For many of us, Thanksgiving Day football has been as much of a tradition as turkey, cranberry sauce and homemade pumpkin pie. And, as it turns out, it has been around almost as long.
The first Thanksgiving Day football game was played in 1925 when a crowd of 36,000, then the largest crowd in professional football history, saw the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cardinals play to a scoreless tie at Wrigley Field.
In 1934, the Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears Thanksgiving Day tilt was the first nationally-broadcast NFL game, with NBC radio doing the honors.
NBC will be one of three networks airing games on Thanksgiving Day this year, and it draws the third of the contests with the New York Giants at the Washington Redskins at 8:30 p.m. Fox kicks off the holiday festivities with the Minnesota Vikings at the Detroit Lions at 12:30, and CBS has the Los Angeles Chargers at the Dallas Cowboys at 3:30 p.m.
The Lions have won their past four Thanksgiving Day contests by a combined score of 135-54 while Minnesota has won five of its seven games on Thanksgiving Day and is tied for the second-highest winning percentage at .714.
Minnesota comes in with a two-game lead over the second-place Lions in the NFC North Division with a record of 8-2 and are led by the surprising Case Keenum, a castoff of the Texans and Rams who has spearheaded the Vikings’ resurgence. Keenum, who stepped in for the injured Sam Bradford in Week 2, has completed 197 of 300 since that time for 2,194 yards with 12 touchdowns, five interceptions and an overall rating of 93.7.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen has been having a Pro Bowl-type season of his own and is currently tied for second in the NFL with 62 receptions for 916 yards and three touchdowns. Latavius Murray has been the workhorse on the ground for Minnesota with 412 yards rushing on 110 carries and four scores.
Defensive end Everson Griffen is currently fourth in the league with 10 sacks and has forced a pair of fumbles, and had recorded at least one sack in every game until being shut out last week against the Rams. Safety Harrison Smith has three interceptions for the Vikings.
Detroit counters with Matthew Stafford, who is off to one of the best starts of his career. Stafford has completed 227 of 360 passes for 2,760 yards with 19 touchdowns and only five interceptions, and has compiled an overall rating of 98.4.
Golden Tate leads the receiving corps with 59 receptions for 691 yards and three touchdowns and Marvin Jones has 38 catches for 622 yards and six scores. Ameer Abdullah has seen the bulk of the work on the ground and has 144 carries for 491 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Anthony Zettel has six sacks from his defensive end position and cornerback Darius Slay is tied for third in the league with four interceptions.
The late afternoon game marks the 40th consecutive Turkey Day competition hosted in Dallas and is the 11th meeting between the Chargers and Cowboys. Dallas holds a 6-4 advantage, but Thursday marks the first time the two teams have met on Thanksgiving Day.
Dallas has struggled so far this season and comes in with a record of 5-5, while the Chargers have seen something of a resurgence lately and have won four of their last six games, including last week’s 54-24 thrashing of the Bills.
Dak Prescott has completed 201 of 320 passes for 2,139 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Dez Bryant has once again proven to be Prescott’s favorite target so far this year with 50 catches for 541 yards and four touchdowns and Alfred Morris, filling in for the suspended Ezekiel Elliott, has 260 yards rushing on just 42 carries.
Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is tied for the NFL lead with 11.5 sacks and defensive tackle David Irving has made his presence felt on the interior with six sacks.
Los Angeles hopes to continue its upward trajectory on the strength of the strong arm of Phillip Rivers, who has completed 214 of 355 passes for 2,514 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Keenan Allen has 56 receptions for 755 yards and three touchdowns and Melvin Gordon has rushed for 633 yards on 167 carries with five scores.
Joey Bosa, last year’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, has continued his solid play and is currently tied for third in the league with 10.5 sacks. Safety Tre Boston’s four interceptions has him in a tie for third.
The holiday concludes at FedExField with the 169th regular-season meeting between NFC East-rivals Washington and New York. The Giants hold a 99-67-4 advantage in the series (including the post-season).
New York will be playing on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 2009, and Thursday will make the 15th holiday appearance for the Giants, who made their first appearance in 1926 when they defeated the Brooklyn Lions 17-0 at Ebbets Field. New York played 11 games on Thanksgiving Day prior to 1939.
Washington, meanwhile, plays on Thanksgiving for the second consecutive season and will host a game on the holiday for the first time in franchise history.
The Giants have had a disappointing season, to say the least, that was not made any better with the loss for the season of Odell Beckham, Jr. in Week 5. But New York did manage to surprise the Chiefs by a count of 12-9 last week, and will hope its defense can shut down a Redskins offense led by Kirk Cousins, who has thrown for 2,796 yards (third best in the league). Cousins has completed 230 of 345 passes so far this season with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions and an overall rating of 101.8.
Four of those touchdown passes have been caught by Chris Thompson, who has 39 total catches for 510 yards. Ryan Grant and rookie Josh Doctson both have three touchdown receptions, although Doctson was placed on injured reserve after Week 6.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leads the defensive charge for the Redskins with six sacks and Kendall Fuller and D.J. Swearinger both have three interceptions.
New York has been anything but an offensive juggernaut this season and quarterback Eli Manning, without the aid of a true No. 1 receiver, has stumbled to an overall rating of 87.0 on 234 completions in 368 attempts with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Tight end Evan Engram does have five touchdown receptions among his total of 41 receptions, and has picked up 452 yards. Orleans Darkwa has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Giants with 489 yards rushing on just 101 carries and two scores.
Jason Pierre-Paul has racked up 4.5 sacks for New York and safety Landon Collins and cornerback Janoris Jenkins both have two interceptions.
How to watch
Date: Thursday, November 23rd, 2017
Vikings at Lions
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
TV Channels: FOX, NFLN
Radio: WJR-AM (760) Live Online Radio Stream. Westwood One Sports will air the game across the country. Wayne Larrivee (play-by-play) and Mark Malone (analyst) will call the action and Hub Arkush (sideline reporter).
Announcers: Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (color analyst) and Erin Andrews (sideline reporter).
Odds: Pick’em; over/under: 45 (Bovada)
Chargers at Cowboys
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV Channels: CBS, NFLN
Online Streaming: CBS Sports will be streaming the game through CBS All Access and international viewers can use NFL Game Pass.
Radio: 105.3 The Fan Live Online Radio Stream. Westwood One Sports will air the game across the country. Tom McCarthy (play-by-play) and Tony Boselli (analyst) will call the action and Scott Kaplan (sideline reporter).
Announcers: Jim Nance (play-by-play), Tony Romo (color analyst) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter).
Odds: Cowboys: -4; over/under: 48 (Bovada)
Giants at Redskins
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
TV Channels: NBC, NFLN
Radio: ESPN 980 Live Online Radio Stream. Westwood One Sports will air the game across the country. Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Dan Fouts (analyst) will call the action and Scott Graham (sideline).
Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (color analyst) and Heather Cox (sideline reporter).
Odds: Redskins: -7; over/under: 41.5 (Bovada)