Thanksgiving Day NFL Schedule 2021: Previewing Cowboys, Lions & Turkey Day Games
Thanksgiving Day isn't complete without mashed potatoes, dinner rolls or three NFL games. While there's still time to figure out which aunt will bring which dessert to dinner, one integral part of the planning is out of the way with the NFL's 2021 schedule announcement.
Here's what to look forward to on Nov. 25:
NFL 2021 Thanksgiving Day Schedule (all times Eastern)
Keep reading for a preview of each Thanksgiving Day game. (If you're looking for a preview of dessert, you can't go wrong with an apple pie.)
Raiders at Cowboys
The Raiders are back on the Thanksgiving Day menu for the first time since 2013, when they fell to Dallas, 31-24. Looking beyond Thanksgiving Day, the teams last met in 2017, when the Cowboys slid past the Raiders, 20-17, marking their third consecutive victory since 2009.
Last season's results aren't necessarily a good measure of what the Raiders will get on Thanksgiving Day, since the Cowboys carried on to a 6-10 record in the absence of quarterback Dak Prescott after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
The Raiders also suffered a serious free-fall through the standings after they lost three of their last four games to finish just 8-8 and miss the postseason.
While things should look different on the field, there's also a rivalry on the sidelines. Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli previously worked with the Cowboys as defensive coordinator, and the Raiders' assistant head coach/special teams coordinator, Rich Bisacca, served in the same role in Dallas.
With Prescott—and Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb—set to return to a Cowboys team that should fare much better than they did in 2020, this matchup favors Dallas, even though the Raiders beefed up their defensive line with Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson in the offseason.
Bears at Lions
Jared Goff will have to postpone his Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in his NFL career by virtue of playing his first season with the Lions. It's certainly not something he's used to having played his first five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, who have the longest Thanksgiving Day drought of any team, dating back to 1975.
Something that isn't a long time coming is a Thanksgiving matchup between the Lions and the Bears, who will now meet on the fourth Thursday in November for the third time in four years.
The Bears came out on top in both on Turkey Day in both 2018 and 2019, and have dominated the rivalry throughout that time. The Lions are seeking their first win against their NFC North rival since 2017, when they swept both games.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Bears hold a 10-8 advantage over the Lions.
But for all of the question marks with the Lions heading into 2021—after an offseason that saw the departures of Matthew Stafford and head coach Matt Patricia—the Bears have their fare share of uncertainties.
The biggest question for Chicago will be which quarterback takes the field on Thanksgiving. In the wake of Mitch Trubisky's departure to Buffalo, the team signed Andy Dalton in an eyebrow-raising move during free agency, then drafted Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at No. 11 overall.
In terms of this Thanksgiving Day matchup—and the regular-season meeting—it's likely it will come down to whoever can get their quarterback situation sorted first.
Bills at Saints
This matchup, which figures to be the most intriguing of the three Thanksgiving Day contests, features two teams that last played on the holiday in 2019. Back then, the Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 26-18, in a rematch of the 2018 Thanksgiving Day game. Also in 2019, the Bills defeated Dallas, 26-15.
The Bills are in solid shape to return to the AFC Championship game, with quarterback Josh Allen coming off of his best season after leading the Bills to their first division title since 1995. Allen will have all of his weapons with him heading into his fourth season in the league, as well: Stefon Diggs, who posted 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, and Cole Beasley (967 yards, four touchdowns), are both back in Buffalo.
In contrast, there are some question marks regarding New Orleans. For the first time since 2006, they'll have to field a team that doesn't have Drew Brees as the go-to option under center. It'll be up to Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston to lead the way at the position, with Notre Dame product Ian Book—their fourth-round pick—in waiting.
But with Alvin Kamara back to run point on the offense again, anything is possible.