NFL serves up Thanksgiving turkeys Cowboys, Lions on Yahoo Sports app

Jason Owens
·3 min read

The NFL has a long tradition of featuring the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.

For better or worse. Mostly worse.

The Lions have played on the holiday dating back to 1934. The Cowboys are relative newcomers to the custom, playing their first Thanksgiving game in 1967.

Both teams have played on every Thanksgiving since 1978, with the NFL reserving the early slot for the Lions and the afternoon for the Cowboys. You can check in on the Lions while working in the kitchen and have your feast — or your post-feast nap — while tuned into the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) passing the ball against Washington Football Team in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Andy Dalton is back to face the team that left him concussed in Week 7. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Why does NFL stick with Lions, Cowboys on Thanksgiving?

This holiday custom has brought a ritual of its own in recent years — fans griping about the NFL sticking them with the Lions and Cowboys every Thanksgiving. While the Cowboys almost always generate intrigue regardless of their record, success has been lacking over the years with Dallas often out of the playoff hunt by late November.

The Lions — well, they’re the Lions. Their 37-41-2 Thanksgiving record and 4-10 record the past 14 Thanksgivings pretty much sums up their NFL existence.

This year provides perhaps the strongest case yet that the NFL should give other teams a chance to host the holiday. But it’s Thanksgiving football, so here’s guessing you’ll be tuning in regardless to a pair of games that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.

Actual stakes in Cowboys-Washington matchup

While the 3-7 Cowboys are in the midst of a wildly disappointing season, their Thursday matchup with Washington isn’t without stakes. Far from it, in fact. The winner of the classic Thanksgiving matchup could very well come out of Week 12 with the NFC East lead.

Both teams are in a a three-way tie with the New York Giants, just a half-game behind the 3-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the division. With the Eagles slated to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, the division lead looks very much up for grabs.

Both teams are coming off wins. The Cowboys’ offense woke up with the return of Andy Dalton at quarterback on Sunday in a 31-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Washington’s underrated pass rush gave the Cincinnati Bengals fits in a 20-9 win. It will be the matchup to watch Thursday, especially after an illegal hit left Dalton concussed in Washington’s Week 7 win.

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia looks on during the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Things are going so great for Matt Patricia. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

From bad to worse in Detroit

The 4-6 Lions, meanwhile, will host the 3-7 Houston Texans in a matchup of teams who have either already fired their head coach or appear well on their way to doing so.

The Texans’ mini-resurgence under interim head coach Romeo Crennel will be the thing to watch here. Houston has won two out of three, including Sunday’s 27-20 win over the New England Patriots. With Deshaun Watson at quarterback, the Texans were expected to compete for a third straight playoff berth before an 0-4 start on the heels of a questionable offseason tanked those plans.

A win Thursday would continue the path back to respectability, even if the playoffs in a brutal AFC are out of reasonable reach.

As for Matt Patricia’s Lions? They’re fresh off a 20-0 shutout at the hands of the Carolina Panthers — the same 4-7 Panthers who are in the midst of a top-to-bottom overhaul. Don’t expect a Thanksgiving miracle in Detroit.

More from Yahoo Sports: