Thanksgiving Day NFL Schedule 2018: Previewing Cowboys, Lions & Turkey Day Games

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2018

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws a pass against the Minnesota Vikings during an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, in Detroit. The Vikings won the game 30-23. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Few days of the NFL regular season get as much attention as Thanksgiving, and this year's trio of games should keep fans excited.

Out of the many notable matchups to come out of Thursday's schedule release, the three Thanksgiving Day battles in Week 12 are among the most intriguing. Each game is a divisional battle, adding an exciting NFC South rivalry to the usual suspects of the Cowboys and Lions.

Here are the turkey day battles to watch in 2018, via NFL.com.

           

2018 NFL Thanksgiving Day Schedule: Nov. 22

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions—12:30 p.m. ET on CBS

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys—4:30 p.m. ET on Fox

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints—8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

           

Bears at Lions

Jim Mone/Associated Press

This is a divisional matchup we have seen plenty of times before, but there is a new wrinkle in 2018 with both teams hiring new coaches in the offseason. The Lions are hoping to improve the defense with the addition of Matt Patricia, while the Bears went with an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy.

Although the offseason camp is only about a week old, the Bears have already seen a difference with the new staff.

"I feel like these last three days, I've been coached more than I ever have," quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said Thursday, per Chris Emma of 670 The Score.

Chicago went 5-11 last season but Trubisky made strides as the season progressed, and the No. 2 overall draft pick has the potential to carry the team to much greater heights next season. 

This could create an interesting matchup against the Lions, a team that has been stuck in the middle the past few years. The squad went 9-7 in each of the last two seasons and returns much of the same faces, with a major exception being at head coach.

After a long time with the Patriots, Patricia will try to instill a winning spirit in the Lions, a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1991.

LeGarrette Blount could provide some balance offensively as well, likely keeping this team in contention in November for this holiday battle.

            

Redskins at Cowboys

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

The Cowboys were one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season as injuries, suspensions and simple poor play limited the projected Super Bowl contenders to just a 9-7 record and no postseason.

Of course, the talent is still there to turn things around and return to the top of the NFC East.

When he is on the field, Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top running backs in football, while the offensive line is as good as there is in the NFL. The defense was young and inexperienced last year, but returning most of the top contributors on that side should help make this an imposing unit.

This leaves Dak Prescott as the biggest question mark. He was less accurate in his second season and more than tripled his interceptions. With a weak receiving core after releasing Dez Bryant, it could be even tougher in 2018.

However, he has a chance to show what he can do on a national stage against a team he is 4-0 against in his career. 

The Redskins have undergone a massive makeover this offseason, most notably replacing Kirk Cousins with Alex Smith. The team also has several new faces at receiver, hoping the changes could help improve an offense that was a mediocre 16th in the league last season in both yards and points.

Considering the inability to beat Dallas in recent seasons, any changes could be a positive.

This will be the third straight year with Washington playing on Thanksgiving. The team beat the Giants last season but lost to the Cowboys in 2016. The squad will hope to avenge that loss and take out the biggest rivals in one swoop.

         

Falcons at Saints

John Bazemore/Associated Press

This matchup has been one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, leading to some dramatic battles during the regular season.

Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune noted how popular this game has been nationally:

While the game would likely be good regardless of records, the reality is both teams could be among the top contenders in the NFC this season.

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman each had "down" years in 2017, with none of them producing the all-around statistics we have seen in the past. However, the Falcons were still able to reach the divisional round of the playoffs before narrowly losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles.

If the offense comes close to producing at the level we saw in 2016, the constantly improving defense could make this team scary.

Meanwhile, the Saints transformed from a pass-heavy attack with no defense to nearly the complete opposite in 2017, finishing 11-5 on the season. It took a miracle play by Stefon Diggs and the Vikings to knock them out of the playoffs in the second round.

With the two NFC South squads potentially contending for a Super Bowl, this game could be a dramatic battle that helps decide playoff seeding.

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