NFL On Thanksgiving
The yearly tradition of NFL football on Thanksgiving day continues as key matchups may prove to be crucial in playoff standings
By Ryan Ford
Every year on Thanksgiving, sports fans are treated to NFL football. This tradition has been around since the league’s inception in 1920, featuring three games that play throughout the day.
As part of this tradition, two franchises are always featured during the holiday celebration: the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams play at home, while the third game of the day can be assigned to any matchup the schedule makers deem worthy.
Here is a preview of the Thanksgiving games on deck this holiday season, as well as players and matchups to keep an eye on. (All stats and information as of Nov. 19)
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (9:30 AM)
The first game of the day pits the Chicago Bears (3-6) up against the winless Detroit Lions (0-8-1). This game is far from a marquee matchup, but young talent will be on display all over the field.
The Chicago Bears are technically still in the playoff hunt (only 2 games out of the 7th seed as of this writing), but their main priority for the rest of the season should be rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ development. Fields has had an up-and-down rookie season but has a favorable matchup here against Detroit, who have the 3rd worst scoring and rushing defense in football. Look for the Bears utilizing Fields’ dual-threat ability in this one.
Meanwhile, it’s been hard to find silver linings for the Detroit Lions’ abysmal 0-8-1 start. Jared Goff has struggled (his 27.3 QBR is worst among qualified starters), and the defense lacks playmakers (21st in takeaways). On a positive note, second-year running back D’Andre Swift has been making fantasy owners happy (ranks 5th among RB’s in PPR leagues), and first-round rookie tackle Penei Sewell has flashed the traits that made him a blue-chip prospect.
Still, if the Lions lose at home to a rookie QB that they could have drafted themselves while Goff stinks up the joint, the wound might sting a little more for a team that is still eyeing their first win of the season. The Chicago Bears are road favorites, favored by 3 points per DraftKings.
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (1:30 PM)
The Cowboys are having a great season thus far, sitting at 7-2 and in the mix for the number one seed in the NFC. Dak Prescott has been excellent (85.2 PFF grade), their offensive line is as good as any in football, and young playmakers Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons have rejuvenated the defense (4th in the league in takeaways).
The Las Vegas Raiders, however, haven’t had many things go right this year. After a 5-2 start, the Raiders have been outscored in their last two games 64-30, and appear to be feeling the effects of head coach Jon Gruden’s resignation and wide receiver Henry Ruggs’ arrest. And if things get any worse, general manager Mike Mayock will likely be the next to go following years of questionable draft picks and roster decisions.
The Raiders will certainly come into this game as a more desperate team, but this will be a tough matchup for the road team, as the Cowboys are 4-1 at home and 8-1 against the spread this season. Dallas is currently favored by 7 points per DraftKings.
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints (5:20 PM)
The Buffalo Bills (6-3) travel to New Orleans to face off against the Saints (5-4), concluding the Thursday night games. A month ago, this seemed like it may be the best matchup of the day. Unfortunately, Saints’ quarterback Jameis Winston tore his ACL a few weeks ago following a hot start to the season, and it’s hard to get excited about their offense with perennial back-up Trevor Siemian calling the shots.
But New Orleans’ head coach Sean Payton is as good an offensive mind as there is in football, while their defense has been a strong unit all season long (1st in rushing yards allowed, 6th in points allowed per game). You also have to throw in the fact that the Bills have had some very questionable performances this year, despite their talent.
The Bills field the best defense in football (1st in both total yards and points allowed per game), and quarterback Josh Allen even in a somewhat down-year finds himself top 7 in passing yards per game (289.1), passing touchdowns (19), and QBR (60.4). They have dominant wins where they seem like the best team in the AFC and lead the league in point differential (+145), but they’ve also lost to the 2-7 Jacksonville Jaguars and didn’t look great against the 3-7 Miami Dolphins the week before that.
Both teams are battling for playoff seeding, and given the dominance of their respective defenses, expect a low-scoring grind-it-out type showcase to end the Thanksgiving slate of games. Buffalo currently stands as 4.5 point favorite per DraftKings.
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Ryan Ford '23,