Everything You Need to Know About the Thanksgiving Day Football Games

Turkey DinnerIf you’re like me, Thanksgiving Day is a time to, well, give thanks… to the NFL for scheduling not one, not two, but — count ‘em— three football games! OK, maybe 2 ½. (Have you seen who’s starting at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts?)

So, to make your football-watching more, or possibly less, enjoyable, I’ve analyzed all the games for you (pause for wild cheering and foot-stomping).

Plus, there’s even a cool promotion going on at USRacing.com.

So, without further ado, let the games analysis began… 

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Detroit Lions (6-4)
Line: Detroit -2 ½

Whoever had the bright idea of scheduling the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day needs to have their head examined.

George Plimpton

Before he left the team in 1963, sportswriter George Plimpton was given an engraved golden football by his teammates that read: “To the best rookie football player in Detroit Lions history.” (Photo via www.indiewire.com.)

Granted, when they first played on Turkey Day back in 1934, the Lions had a far more competitive team than they’ve had over the past 10… 20… 30 years. After winning the NFL Championship in 1935 and three more titles in the ‘50s, it’s been slim pickings for the boys from Motor City. Detroit has won exactly one playoff game since quarterback Bobby Layne hung up his cleats and the team’s Thanksgiving Day record is 33-36-2 — despite the fact that all 71 of those games were played at home.

In fact, prior to Matthew Stafford taking over the reins in 2011, it’s arguable that George Plimpton was the team’s best quarterback since Layne (not really, but just play along).

As for the Vikings, after a 5-0 start, Minnesota has gone 1-4 since, as a defense that had held opposing offenses to less than 20 points in every game, began to spring leaks, allowing 22.6 PPG over the next five contests.

Worse, quarterback Sam Bradford went from averaging 11.3 yards per pass completion to 9.3 — not surprising given that the Vikes can’t run the ball to save their lives, averaging 2.7 yards per carry as a team.

Still, both the Lions and the Vikings are contending for the top spot in the NFC North, with Minnesota seeking to avenge an overtime loss to Detroit on Nov. 6, when the Vikings were 5 ½-point favorites at home.

“Every one of their games they’ve played have been seven points or less,” Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think they’ve done a great job at the end of ballgames, including the one we played. The biggest thing is once you start winning, you develop confidence and that’s what they’ve done at the end of ballgames.”

Although the Vikings have won four of the last six games at Ford Field, it doesn’t help their cause that top receiver, Stefon Diggs, will likely miss the game due to a bum knee.

POINTS TO PONDER (from www.covers.com):

* Over the past 15 years, Detroit is just 4-11 on Thanksgiving Day.
* Vikings are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
* Vikings are 6-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
* Vikings are 4-1 ATS in their last five games at Ford Field.
* Over is 5-0 in Lions last five Thursday games.
* Lions are 4-0 ATS in their last four games vs. NFC opponents.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings between these teams.
* Underdog is 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings.

Washington Redskins (6-3) at Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
Line: Dallas -7

Ezekiel Elliot

Ezekiel Elliot (photo via www.dallascowboys.com).

How ‘bout them Cowboys? After losing their first game to the New York Giants on Sept. 11, the ‘boys have ripped off nine straight wins, thanks, in no small part, to the stellar play of two rookies — Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

Filling in for an injured Tony Romo — and eventually winning the job outright — Prescott has accounted for 21 touchdowns (17 through the air and four on the ground), while Elliot recently broke Tony Dorsett’s record for rushing yards by a Cowboys rookie with 1,102. There is a chance that Elliot could catch Eric Dickerson and become the top rookie rusher of all time. Elliot is on pace for 1,768 yards; Dickerson gained 1,808 in 1983.

Meanwhile, the Redskins — and particularly their quarterback, Kirk Cousins — have put together a pretty nice year so far. After dropping their first two games, including one against Dallas at home, the ‘skins have gone 6-1-1 led by Cousins, who has thrown for 16 TDs and accumulated a passer rating of 104.9 over that time.

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“We’re feeling good, but at the same time it’s a short week and we’re playing one of the best teams in the NFL on Thursday,” said Cousins. “Once again, I feel like I say it every week, but welcome to the NFL.

“It doesn’t get any easier from here in our division. A lot of people wanted to take shots at it last year and said, ‘You know, it’s not a very good division.’ I think this year proves that in the NFL everybody is good.”

POINTS TO PONDER (from www.covers.com):

* Dallas is 6-1 against Washington on Thanksgiving Day.
* Over is 6-0 in Redskins last six games following a straight-up win of more than 14 points.
* Over is 8-0 in Redskins last eight games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.
* Cowboys are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games following a straight-up win.
* Cowboys are 9-0 ATS in their last nine games overall.
* Road team is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings between these teams.
* Redskins are 8-1 ATS in their last nine trips to Dallas.
* Underdog is 24-9 ATS in their last 33 meetings.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
Line: Pittsburgh -9

As many readers know, the amino acid L-tryptophan that is prevalent in turkey makes one sleepy. Couple that with a Thanksgiving Day match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts and, well, Maleficent appears to be out of a job.

It’s bad enough that both the Steelers and the Colts have underperformed this year, but, now, it looks like Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck won’t play due to a concussion, which caused the line to zoom from +3 to +9 on Chuck Pagano’s team.

Scott Tolzien (photo via www.nfl.com).

Scott Tolzien (photo via www.nfl.com).

Scott Tolzien, who has 91 NFL pass attempts and a career passer rating of 67.1 (JaMarcus Russell had a 65.2 rating) will be at the helm from in place of Luck.

“We’ve got a guy that comes to work every single day and prepares like a starter ever since he’s been in this building,” Pagano said. “He understands and knows this offense and if that’s the case, he’ll go out and play winning football.”

Uh, you just said it was the case, Chuck.

On the other sideline, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is believed to be suffering from a broken arm, a broken foot, a fractured skull and a pulled hamstring — or so it seems based on the grimace that appears to be a permanent fixture on Roethlisberger’s face during most games.

Facing Tolzien might be just what the doctor ordered for Big Ben and the Steelers.

POINTS TO PONDER (from www.covers.com):

* Under is 5-0 in Steelers last five games following an ATS win.
* Under is 5-1 in Steelers last six games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game.
* Colts are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games in November.
* Colts are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.
* Colts are 11-1-1 ATS in their last 13 Thursday games.
* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings between these clubs.
* Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Home team is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.

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