Thursday 28th November
Detroit Lions V Chicago Bears
It will be a short week for the Chicago Bears as they head to the Detroit Lions for the first of three Thanksgiving Day fixtures. Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky will be searching for a win after seeing his side lose seven of their last eight games. Their only recently success was against the Lions when they met three weeks ago.
Whilst the Bears offense leaves a lot to be desired their defense has been in fantastic form this season. Led by Khalil Mack they were able to hold the New York Giants to just 150 passing yards last week. This is an area that they will be hoping to capitalise on against a Lions team that is battling injury concerns.
The Detroit Lions will be feeling vulnerable with their quarterback position currently up in the air. They may have to look to third choice David Blough with both Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel looking likely to be sitting the game out. Tied to the bottom of the NFC North the struggling Lions are also in desperate need of a win.
Dallas Cowboys V Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills will be making their first appearance on Thanksgiving Day since 1994 when they travel to the Dallas Cowboys. The Bills have largely gone unnoticed this season, but they have been stacking up wins and now find them 8-3 and second in the AFC East.
The fixture will see the return of Cowboys former wide receiver Cole Beasley as a Buffalo Bill. He’s been having a cracking season gaining at least two receptions every game and totalling up 49 catches. If they manage to get the upper hand against the Cowboys, it will be only the second time they have won in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys, who lead the league in offense, spearheaded by Dak Prescott will be looking to bounce back from a narrow 13-9 defeat at the Patriots last week. The Cowboys currently sit top of the AFC East but with the Eagles following closely behind they cannot afford to slip up against a tough Bills team.
Atlanta Falcons V New Orleans Saints
As one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in the division, this will be an interesting match up. In the reverse fixture in week 10 the Atlanta Falcons shocked the New Orleans Saints by beating them 26-9 at the Superdome. The Saints will be looking for revenge as they travel to Atlanta for the finale of the Thanksgiving games. After the setback of losing their quarterback Drew Brees early in the season the Saints have rallied around back-up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He did a superb job for five weeks until Brees came back in week eight to lead the side 8-2 and to the top two seed in the NFC.
The Atlanta Falcons have had a mixed season in comparison to their usual dominant performances. They currently find themselves sitting bottom of the NFC South. However, their shock win against the Saints two weeks ago did seem to spur them on, sacking Drew Brees six times in the process. A feat that hasn’t been managed since 2013. The Falcons went on to gain back-to-back wins before losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wasn’t able to throw a single touchdown pass in that game, so he will be looking to make amends. If the Falcons were to beat the Saints for a second time this season it would boost morale within the camp going into the festive period.
History of NFL on Thanksgiving
The NFL Thanksgiving tradition is very much rooted around the Detroit and Dallas franchises, who have both hosted holiday fixtures since 1978.
The concept of playing American football games on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, because it was a day most people had off from work. The tradition began with College teams and by the time the NFL turned professional in 1920, the concept was an institution.
The Detroit Lions boast the oldest Thanksgiving Day tradition, first playing their annual fixture in 1934 as a ploy by new owner George A. Richards to draw in holiday crowds. The idea was a roaring success, despite losing that day to the Chicago Bears (who Detroit face 85 years later, on Thursday), spectators flocked to the match and the tradition was born. A year later, Detroit’s revenge victory against the same opponent helped propel them to their 1935 NFL Championship title.
In 1966, fellow NFL team Dallas Cowboys decided to adopt the same practice having been founded just six years earlier. Together, the two teams have become traditional hosts to Thanksgiving sporting action – up until 2006 when a third NFL game materialised as part of the sport’s new Thursday Night TV theme.
Famous Thanksgiving Games
Supposedly one of the oldest Thanksgiving Day tales as the Chicago Tigers and Decatur Staleys allegedly challenged each other to a festive showdown during the league’s inaugural season, with the loser to be relegated from the league. While such claims are unsubstantiated with no evidence the Tigers were even an official team, the Staleys won 6-0 and Chicago folded at the end of the season.
A particularly famous game, as the Dallas Cowboys led the Miami Dolphins 14-13 with just seconds remaining in a snow-filled Texas Stadium. Miami’s Pete Stoyanovich attempted a game winning 40-yard field goal that was blocked by the Cowboys’ Jimmie Jones. As the ball landed, continuing to spin and remain live, the Cowboys’ lineman Leon Lett slipped while diving on the ball and knocked it forward. The Dolphins regained possession on the two-yard line and gave Stoyanovich his second chance to score his field goal – winning it for the Dolphins 16-14.
In more recent times, the New York Jets’ clash with the New England Patriots became infamous for the “Butt fumble”. The incident saw Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez run headfirst into the buttocks of his own offensive lineman, fumbled the ball, before New England pounced and scored a touchdown. Earlier on this same day, the Lions and Texans’ fixture saw one of the NFL’s most infamous rule changes – the ‘Jim Schwartz rule’. After Texans’ running back Justin Forsett’s knee clearly touched the ground before sprinting for an 81-yard touchdown, Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenged the play. Referee Walt Coleman ruled this was an improper attempted challenge by Schwartz, cancelled the review and issued a 15-yard kick-off penalty.
For the NFL’s top ten Thanksgiving moments, please click here
Watch 14 live games plus NFL RedZone on NFL Game Pass over Thanksgiving weekend for the special price of 99 pence. Visit nflgamepass.com for details.