Thanksgiving football is just different, and this season will feature three games with six teams fighting for the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions kick off the early afternoon as the starter of the day. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will compete for the main course.
And for dessert, the Minnesota Vikings take on the New England Patriots.
Lions and cowboys belong to Thanksgiving like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and awkward dinner 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 36,000 spectators. In 1934, the Lions played the Bears on 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 victory in their first meeting.
This year, the NFL will honor the late John Madden throughout the day. Madden died last year aged 85, just days after his documentary was published. The league said the inaugural “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” will feature special tributes on CBS, FOX and NBC throughout all games.
Lions (4-6) vs. Bills (7-3) – 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Lions are in the Thanksgiving mix like every year, entering the matchup with the Bills looking to upset Buffalo’s playoff hopes. Detroit has won three straight behind Jared Goff, Jamaal Williams and a loaded 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 crucial game at this point in the season. Allen is also undefeated on Thanksgiving Day (2-0). In his previous game on Thanksgiving against the Lions, he had 204 yards and a touchdown pass
Detroit will hope that 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 his team’s first 10 games of the 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 pursuit of the NFC East title. The Cowboys are seventh in points scored 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 against the Lions. But getting past Dallas’ defense with an injury-riddled team will be a tough task. Especially when a guy like Micah Parsons is entering 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 Patriots will wrap up the Thanksgiving festivities.
New England beat the New York Jets on Sunday thanks to a Marcus Jones 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. The Vikings may find it difficult to get going on offense.
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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.