For many people, Thanksgiving is a time for eating a lot of food and watching a lot of football. While the folks over in our Food section are more than capable of helping out with the first part, we here in Sports are happy to help with any and all questions concerning the NFL slate for Thursday.
Fans are fortunate in that the three games are spread throughout the day, so there will be no decisions necessary as to which game to watch. So, all viewers will have to do is kick back with remote in hand, maybe unloosen their belts a notch or two, and enjoy the action.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 9:30 a.m. PST, Fox
It’s a holiday tradition that the Lions host the first game of the day. No one seems to care that more often than not the home team is not very good and that the game usually has little bearing on the playoff picture. Such will be the case this year, when the Lions (3-7-1) take on the Chicago Bears (5-6) in a matchup between the bottom two teams in the NFC North. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has missed the last three games with bone fractures in his back, and Jeff Driskel has underwhelmed as his replacement. The Lions have lost two straight on Thanksgiving, including last year to Chicago, but won four straight before that.
The disappointing Bears, who went 12-4 and won the division last year, have won two of their last three games. Beleaguered quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had his best game of the season (three touchdowns, no interceptions, 131.0 passer rating) three weeks ago against the Lions.
Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys, 1:30 p.m., CBS
Another Thanksgiving tradition — the Cowboys at home for the afternoon game. It’s the only one of the three games this year featuring two teams that have winning records and are in the playoff hunt. The Bills (8-3) are in pretty good shape. While they may not be able to catch the New England Patriots in the AFC East, they have a two-game lead over the closest competitors in the conference’s wild-card race. The Bills haven’t played on Thanksgiving since 1994, when they lost to the Lions 35-21.
The Cowboys (6-5) are a different story. They lead a weak NFC East; otherwise they’d be on the outside looking in as far as postseason prospects are concerned. They haven’t beaten a team with a winning record yet this year, with the seat under coach Jason Garrett seeming to heat up following Sunday’s 13-9 loss to the Patriots. Still, quarterback Dak Prescott leads the league in passing yards (3,433) and Ezekiel Elliott is a top 10 rusher (919 yards). The Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving last year 31-23.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 5:20 p.m., NBC
The nightcap is a rematch of last year’s late game. That one was a 31-17 victory in favor of the host Saints, who were on their way to an appearance in the NFC championship game. The Saints (9-2) seem to be headed in the same direction this year, with Michael Thomas leading the league in receiving yards (1,242) and yards per game (112.9) and quarterback Drew Brees throwing for nine touchdowns with only two passes intercepted in four games since returning from thumb surgery.
But one of the Saints’ two losses came to the Falcons (3-8) three weeks ago. Atlanta followed that victory with another one against the Carolina Panthers for its longest winning streak of the season. But that came to an end Sunday, with quarterback Matt Ryan turning the ball over twice in a 35-22 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.