It’s the first Thanksgiving Day the NFL has hosted since the death of Hall of Famer John Madden, who did as much as anyone to popularize the tradition — and the turducken — during the 20 games he called during his broadcasting career. All three networks — CBS, Fox, and NBC — will highlight Madden during their broadcasts, and players will have a sticker on their helmets honoring the Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster.
While the NFL has scheduled Thanksgiving Day games dating back to 1920, the league’s annual Detroit tradition began in 1934. It was the Lions first year after being moved from Portsmouth, Ohio, (where they were called the Spartans) and they defeated the Chicago Bears, who had won the league’s championship the season before.
The tradition began in Dallas in 1966. General manager Tex Schramm wanted more national publicity for the Cowboys, and though the NFL was nervous attendance would be low, over 82,000 fans crammed into the Cotton Bowl to see their team defeat the Cleveland Browns. Apparently the league was happy with the results, because Dallas has hosted a Thanksgiving Game ever since, missing just two seasons — 1975 and 1977.
What happened those two years? According to ESPN, then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to see if the league could draw interest towards the St. Louis Cardinals. But after two Thanksgiving Day losses and lower TV ratings, Rozelle went back to the Cowboys, who agreed to take back the turkey day mantle on the condition they got it permanently.
The NFL added a third primetime Thanksgiving Day game in 2006, which began on the NFL Network before moving over to NBC in 2012. The evening turkey day game is hosted by a different team each season, and just one team in the league has never played on Thanksgiving — the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bills will be playing their second consecutive game in Detroit on Thursday after a monster snowstorm in Buffalo last week forced the team to move their Week 11 matchup against the Cleveland Browns to Ford Field.
It’s the Bills’ third appearance on Thanksgiving in the past four seasons, and the third time they’ll face the Lions on the holiday. The last time the two teams played on Thanksgiving, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders led the Lions to a 35-21 win in 1994.
Overall, the Lions are 37-43-2 on Thanksgiving Day, but are just 6-15 dating back to 2000. But they do have a three-game win streak, and are coming off an upset win against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.
Coverage on CBS begins at noon with a special edition of The NFL Today, featuring James Brown. Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher, and Nate Burleson. Tony Romo will call his sixth Thanksgiving game for CBS after playing on the holiday every season he wasn’t hurt with the Cowboys.
Despite their longstanding rivalry, Thursday will mark just the second time the Cowboys and Giants have faced off on Thanksgiving. It’s the 16th time the Giants will take the field on Thanksgiving, and their first turkey day game since 2017, where they hope to score their first touchdown on the holiday since 1938.
It’s the first Thanksgiving game on Fox in two decades not featuring Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who jumped ship during the offseason to call Monday Night Football games on ESPN. Instead, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen — the network’s new top booth — will call all the action on the field in what will easily be the most-watched game during their brief tenure, at least until they call the Super Bowl in February.
The Vikings look to rebound after getting blown out by the Cowboys last week, but will face a Patriots team that has won three straight and scored at least 45 points in each of their past two Thanksgiving appearances.
But Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is no couch potato on Thanksgiving. In two games, Cousins has averaged over 340 yards per game and tossed five touchdowns while posting a 110.8 quarterback rating on the holiday.
NBC’s Thanksgiving coverage begins at 8 p.m. with the awkwardly titled SNF on Thanksgiving Night pregame show, featuring Hall of Famer and former Vikings defender John Randle.
Calling the game will be new Sunday Night Football voice Mike Tirico, who will be joined in the booth by former head coaches Tony Dungy and Jason Garrett. It’ll be Garrett’s first opportunity calling an NFL game after spending the season being part of NBC’s Football Night in America studio crew.
source: The Philadelphia Inquirer