NFL Thanksgiving Games: No Turkeys In Strong Slate Featuring Bills-Lions, Giants-Cowboys, Vikings-Patriots

If ever there was an NFL Thanksgiving to monitor your tryptophan intake, this is the one.

After years of NFL matchups that were more coma-inducing than a third helping of a Butterball, the league gets a trio of games this year that are actually all interesting. Five of the six teams are serious playoff contenders and Detroit is riding a three-game winning streak.

NFL Thanksgiving games
The NFL and Thanksgiving is a can’t-beat combo. (Getty Images)

So, hold off on the cornbread stuffing – pro tip: use the Krusteaz honey mix as a foundation if you make your own – and be careful about overdoing it on the roasted Brussel sprouts – keep it simple with olive oil, sea salt, honey, and bacon – because the league is serving up a great three-course meal.

Buffalo at Detroit (CBS, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Question of the Day: What does Lions coach Dan Campbell do if the Lions win their fourth straight game today?

  1. Strut around Ford Field like Conor McGregor?
  2. Walk around the locker room screaming, “Hulk Smash?”
  3. Run naked down Eight Mile?

Absurdity aside, the fact that the Lions could post their first four-game winning streak since 2016 is not just notable, it’s distinctly possible. Unlike past Thanksgivings, when the Lions game was normally designed to provide background noise while you make the sure not to burn the fresh cranberry sauce – don’t do the canned stuff, the real thing is so easythe Detroit-Buffalo game has some intrigue.

There isn’t much question that the 7-3 Bills are the better team and it will take a lot for the Lions defense to stop Buffalo. But Detroit has the type of power running game (No. 10 in rushing yards per game and No. 3 in rushing touchdowns) that can slow down the Bills and keep the game close.

Furthermore, the Bills have had their share of turnover problems throughout the season, including four in an overtime loss to Minnesota and two in a three-point loss to the New York Jets. As opening game in this version of the NFL’s three-act holiday play, it has a great chance to live up to the hype.

New York Giants at Dallas (FOX, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Logic would tell you that the Cowboys are going to win this game. It’s the same type of logic that tells you that deep-frying a turkey is both more time efficient and tastier than roasting (even if you use the salt-and-herb brine). The problem is that deep frying, like the idea of depending upon the Cowboys, is dangerous. Super dangerous.

The Cowboys won the earlier matchup when Cooper Rush was starting for injured Dak Prescott and are averaging 35 points over their past four games since Prescott returned. The Giants are wobbling a bit, having lost two of their past three, including last Sunday against Detroit.

The Cowboys also have their backfield healthy again with the return of Ezekiel Elliott, so they have both the power and speed of Elliott and Tony Pollard. In a lot of ways, the Cowboys could be considered a serious Super Bowl contender while the Giants are having a nice bounce in Year 1 of the Brian Daboll turnaround.

All of that said, logic never met a team led by owner Jerry Jones and his ability to distract from the task at hand. This week, Jones has made more news talking about the Odell Beckham Jr. chase than crediting his current roster for putting Dallas in serious contention. It’s another example of Jones jumping the gun on the chase for attention. It’s cool to chase OBJ, just do it quietly.

New England at Minnesota (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET)

This game is fascinating, although not because I believe either team is going to the Super Bowl. This is a great matchup of two likely playoff teams that are making some great strides while also burdened by the eternal question, “Is the quarterback good enough or do we need to upgrade?”

This is akin to when you realize it’s time to up the dessert portion of the meal from traditional pumpkin pie to pumpkin cheese cake — go with the graham cracker instead of the crumbled Oreos for the crust and use a chocolate ganache on top.

The Patriots defense against quarterback Kirk Cousins and first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell is particularly important. Expect Bill Belichick to do everything he can to limit Justin Jefferson, even if that means allowing Dalvin Cook some yards. What Belichick will test is how Cousins and O’Connell can make the passing game work without Jefferson.

At the same time, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones needs to show that there’s more to him than just being an accurate game manager. The Vikings defense has holes, as Dallas showed on Sunday. Jones has to start putting up points more consistently.

The other game-within-a-game element is whether O’Connell can keep himself from getting distracted by Belichick, the man who kick-started O’Connell’s NFL career in 2008 when he brought him to the Patriots as a backup to Tom Brady. Belichick has 327 wins. O’Connell has 8. That’s an intimidating difference.

Written by Jason Cole

Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.

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