgiving, and they enter a matchup with the Bills 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 last week with a win over the Browns. Josh Allen is hoping to curb the mistakes against the Lions and not sink Buffalo in such a crucial matchup at this point in the season. Allen is also unbeaten on Thanksgiving (2-0). In his previous Thanksgiving game against the Lions, he had 204 passing yards and one touchdown pass
Detroit will hope Jamaal Williams can continue his tears. He had three rushing touchdowns last week and became 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 for the first time since 1992 on Thanksgiving. The teams are in completely different locations than when they first met at MetLife Stadium on September 26.
Dallas is gaining momentum in its bid for an NFC East title. The Cowboys are seventh in points 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 loss to the Lions. But getting past the Dallas defense with an injury-plagued team will be a difficult task. Especially when a guy like Micah Parsons steps into Reggie White’s territory.
Parsons recorded his eighth career game with at least two sacks, tying Shawne Merriman and Reggie White for the “second most 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
Closing the Thanksgiving celebrations are the Vikings and the Patriots.
New England earn 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 Pats is second in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed. It might be difficult for the Vikings to get their offensive going.
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But of course they have Justin Jefferson. The star wide receiver comes into the game with 4,109 career receiving yards and could overtake Randy Moss for most receiving yards by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history.
Minnesota is 6-2 at Thanksgiving and the Patriots are 3-2.