Thanksgiving Day NFL Schedule 2019: Previewing Cowboys, Lions & Turkey Day Games

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2019

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half in an NFL divisional football playoff game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

As soon as the 2019 NFL schedule was released Wednesday, many players and fans turned their attention to Thanksgiving Day.

We already knew we'd be watching the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions while we eat our holiday meals, just like every other year, but some of the other top teams in the NFC will also be on display during the triple-header.

Even with some reruns from last year's games, there should be enough talent on the field that no one should be complaining.

Here is a breakdown of the three Thanksgiving battles to watch in 2019.

      

2019 NFL Thanksgiving Day Schedule (Thursday, Nov. 28)

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ET (Fox)

Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

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Bears at Lions

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 11:  Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears scks Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on November 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 34-22.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This is a rematch of last year's opening game on Thanksgiving, but there is a lot more hype for the Bears this time around.

Going into 2018, Chicago was just a struggling franchise that had gone seven years without a playoff berth and was coming off a 5-11 season. However, things changed in a big way last season with a 12-4 record and the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL.

Khalil Mack was the big addition, but Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks and others had big years and should be back for more in 2019.

Meanwhile, Mitchell Trubisky has proved to be a dynamic quarterback who can lead an exciting offense. This group should enter the season a top contender for the Super Bowl, and this national game will be a good chance to show what it can do.

Of course, the Lions will use this game to show that last year's problems were just a fluke.

The offense ranked just 25th in the NFL in 2019, but Matthew Stafford will return to a group of young weapons including Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson. These players could cause problems for the Bears defense, potentially creating a close divisional battle in Week 13.

  

Bills at Cowboys

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12:  Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after scoring a 1 yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019
Harry How/Getty Images

The Cowboys were 10-6 last season and lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but few teams in the NFL were better in the second half of 2018. 

Dallas was 7-1 in the last eight games of the regular season, with a young defense that continued to improve throughout the year. The bad news for the rest of the NFC is that most of the players are back and should only be better in 2019, especially Byron Jones and Leighton Vander Esch.

The pressure will be on Dak Prescott to stay consistent, an issue that has haunted him throughout his young career.

Even if he doesn't play well, however, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper make this offense a scary one.

On the other hand, the Bills are trying to continue their rebuilding effort behind Josh Allen, last year's seventh overall pick. The quarterback showed impressive flashes during his rookie season, especially when given space to make plays with his legs. 

While expectations are still low—the team has just 125-1 odds to win a Super Bowl, per Vegas Insider—there is enough talent to improve upon the six wins from last year.

Facing a defense that ranked second in yards allowed in 2018, Dallas likely won't run away with this one. 

      

Saints at Falcons

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

When these teams played last year on Thanksgiving, the Saints came away with a 31-17 win. However, this game will be in Atlanta, and that could make a huge difference.

New Orleans was the far superior team in 2018, but the Week 3 matchup between these squads in Atlanta came down to overtime before the Saints escaped with a 43-37 victory.

Last season, Matt Ryan's quarterback rating was 18.3 points better at home, while Drew Brees' rating was 34 points worse on the road.

Playing in Mercedes-Benz Stadium will give the Falcons a chance to avenge last year's sweep against their division rival.

Meanwhile, Atlanta could be much better than last year's 7-9 disappointment, especially if the key players on each side of the ball remain healthy.

New Orleans is already expected to be one of the top teams in football next year after retaining most of the roster that went 13-3 in 2018. Brees remains one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league and has plenty of weapons around him, which could make the offense nearly unstoppable.

When these teams get together, it could be a high-scoring battle that comes down to the last possession.