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The NFL’s Slate of Thanksgiving Day Games Could Be a Real Stinker

In Monday’s Hot Clicks: why the NFL’s Turkey Day games might be snoozers, Jonathan Taylor’s MVP case and more.

Good thing there’s a bunch of college basketball on, too

Football fans might find themselves falling asleep in front of the TV on Thanksgiving Day—and it’ll have nothing to do with tryptophan.

Looking ahead at the three NFL games scheduled for the holiday is a grim exercise. Here’s what the slate looks like:

  • Bears at Lions (12:30 p.m. ET on Fox)
  • Raiders at Cowboys (4:30 p.m. ET on CBS)
  • Bills at Saints (8:20 p.m. ET on NBC)

That might have looked like a pretty good set of games before the season started, but it doesn’t anymore. All six of those teams lost their games Sunday, by a combined margin of 72 points. And there’s nothing to suggest that things will get better for them Thursday.

The Lions have been a horrendous, unwatchable team all year long—and that was with Jared Goff at quarterback. With Goff out with an oblique injury, Detroit turned to Tim Boyle as its starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Browns. He passed for a grand total of 77 yards. And Goff is reportedly unlikely to play Thursday, which means Boyle, who couldn’t nail down the full-time starting job for some dreadful UConn teams and then threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his one season at FCS Eastern Kentucky, will be thrust into the spotlight on national television.

Hey, but at least fans will get to see electrifying rookie Justin Fields in action in Detroit, right? Well, maybe not. Fields injured his ribs in the Bears’ loss to the Ravens. X-rays were reportedly negative and he’ll undergo more tests to determine whether he’ll be available to go Thursday. If not, it’ll be Andy Dalton at the helm.

The other Thanksgiving mainstay, the Cowboys, laid an egg against the Chiefs on Sunday, losing 19–9. Dallas’s offense clearly missed Amari Cooper, who missed the game after being placed on the COVID-19 list. Without one of his top targets, Dak Prescott completed 28 of 43 passes for 216 yards and threw two picks. Leading receiver CeeDee Lamb was knocked out of the game with a concussion, putting his availability for Thursday’s game in jeopardy. Cooper will also be forced to miss the game because he isn’t eligible to come off the COVID-19 list until Nov. 28.

The Cowboys’ opponent, the Raiders, got pasted by the Bengals, 32–13 at home. Las Vegas has now lost three games in a row and has been blown out by a total of 46 points in its last two games.

The Bills also got embarrassed Sunday, losing 41–15 to the Colts. Even though they allowed Jonathan Taylor to rush for five touchdowns, they’re still the league’s stingiest defense based on yards allowed per game. Buffalo looks like the best team playing Thursday, even though Josh Allen isn’t lighting it up the way he did last year.

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The Saints, on the other hand, are in trouble. With Jameis Winston out for the season, New Orleans has turned to Trevor Siemian at quarterback. He completed a pedestrian 22 of 40 passes for 214 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. And the Saints’ issues run deeper than that. They’re dealing with all sorts of injuries to key players. Alvin Kamara missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury. Taysom Hill was limited in practice during the week with a foot injury and was active as Siemian’s emergency backup but didn’t see the field in his usual Swiss Army knife role. Wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery is sidelined by a finger injury. Both starting offensive tackles (Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead) were also out. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those guys are able to recover in time to face the Bills.

Thursday NFL games are already a crapshoot. More times than not, the quick turnaround leads to sloppy football. And this week we’re getting six stumbling teams who will be missing some key players. You may end up having to just talk with your family. 

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Email dan.gartland@si.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.

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