Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, but it is also a day to enjoy a whole day of NFL games.
For the 10th straight year, the NFL will have three games on “turkey day,” with all six participants being from the NFC. This is the second successive year that no AFC team has played on Thanksgiving Day.
The Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) and Detroit Lions (3-7) will open the tripleheader at Ford Field, with kickoff set for 12:30 p.m. (ET). The game will be televised by Fox.
Detroit, playing on Thanksgiving Day for the 76th time, has won two straight and is still technically alive for a Wild Card berth. The Lions have one of the better aerial attacks in the NFL, but continues to struggle to put points on the board. Detroit has failed to score 20 points in each of its last four games, and averages just 18.1 points a game — which ranks 30th in the leagues.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been inconsistent this season, though he has played better the last two games. Stafford has completed 63 percent of his passes for 262 yards a game, and has scored three touchdowns — two passing and one rushing — along with one interception the past two games. Overall, Stafford averages 261 yards through air as he completes 64.1 percent of his passes, along with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Stafford has two good receivers to throw to in Charles Johnson and Golden Tate. However, the Lions’ running game has struggled to get anything going — Detroit ranks last with 71.1 rushing yards a game. Running back Theo Riddick joins Johnson and Tate with at least 50 catches.
The good news is that the Lions have been better on the defensive side of the ball, lately. Detroit has limited their opponents to 29 points combined, as they have shut down their opponents running attack — the Lions have held Green Bay and Oakland to 50 and 47 yards, respectively. Another bright spot on the defensive side has been the play of cornerback Darius Clay, who has held the receivers he has covered to just 15 yards, per SB Nation. Detroit ranks 29th in the NFL in points allowed per game (27.4).
The Arizona Republic reports that Stafford has passed for 1,650 yards in five Thanksgiving Day games, which is the third most in NFL history. Also, Johnson is the all-time leader, with eight touchdown receptions on Thanksgiving. Detroit is 35-38-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, defeating Chicago and Green Bay by a combined 74-27 on the past two years.
In the meanwhile, the Eagles are a mess as they are coming off a 45-17 defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay and have lost two straight. Despite those facts, Philadelphia is still only a game out of first place in the NFC East.
ESPN Football Power Index gives Philadelphia a 33 percent chance of winning the NFC East.
“We lost two games. I think sometimes people panic and throw the baby out of the bath water, ” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “I think we have a really good football team, and I’m very confident in those football players.”
Against the Buccaneers, Philadelphia gave up a franchise-worst 283 rushing yards and allowed rookie Jameis Winston to throw five touchdown passes. Offensively, the Eagles committed four turnovers and managed just a field goal after scoring 10 points in the opening stanza.
It is unclear whether Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez will be under center for the Eagles. Bradford passed the league’s concussion protocol, but has been limited in practice due to an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Bradford had been playing well over the last 6 1/2 quarters, as he completed a 73.1 percent of his passes for 531 yards and two touchdowns over that stretch. The Eagles also are dealing with several other injuries in addition to Bradford, according to Danny Cox of the Examiner, via CBS Local.
Philadelphia has struggled the last four games, giving up 119 points (29.7 per game). However, the Eagles pass defense is not bad, as they give up 246 yards (16th fewest in the league) through the air and recorded 12 interceptions (sixth most). The Eagles defense also gets after the opposing quarterback decently, posting 24 sacks (tied for 13th in the league). Detroit’s offensive line has allowed the 10th most sacks in the league (26).
Philadelphia is playing in its seventh Thanksgiving Day game, and is a perfect 6-0.
[Image via Philadelphia Eagles/Twitter]