The week of the Thanksgiving NFL slate is here! There’s truly nothing like what could easily be a cliche quarterback Twitter bio: “food, family and football,” but this day encapsulates it all in one of the best low-stakes holidays. There’s something so niche and unique about the trio of games that we get every single year, so it’s time to take a moment and recognize the absurdities, the beauties, and the “if you know, you know,” elements of the most-watched regular season games of the year that make up our sports-turkey consumption that we may (or may not) be thankful for.
This is your Thanksgiving NFL primer.
The score bug getting the fall foliage or cornucopia graphic on TV
It is one or the most simple, yet significant dumb sports brain elements that truly makes football feel like football. When you see those brown, orange, and red leaves sprinkle on the NFL on FOX graphic in the corner or the cartoon cornucopia right before they cut to commercial break showing the dozens of turkeys on a farm ready to be slaughtered, you know that the football just feels extra monumental that day.
The spectacle of the halftime performances
Another unique wrinkle to the Thanksgiving games is that for some reason we have broadcasted halftime performances as theatrical as many of the performances we already saw during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade earlier that morning. It allows the casual bystanders in the living room that don’t have much insight on the actual games to make a connection to what’s on the screen, but aside from the element where you may have some musical acts that are tied to the host city in some way, it’s usually a time where the football-watchers, inebriated with turkey awaiting the second half, make snide comments on the performances like wishing there was an actual Pitbull on stage rather than Pitbull, Mr. Worldwide, who performed the Cowboys Thanksgiving in 2014 as they were beat down 33-10.
We’ve had names as random as Andy Grammar, Ellie Goulding, Meghan Trainor, basically every male country singer that was also a College GameDay guest-picker, Mike Posner, and Big Sean that your sarcastic uncle probably mentioned as not being very big.
This year, Detroit gets Kentucky-based rapper Jack Harlow for somer reason, and perhaps the most-prestigious and universally-beloved in some time will be when Dolly Parton performs in Dallas.
Your relatives that may only see the Lions and Cowboys every year
The football die-hards get their fair consumption of other teams all around the league, but it’s unique in that for some that may only casually view and therefore only watch on Thanksgiving or the Super Bowl, the majority of their football-watching has involved either the Lions or the Cowboys in domed stadiums in November. Some may think the Lions are just the worst team in football as they’ve now lost 6 in a row and have a record below .500 all-time at 37-44-2; maybe they can turn over a new leaf and gain some traction with one of the most-fun teams in the NFL this year with Goff, Dan Campbell, and an explosive offense run by Ben Johnson!
Meanwhile, the other end of the spectrum is having the highest-valued pro sports team in the world according to Forbes play every year, the Dallas Cowboys, where the casuals will either be salivating at the idea of the empire’s demise for the one game that they watch, or root for “America’s Team.” The Boys have a 32-21-1 record all-time
The final game of the triple-header that largely goes unwatched because of the tryptophan
We yearly get the Cowboys and Lions, but the Thursday Night game allows the NFL to feature a rotating cast of rivalry games that are usually between two competitive teams that allows some variation! This year we get a long-heated rivalry between the Niners and the Seahawks, both tied for the division lead in the NFC West, but we’ve also had some notable games of year’s past such as the Falcons-Saints Matt Ryan-Drew Brees duels, a Packers-Bears game in which the Bears ACTUALLY WON in 2015, and the notorious Ravens-Steelers game that featured Mike Tomlin jumping on the field on the sideline to interfere with a play.
This is likely the best matchup of the day with the Niners being considered as a Super Bowl contender along with Pete Carroll historically having the upperhand in the rivalry despite being considered an underdog, but that third slot is reserved solely for the football die-hards that have no other familiar obligations that can stay awake after bathing themselves in gravy and tryptophan. It’s the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it even make a sound” complex but for primetime electric football games.
Stay strong. Fight the sleepiness of the meals. In August during the dog days, you would be begging for this third game,
The less-than-ideal quarterback or team that ends up getting a bigtime spot
The NFL has run into some poor luck with the Thanksgiving schedules in that there’s usually some sort of team that is already sleeping with the fishes due to their record or has had a significant quarterback injury since the Thanksgiving games can’t be flexed out. We’re not in too bad a shape this year if Jordan Love and Sam Howell are considered the “worst” in that they’re at least young and developing throughout their struggles on Green Bay and Washington, but here’s a murderers’ row of names and teams that have been featured in the biggest regular season games of the year:
-and… the ALL-TIME butt-fumble game from Mark Sanchez
Enjoy the matchups and the football this year, everyone. We’ve got a new age Packers team taking on a hungry, Cinderella story Lions team looking to make the leap! We’ve got a frisky Commanders team taking on the Cowboys team trying to get over the hump into contender status! We’ve got a Seahawks team thriving in the post-Russ era with a bevy of offensive weapons taking on one of the most electric offenses in the league under the Kyle Shanahan system in the Niners!
It’s also week 12 with higher stakes; some say football isn’t real football until you’ve had your turkey.