Food. Family. Football.
They are the three important F’s that define Thanksgiving Day, and 2015 will be no different. The NFL will serve a tripleheader of NFC action on Thursday, Nov. 26, and NFC fans in particular will want to finish their second helping of turkey early this year.
The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving every season, but the 2015 games will feature one of the league’s bitterest rivalries, a showdown between two 2014 playoff teams and maybe even a little Tebow-mania if America is lucky.
Here is a look at the 2015 Thanksgiving Day games:
|2015 Thanksgiving Games|
|Thursday, Nov. 26||Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions||12:30 p.m.||Fox|
|Thursday, Nov. 26||Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys||4:30 p.m.||CBS|
|Thursday, Nov. 26||Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
The entire 2015 NFL schedule can be found here, courtesy of NFL.com.
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
Rumor has it that the Detroit Lions played an afternoon game at the first Thanksgiving dinner in the 1600s.
While that may not be the case, the Lions taking the field is as much of a turkey day tradition as turkey itself, and this year’s team is looking to build off last season’s playoff appearance.
Standing in Detroit's way on Thanksgiving will be the new-look Eagles, who made more headlines this offseason than any other team in the league.
Between bringing in Tim Tebow, trading LeSean McCoy, trading Nick Foles for Sam Bradford and signing DeMarco Murray, the Eagles were quite busy this offseason. The nation will get a chance to see how the new parts fit together on Thanksgiving afternoon.
Detroit will also look different, largely because Haloti Ngata will line up at defensive tackle this season instead of Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Miami Dolphins.
This game could carry more importance than just a single win in the standings, because both the Lions and Eagles could contend for wild-card spots in the NFC. A head-to-head victory would be critical for tiebreaker purposes, and the Lions would be well-served to defend home-field advantage.
At least their quarterback Matt Stafford will be comfortable on the national stage, given his comments.
"It's a lot of fun to play in front of the whole country," Stafford said, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "I think you kind of have to earn them, no question. You got to play good for them to put you on a national TV game, and we'll see what happens."
It will be a lot more fun for Detroit fans if the Lions win.
Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys
It is a marquee event in the NFL any time the Dallas Cowboys take the field.
The Cowboys draw national audiences and prime-time slots every season as America’s Team, and an annual Thanksgiving clash is part of the deal. This year, they will face the Carolina Panthers, who have never played on Thanksgiving in the history of the franchise.
How about a little Carolina history for a post-turkey dessert?
Like the Eagles-Lions clash, this game could carry postseason implications. Carolina and Dallas reached the divisional round of the NFC playoffs during the 2014 campaign. The Cowboys lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Green Bay Packers, while the Panthers hung with the eventual NFC champion Seattle Seahawks but ultimately fell short.
Both Dallas and Carolina could be in the running for a wild-card spot (or divisional crown) this year, and a head-to-head win would be critical for seeding and tiebreaking purposes.
Between Cam Newton, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, this game features a number of recognizable stars, which makes it even more interesting. Star power aside, though, whichever team plays better defense in this game (and the 2015 season as a whole) will emerge victorious after Dallas finished a mediocre 15th in the league in total defense in 2014 and Carolina finished 21st.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Good luck getting sleep before those early Friday morning sales with the Thanksgiving night game. You are better off grabbing an extra piece of pumpkin pie and settling in with arguably the NFL’s greatest rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.
The fact that historic Lambeau Field is the backdrop makes it all the more enticing.
This will also be a rivalry first, as Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out:
Not everyone is excited about this rivalry matchup being on Thanksgiving, though. Chris Chase of USA Today had a strong take about the decision to pit the Bears and Packers against each other during one of football’s biggest nights:
We’re starting at the end because making Bears-Packers the Thanksgiving night game is the most unconscionable NFL decision since — well there have been a lot of them. With limitless possibilities and the most fun time slot of the year, the NFL chooses a retread rivalry game that’s always on in primetime and is never interesting when it is. This game has been a better sleep-inducer than Ambien-stuffed turkey.
Part of the problem for Chase is the rivalry has been incredibly one-sided in recent years. The Packers have won nine of the past 10 games against the Bears and beat Chicago by a combined 93-31 in the two showdowns last season.
There are college teams that may have put up more of a fight against the Packers last year than the Bears did in the Nov. 9 matchup. Green Bay jumped out to a 42-0 lead by halftime, and the rest was history.
Here’s to a much better game than that as the Thanksgiving nightcap.