Remember a few years ago when there was talk of taking the Thanksgiving Day game away from the Detroit Lions because of the team's long period of ineptitude? That seems quaint now, given that the upstart Lions are hosting the undefeated Green Bay Packers in one of the most anticipated Thanksgiving games in recent memory.
Later on Thursday, the brothers Harbaugh will stand on opposite sidelines when the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers travel east to play the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens in a matchup of first-place teams. And sandwiched in the middle is a game against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys and the not-quite-as-bad-as-you-think Miami Dolphins.
In our age of instant hyperbole, Thursday's games have automatically become the "best ever," the same way that last week's comeback was "the greatest in history" and that catch you just saw was "one of the most amazing of all time." But can Thursday's games match up with other modern Thanksgiving affairs?
Shutdown Corner went back and looked at every Thanksgiving Day matchup since 1966, the first year the Dallas Cowboys joined the Detroit Lions in becoming an annual host of the Turkey Day games. Though the addition of a third game in 2006 skews the results a bit, the numbers show that, yes, this is the greatest slate of Thanksgiving games in history.
• This year's combined winning percentage is tied for the highest in history, matching the record of the teams who played the 1975 games. (Interestingly, '75 was the first of two seasons in which Dallas didn't host a game.)
• Detroit's 7-3 record ties its best-ever for a modern Thanksgiving game. The team had the same record in 1993 and 1969.
• In the 46 years of the Detroit/Dallas games, the combined record of teams has been over .500 in 29 of them.
• The worst year for Thanksgiving football was 2001. Teams were a combined 13-24 in those games. The winning percentage of teams in 1987 was a little worse, but each team had played three games with replacement players that season.
• Green Bay is the first undefeated team to ever play on Thanksgiving Day. The previous best record belonged to the 2008 Tennessee Titans, who were 10-1 when they played the winless Lions. The 1998 Minnesota Vikings were also 10-1.
• The 1962 game between the Detroit Lions (8-2) and Green Bay Packers (10-0) is widely considered to be the best Thanksgiving clash in Lions history. The other game that afternoon was between the New York Titans (4-6) and Denver Broncos (7-4). Combined winning percentage: .707.
• Have you heard that the Harbaughs are brothers? Just checking.
• As the Associated Press noted, this is the first time since 1998 that all teams enter Thanksgiving having won their previous game.
• This year is just the sixth time since 1966 (and first since 2000) that Detroit has entered Thanksgiving with a better record than Dallas.
• Matchups aside, which years ended up having the best Thanksgiving games? The top three probably include 1974 (Clint Longley beats Washington), 1993 (Leon Lett) and 1998 (the coin toss and Randy Moss).