Thanksgiving Day NFL Schedule 2020: Previewing Cowboys, Lions & Turkey Day Games

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2020

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs out of the pocket against the Tennessee Titans during the first half an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Few holiday traditions are better than watching NFL games on Thanksgiving. And boy, are there some tasty treats for fans this year. 

As always, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys will host two of the three Thanksgiving games. And this year's slate features two playoff teams from a year ago and two bitter divisional rivalries. Get ready to wash down your turkey and stuffing with some excellent football. 

               

Schedule (all times Eastern)

Houston Texans at Detroit Lions: 12:30 p.m. on CBS

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

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 8:20 p.m. on NBC

                

Texans at Lions

With all due respect to both fanbases, this is the least intriguing Turkey Day matchup, though it shouldn't be a bad game by any measure. 

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By this point in the season, we'll have a pretty good idea whether Bill O'Brien's fascinating run as the team's primary decision-maker was a stroke of genius or a touch of incompetence. We'll know whether replacing DeAndre Hopkins with Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb worked out, and whether David Johnson solved Houston's consistency issues at running back. 

On paper, the Texans should still be the favorite to win this game. They went 10-6 last year, their second straight playoff appearance, and still have plenty of star power in quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive lineman J.J. Watt and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. 

The Lions, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-12-1 season. Their biggest moves came in the secondary, where they traded Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, used the No. 3 overall pick on cornerback Jeff Okudah, signed corner Desmond Trufant to a two-year, $21 million deal and traded for safety Duron Harmon. 

On the offensive side of the ball, signing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five-year, $45 million deal was the team's biggest eyebrow-raising move of the offseason. We'll have a good idea if he's up to the task of protecting Matt Stafford by Thanksgiving. If he isn't, the Lions could be well on their way to another top-five pick by this game. 

                     

Washington at Cowboys

The Cowboys should be heavy favorites to win this contest with the far more talented roster, but NFC East games are always battles and generally close. This one shouldn't be any different.

Much of the focus on this game—and this season in Washington—will be on quarterback Dwayne Haskins. By Thanksgiving, will he have proved he's the franchise quarterback? Or will Washington be firmly in the "tank for Trevor Lawrence" conversation? 

Likewise, seeing rookie defensive end Chase Young get after Dak Prescott will be a fascinating subplot. Ditto for seeing Cowboys rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb in action. 

Much of Dallas' offseason was about retaining its talented free agents, and seeing whether the triumvirate of Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper thrive or flounder under new head coach Mike McCarthy will be fascinating. No team underachieved more in 2019 than Dallas, which went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. 

Beating rebuilding teams like Washington in 2020 is a must if Dallas is to win the NFC East and return to the postseason. The Cowboys were 2-0 last season against Washington and have won three straight against their rivals. All expectations will be for them to make it five in a row this season.

                  

Ravens at Steelers

We save the best for last. Consider this the pumpkin pie of the NFL's Thanksgiving schedule. 

Ravens vs. Steelers games are always intense, highly watchable affairs, but it's even better when both teams are genuinely good. The Ravens are just downright fun to watch, led by electrifying MVP Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Add in a talented supporting cast on offense and a stifling defense, and Baltimore is on the short list of Super Bowl favorites.

But don't sleep on these Steelers. Yes, they were 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs, but they also didn't have starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the majority of the year. His return will be key for an offense that struggled in 2019 without him.

Pittsburgh's defense didn't struggle, however, and was one of the best units in all of football, led by T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds. It's a stacked group, and one that won't be happy with its two losses against Baltimore in 2019. 

At present, it seems likely the Ravens will be the favorites in this matchup. But a Ravens-Steelers showdown is always unpredictable, always fiery and always worth watching. It's hard to draw up a better conclusion to Turkey Day.