Thanksgiving football is different, and this season’s action slate will feature three games with six teams vying for the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions start in the early afternoon as a snack of the day. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants will meet for the main course.
And for dessert, the Minnesota Vikings will face the New England Patriots.
Lions and Cowboys are Thanksgiving staples, like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and awkward table talk. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving 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 draw at Wrigley Field in front of a crowd of 36,000. In 1934, the Lions played the Bears Thanksgiving in the first nationally televised broadcast of a football game. Bronko Nagurski 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 at the age of 85 last year, just days after the release of his documentary. The league said the inaugural “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” will feature special tributes on CBS, FOX and NBC throughout the game slate.
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 are entering a matchup with the Bills looking to disrupt Buffalo’s playoff hopes. Detroit has won three in a row behind Jared Goff, Jamaal Williams and a energized defense.
Buffalo returned to the charge with a win over the Browns last week. Josh Allen hopes to cut down on the mistakes against the Lions and not sink Buffalo in such a pivotal matchup at this point in the season. Allen is also unbeaten on Thanksgiving (2-0). He had 204 passing yards and a touchdown pass in his previous Thanksgiving game against the Lions.
Detroit will be hoping that Jamaal Williams can continue his streak. 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 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 Day 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 looks to bounce back from a home loss to the Lions. But getting past the Dallas defense with an injury-plagued team will be a tall order. Especially when a guy like Micah Parsons is stepping into Reggie White territory.
Parsons recorded the 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
Closing out the Thanksgiving festivities will be the Vikings and Patriots.
New England is coming off an electric victory over the New York Jets on Sunday, thanks to a Marcus Jones punt return touchdown run. 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 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 in his first three seasons in NFL history.
Minnesota is 6-2 on Thanksgiving and the Patriots are 3-2.