Seasons Greetings
    

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Sports

NFL: 2021 Thanksgiving Day Preview

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NFL: 2021 Thanksgiving Day Preview

2021-11-24 17:04:19

 

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. (Image Source: Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

For generations of Americans, the tradition of Thanksgiving Day and NFL football are historically intertwined.

On Thanksgiving in 1925, a crowd of 36,000 – then the largest in professional football history – watched the CHICAGO BEARS play the CHICAGO CARDINALS to a scoreless tie at Wrigley Field. In 1934, the DETROIT LIONS and the defending world champion Bears squared off on Thanksgiving in the first NFL game nationally broadcast, with NBC radio on the call. This year, the three holiday games will be aired to millions across the country and around the world.

Since 2006, the NFL has scheduled three Thanksgiving Day games each year. This year’s triple-header features three teams currently in playoff position and four teams with a .500-or-better winning percentage.

The first game showcases the CHICAGO BEARS traveling to Ford Field to face the DETROIT LIONS (12:30 PM ET, FOX). The late-afternoon game marks the 44th consecutive Thanksgiving Day contest hosted in Dallas, as the DALLAS COWBOYS welcome the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS to AT&T Stadium (4:30 PM ET, CBS). The holiday concludes at Caesars Superdome as the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS host the BUFFALO BILLS in an interconference matchup between two 2020 playoff teams (8:20 PM ET, NBC).

GAME

NETWORK

LOCAL TIME

EASTERN TIME

Chicago Bears (3-7) at Detroit Lions (0-9-1)

FOX

12:30 PM ET

12:30 PM

Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

CBS

3:30 PM CT

4:30 PM

Buffalo Bills (6-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-5)

NBC

7:20 PM CT

8:20 PM

The Lions will play their 82nd Thanksgiving Day game dating back to 1934, while the Cowboys will play in their 54th since 1966. Chicago will play its 37th game while Buffalo will play its 10th game on the holiday. The Raiders are appearing on Thanksgiving for the eighth time while the Saints will play in their fourth Thanksgiving game. Five of the six teams competed on Thanksgiving during the 2019 season.

The Thanksgiving Day records of the teams playing this Thursday:

TEAM

WON

LOST

TIED

Buffalo

4

4

1

Chicago

19

15

2

Dallas

31

21

1

Detroit

37

42

2

Las Vegas

3

4

0

New Orleans

3

0

0

CHICAGO (3-7) at DETROIT (0-9-1): Thursday’s matchup marks the 19th Thanksgiving Day meeting between the Bears and Lions, dating back to November 29, 1934. Pro Football Hall of Famer BRONKO NAGURSKI threw a two-yard touchdown pass to BILL HEWITT for Chicago to secure a 19-16 victory over Detroit in the first holiday meeting between the two teams. In their last Thanksgiving Day matchup, running back DAVID MONTGOMERY recorded the go-ahead touchdown with 2:17 remaining as Chicago overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat Detroit, 24-20, on November 28, 2019.

Thursday marks the second meeting of the season between the two NFC North rivals. In Week 4, the Bears earned a 24-14 victory as Montgomery rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Chicago has won six of the past seven meetings between the two clubs, including three consecutive road victories.  

Last week, Chicago quarterback ANDY DALTON threw two second-half touchdowns of 49 and 60 yards, while wide receivers DARNELL MOONEY (121) and MARQUISE GOODWIN (104) each surpassed 100 receiving yards. Last year on Thanksgiving, Dalton passed for 215 yards and one touchdown with Dallas. Quarterback JUSTIN FIELDS, who passed for 209 yards with an 82.7 passer rating in Week 4 against Detroit, can become the fifth rookie quarterback to start on Thanksgiving in the past 10 seasons.  

Chicago has 31 sacks this season, tied with Minnesota for the most in the NFL. Linebacker ROBERT QUINN had a career-high 3.5 sacks in Week 11 and leads the team with 10 sacks, his fifth-career 10-sack season. Linebacker ROQUAN SMITH had a career-high 17 tackles last week and has 110 tackles this season, his fourth-consecutive 100-tackle season since entering the NFL in 2018. In the 2019 meeting on Thanksgiving, he recorded 16 tackles and two sacks.

In Week 11, Detroit running back D’ANDRE SWIFT rushed for a career-high 136 rushing yards with his fourth rushing touchdown of the season. He leads all running backs in receptions (53) and is one of two running backs (AUSTIN EKELER) with at least 500 rushing yards (555) and 400 receiving yards (420) this season. Swift, who has a career-high 975 scrimmage yards, needs 25 scrimmage yards to become the first Lions running back with 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season since JOIQUE BELL (1,182 scrimmage yards in 2014). Tight end T.J. HOCKENSON, who had six receptions in the last Thanksgiving meeting between the two clubs, leads all NFC tight ends in receptions (54) and ranks second in receiving yards (499) this season.

Defensively, Detroit is one of three NFC teams (DALLAS and SAN FRANCISCO) to allow fewer than 20 points in each of their Week 10 and Week 11 games. Cornerback AMANI ORUWARIYE recorded his career-high fourth interception of the season last week. Linebacker CHARLES HARRIS registered a sack and forced fumble in Week 4 against Chicago and aims for his third in a row against the Bears with a sack.

LAS VEGAS (5-5) at DALLAS (7-3): The Raiders and Cowboys meet for the 13th time, with the all-time series tied, 6-6. Thursday marks the third meeting between the two franchises on Thanksgiving. On November 28, 2013, Dallas running back DEMARCO MURRAY totaled 102 scrimmage yards (63 rushing, 39 receiving) and three rushing touchdowns in a 31-24 victory. On November 26, 2009, Cowboys quarterback TONY ROMO passed for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 121.2 rating in the team’s 24-7 win over the Raiders.

Las Vegas quarterback DEREK CARR ranks second in the NFL with 3,041 passing yards this season and became the fourth quarterback with at least 3,000 passing yards in each of his first eight seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNINGCAM NEWTON and RUSSELL WILSON. Carr enters Week 12 with 29,937 career passing yards and with 63 passing yards on Thanksgiving, he would become the fifth quarterback to reach 30,000 passing yards in his first eight seasons. Tight end DARREN WALLER recorded a season-high 116 receiving yards last week and has 12 100-yard games since joining the Raiders in 2018, second-most among all tight ends over the past four seasons (TRAVIS KELCE – 16).

Linebacker DENZEL PERRYMAN leads the AFC with a career-high 114 tackles and has nine games with at least 10 tackles this season, most in the league. Defensive end YANNICK NGAKOUE registered his seventh sack of the season last week and is the only player in the NFL with at least seven sacks in each of the past six seasons.

In four career starts on Thanksgiving, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT has seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) and a 95.5 rating. Including the holiday, he has a passer rating of 90-or-higher in seven of his nine career starts on Thursday. In five home starts this season, Prescott has 15 touchdowns (14 passing, one rushing) with two interceptions for a 118.1 rating and aims for his sixth in a row at home with at least two touchdown passes. The Cowboys have scored at least 35 points in nine of Prescott’s last 10 home starts.

Running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT has at least 120 scrimmage yards in three of his four career games on Thanksgiving and has seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving) in eight career Thursday games. This season, he has seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving) in five home games. Elliott needs 101 scrimmage yards for his sixth-consecutive season with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards and he leads all players with 9,240 scrimmage yards since he entered the NFL in 2016.

Rookie linebacker MICAH PARSONS had two sacks and a forced fumble last week and leads all rookies with eight sacks. He aims for his third in a row with a forced fumble and fourth in a row with at least one sack. Cornerback TREVON DIGGS leads the NFL with eight interceptions this season and ranks second with 13 passes defensed.

BUFFALO (6-4) at NEW ORLEANS (5-5): New Orleans leads the all-time series against Buffalo, 7-4, including wins in five consecutive matchups. In their last meeting, Week 10 of the 2017 season, running backs MARK INGRAM (131 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns) and ALVIN KAMARA (106 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown) led the Saints to a 47-10 win over the Bills.

Buffalo is appearing on Thanksgiving for the second time in the past three seasons. In 2019, quarterback JOSH ALLEN had two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) with a 120.7 rating in a Bills victory over the Cowboys. He enters Week 12 with 2,811 passing yards and 21 touchdown passes and needs 189 passing yards for his third-consecutive 3,000-yard season. Wide receiver STEFON DIGGS had his seventh-career game with at least two touchdown receptions last week and has five touchdown receptions in his past five games. Since joining the Bills in 2020, he is one of two wide receivers (DAVANTE ADAMS) with at least 185 receptions (187) and 2,300 receiving yards (2,308).

Buffalo enters Thanksgiving ranked second in scoring defense (17.6 points allowed per game) and second in takeaways (24). Safety JORDAN POYER leads the team with four interceptions and has five passes defensed and two interceptions in five road games this season.

New Orleans is playing in its fourth Thanksgiving game since 2010 and third in the past four seasons. The Saints (3-0 on Thanksgiving) are one of four active franchises that are undefeated on the holiday, along with Baltimore (2-0), Houston (2-0) and Carolina (1-0).

Defensive end CAMERON JORDAN, who is one of five players with at least six sacks on Thanksgiving since 1982, had two sacks on November 29, 2018 against Dallas and four sacks on November 28, 2019 against Atlanta. Entering Week 12, he has a sack in four of his past five contests. Defensive end MARCUS DAVENPORT had 1.5 sacks last week and aims for his fourth in a row with a sack. He recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles on Thanksgiving in 2019 against Atlanta. Cornerback MARSHON LATTIMORE is one of three defensive backs (JAMES BRADBERRY and MARLON HUMPHREY) with at least 10 passes defensed in each of the past five seasons.

Quarterback TREVOR SIEMIAN totaled four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) last week and has at least two touchdown passes in each of his three starts this season. Ingram had a season-high 113 scrimmage yards (88 rushing, 25 receiving) and aims for his third in a row with at least 100 scrimmage yards. Kamara has 14 touchdowns (11 rushing, three receiving) in his past eight home games. Wide receiver MARQUEZ CALLAWAY had his team-leading sixth touchdown reception of the season in Week 11 and aims for his fourth in a row with a touchdown catch. 

 

 

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