Can't imagine Thanksgiving without pro football on TV? Me either. This will already be our seventh year with the current Thanksgiving triple-header format, but it's really not a novel concept. As recently as 1967-69, there were four games played on the holiday, with the traditional Detroit and Dallas games holding up the NFL banner, and the soon-to-be-extinct AFL playing a pair of games as well (one in Kansas City each year, and one rotating host). All were televised, although not in four separate time slots. You had to use the clicker.
But even that's not the record when it comes to a Thanksgiving football feast. The NFL played six games on the holiday in both 1920 and 1926, and had five-game schedules in 1922-24. Those were the formative stages of pro football, of course, the pre-TV partners era. Shoot, Pat Summerall didn't even know which end of a mic to speak into yet.
There's more to the marriage of pro football and Thanksgiving Day than you might recall. I'm old enough to remember the two years in the '70s when Dallas didn't get the host duties for the late afternoon game. The St. Louis Cardinals in their exciting Don Coryell era were tabbed, but got clobbered by the Bills in 1975 and the Dolphins in 1977 (the game in which a newly bespectacled Bob Griese threw six touchdown passes in three quarters).
And there's plenty more Thanksgiving NFL memories to rummage through every year at this time. Like Clint Longley's 1974 comeback against Washington in Dallas, O.J. Simpson's 273-yard rushing day in Detroit in 1976, Dave Williams' 95-yard walk-off overtime kickoff return touchdown for the Bears against the Lions in 1980, Leon Lett in the snow in Dallas in 1993, and rookie Randy Moss' three-touchdown destruction of Dallas in 1998. Even Phil Luckett's coin toss flub in Detroit earlier on that same day in '98 deserves to be in there somewhere, in the slapstick department.
Thankfully, Thanksgiving and pro football just work together, helping to make the holiday part of what it has become over the years. Food, family, and football on the fourth Thursday in November. They really are inseparable at this point. Now on to this week's rankings...
NFL Power Rankings