Grab your turkey, get some extra stuffing, and don’t forget your phone.
Each game will impact the playoff race, including a showdown that might determine who wins the NFC East.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS
When this one was scheduled, it looked like a battle for third place in the NFC North. Then the Bears’ breakout season happened.
Chicago might be the most surprising of all the NFL’s first-place teams after 11 weeks. They’re 7-3, coming off a huge win over the Minnesota Vikings in which their dominant defense took center stage. The Lions aren’t completely out of the playoff picture either at 4-6, though they don’t have any more margin for error.
The story is the Bears. They have four games left against teams with losing records, including the Lions. If they handle business in those games they’ll be going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. A potential issue is the health of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He was listed as doubtful on Wednesday with a right shoulder injury and barring something unforeseen, Chase Daniel will start in his place. That’s a tough blow to the offense.
The Bears’ goal over the next five weeks has to be to clinch the NFC North before a Week 17 game at the Vikings. If the Bears slip up against the Lions, that result would be pretty meaningful in Minnesota too.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys, 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox
The game with the most on the line for both teams is the one between familiar NFC East foes. A couple weeks ago, it seemed the only drama would be if Jason Garrett could save his job.
When the Cowboys lost to the Titans on Nov. 5, they were 3-5 and their season looked over. Most of the conversation afterward was about Garrett’s job security. Upset road wins over the Eagles and Falcons changed their outlook fast.
The Redskins are 6-4, a game ahead of the Cowboys, but injuries are piling up. The biggest one came last week when quarterback Alex Smith suffered a season-ending broken leg. Colt McCoy takes over at quarterback, and comes back to the state which fondly remembers him as a highly successful star at the University of Texas.
A Redskins win would put them up two games on the Cowboys and clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker with five games to go. A Cowboys win ties up the NFC East. No game in Week 12 has a bigger impact on the NFL playoff picture.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints, 6:20 p.m. ET on NBC
The Saints are 9-1, having won nine in a row, and they can’t rest for a second.
The Los Angeles Rams won a classic on Monday night to improve to 10-1. While the Saints hold a commanding three-game lead over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South, a division title isn’t their goal. It’s hard to see anyone beating the red-hot Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in January, but it seems like they can’t afford a loss if they want the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
The Falcons’ season isn’t technically over at 4-6, but it’s not looking great. They could get a highlight by knocking off the Saints in a prime-time Thanksgiving game. Saints-Falcons is one of the NFL’s best rivalries and produced one of this season’s best games, a 43-37 overtime win by the Saints back in Week 3. While the Saints are the NFL’s hottest team and the Falcons have cooled off during a two-game losing streak, perhaps we can get a rematch that resembles their Week 3 classic.
It sounds weird to say about a 9-1 team, but Thursday night still seems like a must-win for the Saints. The Rams aren’t going to let up.
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