One of the finest traditions of the American Football calendar, year in and year out, is the Thanksgiving Games.
The National Football League has become a permanent fixture in the homes of families all across the country, as they settle down and enjoy their traditional Thanksgiving dinners. This year is no different and with three great games on the slate, families across America will continue to enjoy this timeless tradition.
For fans on this side of the pond, we get treated to two extra Thursday games than normal and with the earlier start times, it can often have that Sunday feel to it.
Lions v Texans – 5.30pm [Irish time]
The first of the three games is between two teams who have suffered disappointing seasons to date. The Houston Texans travel to Detroit to face off against Matthew Stafford and the Lions. Both of these teams had polar opposite experiences this past weekend. A resurgent and determined Deshaun Watson helped lead his Texans side to a win over the New England Patriots.
The Lions, however, failed to score a single point in their game against Carolina; leaving as eventual losers by a score of 20-0. The Texans offense has suffered greatly this season following the departure of star wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. On Sunday, Watson took matters into his own hands and dragged the Texans to a 27-20 victory over the Patriots. Watson finished with 344 yards and two touchdowns. He also had three receivers catch 80+ yards of passes each. A similar performance from Watson on Thursday should see the Texans come away with a win over a poor Lions side.
Cowboys v Washington- 9.30pm [Irish time]
Aside from the Superbowl, the lunchtime slot on Thanksgiving is typically the most-watched game of the season. The Dallas Cowboys have owned this slot since 1966 and have played every year with the exception of a few years in the seventies. This year will mark their 53rd Thanksgiving game. Their opponents this year are the Washington Football Team and both teams arrive to Thursday following a win at the weekend.
Both teams now hold a dismal 3-7 record but remain in contention for a playoff spot in the disastrous NFC East. The game may not look like the most entertaining fixture on paper, but, with so much to play for and both of these sides desperate to get back to the post season, fans can expect to see a passionate matchup.
The Alex Smith comeback story will be told for years to come. After fearing for his life to now playing in one of the most-watched games of the season, expect Smith to come out with a big performance on the national stage. The Cowboys are still reeling from the loss of franchise Quarterback, Dak Prescott. Andy Dalton and the receiving trio of Lamb, Cooper and Gallup, alongside running back Ezekiel Elliot, will be keen to prove their talents during primetime.
Steelers v Ravens – POSTPONED
The schedule makers saved the best game to last this year; an AFC North divisional showdown with huge playoff implications between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a perfect 10-0 on the season thus far – a new franchise record. The Ravens, now third place in the division, have lost two in a row and are failing to live up to the standard they set for themselves last season.
With the extended playoff format, only one team can be granted a first-round bye. The Steelers are in sole command of the number one spot and lead the conference ahead of Chiefs, Bills and Colts as the other division leaders. This game will be the perfect embodiment of the AFC North and its reputation for tough, physical football.
The Ravens offense against the Steelers defense is the perfect cocktail for hard-hitting tackles and earth-shattering hits. The Steelers won 28-24 when these two teams met earlier in the season in Baltimore and following the actions of the Tennessee Titans last weekend, John Harbaugh will not let his players lose a second grudge match in a week without a fight. The Ravens lost in overtime to the Titans and there were scenes of bad blood on display throughout the day. Expect the Ravens to come to Thursday night’s game fired up and ready for a fistfight.
*Steelers v Ravens will now take place on Sunday, November 29th at 6.15pm [Irish time]
A welcome dose of normality amidst the turmoil of 2020; Thanksgiving, albeit an American holiday, will provide us on this side of the Atlantic with an opportunity to enjoy some food, drinks, time with our family and of course, more football.