It's a holiday tradition as timeless as the NBA on Christmas and college football on New Year's Day. But NFL football on Thanksgiving is special.
There's just something about getting stuffed on turkey, pecan pie and, well, stuffing and then curling up on the couch with the family to watch grown men attempt to crush one another on the gridiron. If that doesn't get you going, nothing will.
As for the games, the two traditional teams in the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions will once again host matchups—this year against the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears, respectively. Both games offer plenty of intrigue as both the Cowboys and Lions have high-powered offenses that they might bolster in the draft.
The one outsider this year is the San Francisco 49ers, who host the Seattle Seahawks in a divisional matchup, much like last year's Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night game. This game will also drive up ratings, as the rivalry between these two teams has grown over the years into one of the best in the NFL.
With the entire Thanksgiving schedule set, here's a look at the full slate and a breakdown of the matchups.
|12:30 p.m.||Chicago Bears||Detroit Lions||CBS|
|4:30 p.m.||Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||FOX|
|8:30 p.m.||Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers||NBC|
Thanksgiving Day Breakdown
Is there anything more suspenseful than watching the Cowboys?
The most polarizing team in the NFL has become just as much of a staple of Thanksgiving as cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. And just like those foods, you either love the Cowboys or hate them.
Regardless of the outcome, fans will either lose their food or want seconds. And with the 'Boys facing off with the Iggles, a huge showdown is already brewing between two teams with bad blood.
As for any concerns over whether or not Tony Romo will be ready for the regular season, he plans to participate in workouts throughout the offseason to prepare, per NFL on ESPN:
Tony Romo, coming off of back surgery, is expected to participate in Cowboys offseason program, which begins today. pic.twitter.com/IBbnXZJJNs— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 21, 2014
Going up against a volatile offense that features the likes of LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, Dallas will need Romo and the rest of the offense to be at the top of their game.
Another mainstay on Thanksgiving is the Lions, who come into the season with a few more weapons than the team that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season.
Matthew Stafford and new teammate Golden Tate have already hooked up this offseason and worked on their chemistry to make sure it's perfect by the start of the year. Tate spoke about their growth already along with his expectations for the season, per Paula Pasche of The Oakland Press:
I think we have potential to be a top five, most explosive team in the league. ... He has a lot of talent, I think I have a lot of talent so I can adjust to a lot of balls. Right now we need to get on the same page vocally. Any time we miss a ball I’m going straight to him, 'Did I turn my head late? Did that feel right? What can I do better?'
I think that’s where it starts just talking it out — I can’t read his mind, he can’t read my mind. So we’re just talking it out, we try to fix it the next time.
And if the rumors are true, the Tate move might not be the only one the Lions make this offseason to improve ahead of the difficult matchup on Thanksgiving.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com explains how the Lions might be moving up in the 2014 NFL draft, per Marc Sessler:
Let's start in Detroit, where the Lions loom as candidates to trade into the top five for one of the draft's top prospects, Rapoport said.
One potential target? Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who staged a pre-draft visit with the team Tuesday. Vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Lions receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate were on hand to greet the young pass-catcher, who figures to be long gone if Detroit stays at No. 10. With the Lions also linked to Texas A&M's Mike Evans, this front office appears hell-bent on adding a top-flight receiver to the mix come May.
The Lions will need every offensive weapon they can get against the Bears, so a move to get Watkins might lead to the home team prevailing. But with Detroit already having an immensely talented lineup that includes Calvin Johnson and Tate, this will be a great matchup to watch after binge eating for several hours.
Which matchup is the most exciting?
Hopefully after the first two matchups, NFL fans have caught their collective breath because the final showdown is one that always proves to be epic. When the 49ers and Seahawks clash, there will be blood, guts and plenty of trash talk left on the field.
While the first game between the two teams came early on in the season last year, this season's premiere of the rivalry will have to wait until Week 13. Anticipation will be teeming for this game, as NFL fans have been waiting since the NFC Championship Game for these two teams to face off again.
It's clear the NFL saved the best for last, but every game features division rivals that are facing off against one another. Unlike in years past, each matchup means something in the division races, and Turkey Day will be filled with incredible action.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: