To many families, Thanksgiving 2016 and football are going to be a package deal, the one not being complete without the other. What would be the point of stuffing as much Thanksgiving dinner as possible into your belly without the opportunity to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes smashing into each other afterwards?
As with every Thanksgiving in recent years, the Lions and Cowboys will each host their respective games. However, 2016 comes with an exciting and historic matchup with the Colts hosting their first ever Thanksgiving Day game against the Steelers. Even better, it is expected to be a great game.
Here are the three Thanksgiving Day football matchups, what to watch for and what to expect.
Vikings at Lions
While the joke has often been told that the Lions always lose on Thanksgiving, the last few years have told a different story. Detroit has won the last three Thanksgiving Day matchups it hosted and they are looking to extend that number to four.
In 2016, things look tough on offense as the Lions averaged just 0.7 yards rush yards per attempt in their last game. Their offense started with just 20 yards in their first five drives and scored just three points in the first half.
They survived with the help of special teams and defense who were able to put points on the board and hold the Jaguars offense at critical times in the game.
The Vikings, for their part, snapped a long losing streak as well with their last win against the Cardinals. As with the Lions, their victory was due, in part, to points from special teams and defense.
Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup will take place at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Redskins at Cowboys
A great football rivalry, this game should be a good time for fans of either team or neither team. Thanksgiving 2016 marks the ninth time these two teams will meet on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys are having the greatest seasonal starts in their long history and are proving time and time again that they are capable of overcoming all kinds of adversity in order to get the win. Their last game proved this as they overcame a dreary start to beat the Ravens in a 27-17 thriller.
Dak Prescott will face his second game as the official starting quarterback instead of just a place-holder for Tony Romo, who conceded the starting spot last week. It will also be his first Thanksgiving Day game. His performance will likely be related to that of running back Ezekiel Elliot who will need to continue to make strong gains on the ground in order to relieve pressure on the rookie quarterback.
The Redskins, for their part, will also be coming off of a stellar performance again the Packers Sunday night at FedEx field. The game ended with Kirk Cousins passing for 375 yards and three touchdowns to boot. That means the Redskins have won six out of their last eight football matches and morale will be high going into Thanksgiving.
The Cowboys’ pass rush doesn’t have a stellar record, recording just 20 sacks in the last 10 games. If Cousins is given the time, that could spell bad news for the Cowboys’ winning streak.
Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup will take place at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Steelers at Colts
In what will likely be one of the most exciting matchups of the 2016 football season, the Steelers and the Colts face off at 8:30 p.m. Both teams are currently sitting directly in the middle with five wins and five losses.
The Steelers will enter the Thanksgiving game after winning their first game out of the past five on Sunday. Running back La’Veon Bell made headlines with a season-high 146 rushing yards and 201 total yards. Roethlisberger, for his part, is coming off of a somewhat disappointing performance.
The Colts will be coming off of back-to-back wins against the Titans and the Chargers but will likely be facing a much stronger offense in the Steelers on Thanksgiving. Their defense, one of the worst in the NFL for points allowed, will need to stiffen up if they expect to hold Roethlisberger and Bell to a manageable number.
Thursday’s Thanksgiving matchup will take place at 8:30 p.m. ET.
All in all, it should be another great year for Thanksgiving Day football and a chance for the Lions to continue to build on their streak.
[Featured Image by Leon Halip/Getty Images]