Thanksgiving traditions are unlike any other: family, turkey, and mourning the struggling lions at the start of the game.
Only this year you suddenly won’t be able to do it. It’s time to break tradition, we say.
After winning three games in a row, the Lions suddenly got pretty lukewarm, beating the Packers and Bears and shocking the Giants in New York in Week 11 to keep hope for a winning season. And while the Bills know all about the Detroit win (more on that below) and are undefeated in Thanksgiving games, they lost two games in a row before pinning the Browns in the cap last week.
An early game of John Madden’s Thanksgiving celebration sets the table for what should be an interesting and important trio of contests.
The Cowboys and Giants meet in Dallas in a middle game with a matching 7-3 record. This player should have a big impact on how the NFC East shakes out, and while the Cowboys will feel pressured to win, the Giants badly need to steal one here after Dallas beat them (with Cooper Rush at quarterback) back in Week 3.
And to wrap it up, we have a really interesting non-conference battle with the Patriots heading to Minnesota to fight the Vikings. Until Sunday, it had been a golden season for the Vikings after starting 8-1, but a 40-3 home loss to the Cowboys raised some big questions about the viability of this postseason buzz-making team.
With such a respectable group of games on Thursday, only one question remains: when will dinner be served? Make sure your Thanksgiving organizer reads these previews before making your final decision about it.
Here are six things to look out for in three games during the NFL’s first John Madden Thanksgiving celebration:
- WHERE: Ford Field (Detroit)
- WHEN: 12:30 pm ET | CBS, NFL+
- Will the Lions be able to break through to the upset of accounts? After D’Andre Swift’s injury early in the season, it was Jamaal Williams who carried the load behind the Lions’ lines. He is now rushing over 1,100 yards and has almost as many touchdowns (12) this season as he has in the rest of his career (13). Last week he scored three goals in the red zone. So there’s no mystery who gets the ball when the Lions crash a party in the red zone, and they’ve been very good this season. Swift returned to the roster, gradually getting more work done with each game, as well as scoring goals in a victory over the Giants. But in a short week, it’s hard to see that all he has to offer is still handling a tender ankle. The Bills have been pretty good defensively this season, but if you look at a few games in particular—the Packers, of course, and even the Jets—some opponents have had success handling the ball against them. Look out for the Lions who will ride Williams, whose rough running style can also bother Bill’s defense, who played 75 snaps in Week 10 and another 83 on Sunday.
- The Billys return to their “home” stadium where they won on Sunday. During the week of travel, unlike any other, the Bills received word that epic snowstorms were heading their way. Their game for Week 11 was rescheduled to Ford Field, and yet the Bills barely made it out of town in time when snow fell in Buffalo and the Browns began their game in Detroit. Beating Cleveland was a big deal, given the Bills were down two games in a row and Josh Allen didn’t look like he did during his early-season MVP. Still, the Bills decided to return home for a few days before returning to kickoff on Thursday. Every game is critical for the Bills as they try to fend off the Dolphins, Jets and Patriots for the division crown, with Buffalo heading to New England for a big game next Thursday. This stretch of the season will be a big test for head coach Sean McDermott and his championship team. They’ve weathered the ringing a bit in recent weeks, and working with the Lions ahead of three straight AFC East games will go a long way in showing they’re still capable of making big progress in January.
- WHERE: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
- WHEN: 4:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes, NFL+
- The Cowboys return to action ahead of the big division game. For all the reasons Cowboys fans were alarmed by their team’s loss to Green Bay in Week 10, Dallas’ claim to win over the Vikings on Sunday seemed to wash away all those Wisconsin sins, and then some. It’s no exaggeration to say that this was Mike McCarthy’s biggest win in Dallas and the Cowboys’ most important regular season win in at least several years. This was notable in that it was a complete victory in all three stages, with Dak Prescott and Tony Pollard shining on offense, Micah Parsons leading the defense and Brett Maher & Co operating in the special teams department. In the first meeting with the Giants, the Cowboys struggled early with Cooper Rush at center, with the defense struggling to contain the Giants’ running game. But the Cowboys dominated the last 20 minutes of the game. And Duck is back. Prescott won nine consecutive games against the Giants he started with a 20-3 TD-INT (and receiving TD) in those meetings. And although he made three shots after he returned from injury, Prescott was largely accurate and showed that his athleticism had returned. The Giants will be busy.
- A key game due to injuries has riddled the Giants. The Giants will arrive in Dallas as a team to stop the bleeding. They’ve lost two out of three games, which is hardly a disaster, but the injury situation is threatening to get ugly. This will give us a very good idea of the coaching skills of Brian Daball and his staff. The Giants will be without cornerbacks Edory Jackson and Fabian Moreau, which will hurt when it comes to stopping wide receiver C.D. Lamb. Expect Dallas to try and pick on the likes of Kor’Dale Flott, Nick McCloud and Rodarius Williams whenever possible. Two other positions where New York could be outnumbered are wide receiver and offensive line. During a career game last week, rookie wide receiver Van’Dale Robinson suffered an ACL tear, which was a huge blow. Is Richie James (questionable, knee) fit enough to replace Robinson? Hard to say. Three blockers (center John Feliciano, left-back Josh Ezeudu and right tackle Tyre Phillips) struggle with neck injuries – Phillips is in question and the rest are out – and rookie Evan Neal is out again with a knee injury and illness. It’s a daunting prospect against a Cowboys death pass.
- WHERE: US Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
- WHEN: 8:20 pm ET | NBC, Telemundo, NFL+
- The Patriots still can’t score much, but can they win? It’s becoming abundantly clear that New England’s winning formula includes offensive ball control and allowing its much-improved defense to do the hard work. There are five offensive losses in the Patriots’ six wins; in their five defeats, they turned it over 12 times. Mack Jones still looks like a hard-working guy having endured the entire Bailey Zappe saga, but the Patriots have little to go on offense this season, at least when Ramondre Stevenson isn’t involved. The good news is that the Vikings’ defense has allowed the opposition to go over 416 yards in half of the season’s games, including each of the last two, and Minnesota is still struggling on defense. The Patriots likely need to reshuffle their offensive line again due to David Andrews’ injury and the unit’s overall inefficiency. But it’s an opponent they should be able to move the ball against if losses aren’t a problem.
- Kevin O’Connell finds his Vikings at a crossroads against the coach who drafted him. At 8-2, the Vikings remain in great shape for a playoff bid and the division crown. But they were suddenly being questioned as true contenders after a string of close wins and two rather revealing losses to the cream of the NFC in the Eagles and Cowboys. In his first season as manager, O’Connell has basically pulled all the strings, but now he needs another big win after his team failed at home just four days ago. Bill Belichick may be 0-2 against freshman head coaches this season, but he’s made a career of feeding off them in the past. Belichick selected O’Connell as the San Diego State quarterback in 2009 before cutting him the following year, and while that limited involvement probably won’t help in terms of game planning, you can be sure Belichick doesn’t want to. being upstaged by his former player. After…