NFL on Thanksgiving Day: Previewing All Three Games

It’s a tradition unlike any other—the NFL on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately for fans (or anyone trying to avoid the dishes), only one of the three games is a matchup between two teams with winning records. Post-Thanksgiving nap, commence...
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Dak Prescott, Mitch Trubisky, Drew Brees

BEARS (5-6) AT LIONS (3-7-1), 12:30 p.m. ET, FOX

UPDATE: The Lions have announced that David Blough will start at quarterback, and Jeff Driskel will be the backup.

This is a matchup of bottom-dwelling NFC North teams that really makes you wish the NFL could flex Thanksgiving games. This great nation has been subjected to a lot of bad Lions football over the decades they’ve played on Turkey Day, and this year is no different.

The Detroit quarterback situation remains up in the air heading into Thursday’s game. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has missed three straight games because of fractured bones in his back; ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the team has discussed shutting down Stafford for the season, but the quarterback is “maniacal” about playing again this year. 

It looks like the Bears will likely face backup QB Jeff Driskel again, who is coming off an awful loss (207 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) at Washington, but the backup QB also appeared as “limited” on Monday’s estimated practice report with a sore hamstring. Driskel played well against Chicago’s tough defense in Week 11, rushing for 37 yards on five carries and completing 27-of-46 passes for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But if Driskel can’t go, make way for third-stringer David Blough, who took reps with the first-team offense on Tuesday.

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is struggling this season, but he had one of his best performances this season against the underachieving Lions defense. Detroit is allowing 275.5 passing yards per game (third-worst in the league), 396.2 yards per game (fifth-worst) and have the fewest interceptions in the league (4).

Against the NFL’s worst offense on Sunday, the Lions defense gave up two fourth-quarter field-goal drives, and those six points squandered a late three-point lead. If the Lions lose another one, against a bad Bears team on national TV, Detroit head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn will be firmly on the hot seat.

BILLS (8-3) AT COWBOYS (6-5), 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has a talented roster at his disposal, one that is constructed for a championship year, but the Cowboys have yet to beat a team that has a real shot at the postseason. Garrett’s conservative play calling at the end of the game cost the Cowboys a real shot at beating the Patriots, and owner Jerry Jones made it clear that Garrett is on the hot seat again. 

“This is very frustrating, and it’s frustrating just to be reminded that some of the fundamentals of football and coaching were what beat us out there today,” Jones told reporters after Dallas’ 13-9 loss at New England

Dallas’ league-leading offense, averaging 303.5 passing yards per game, will face another tough defense on Thursday against Buffalo, the league’s third-best unit. The Bills dominated the Broncos 20-3 on Sunday, holding their offense to just 134 total yards for the game, and sacked Denver QB Brandon Allen four times. 

On the offensive side, Buffalo QB Josh Allen has shown improvement in his second season. He’s rushed for 56 yards in his last two games, his completion percentage is up from 52.8% last season to 60.2%, and he’s already thrown for nearly 300 more yards than he did last season. 

The Bills are 8-3 for the first time since 1996 and are in good position to snag an AFC wildcard spot, but they’ve got a tough stretch ahead—Dallas, Baltimore and New England are all up in the remaining games.

Both teams have something to prove in this Thanksgiving matchup. The Cowboys haven’t showed up against superior competition, losing games to New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota, and New England. They have yet to beat a team with a winning record this season. (And don’t forget the two-point loss to the New York Jets.) 

Similarly, the Bills have only played one game against a team that has a winning record. That was New England, and … they lost.

SAINTS (9-2) AT FALCONS (3-8), 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

When these two teams met in Week 10, a 1-7 Atlanta team stunned 7-1 New Orleans to get their second win of the season.

"As I recall, it wasn’t too long ago obviously, [the Falcons] got after us a little bit on the pass rush. We weren’t very balanced offensively. We didn’t run the ball that many times and we didn’t run as effectively as I know we can," Brees told reporters Sunday. "I think anytime we take the field, regardless of who the opponent is, we want to be balanced. We want to be efficient. We want to convert third downs, make big plays when we have the opportunity. Score points and win games."

That Week 10 loss ended the Saints’ streak of five straight opponents held under 300 yards—and on Sunday, Carolina became the third team to put up 300 yards of offense against New Orleans. 

Part of the problem has been injuries: notably, starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been sidelined for the last two games with a hamstring injury. Lattimore was listed as limited participation on the Saints’ Tuesday practice report, so if he does play on Thanksgiving, his first time suiting up in 18 days, that would be a huge boost for the New Orleans defense. Lattimore was injured during the loss to the Falcons, and before he left the game, he held WR Julio Jones without a catch. After Lattimore left, Jones caught three balls for 79 yards.

The Saints offensive line is still dealing with injuries to starters, this time the whole left side of the offensive line. Left tackle Terron Armstead who left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, was listed as “did not practice” on Tuesday’s injury report; left guard Andrus Peat, who has missed two games with a broken forearm, was also listed as DNP on Tuesday.

After two straight wins coming out of their Week 9 bye, the Falcons defense reverted back to their early season ineptitude against the Buccaneers on Sunday. Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin caught seven balls for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and the Falcons offense couldn’t answer.

The 9-2 Saints have a four-game lead in the NFC South, and though this 3-8 Falcons team is hard to read, it seems unlikely they’ll get the best of New Orleans a second time this season.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.