NFL Takes Center Stage on Thanksgiving

Food, family, and football are the three cornerstones of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The NFL has played games on Thanksgiving Day since the league’s inception in the early 1900s, but this year could be the best NFL Thanksgiving in history. For the first time since 1993, every team playing on Thanksgiving will have a record of .500 or better. Here’s a preview (complete with picks from the Highland Cavalier sports staff) that will tell you what you can expect on Thursday:

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Detroit Lions (6-4)

12:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The Vikings and Lions enter their Thanksgiving Day matchup tied at the top of the NFC North division. Most people around the league are surprised at the success both teams have had this season, as the Lions lost future Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement during the offseason and the Vikings lost star QB Teddy Bridgewater to a devastating knee injury in the preseason. Vikings QB Sam Bradford has filled in nicely for Bridgewater after being acquired from Philadelphia near the end of the preseason, and the Vikings defense is ranked third in the NFL allowing only 306.9 yards per game. The tough Minnesota defense should be a strong challenge for Lions QB Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense. Look for Stafford to try to get the ball to his favorite targets, WR Anquan Boldin (41 rec, 5 TD) and WR Marvin Jones (38 rec, 4 TD) early and often on Thursday. Emotions should be running high as the winner will gain sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

Highland Cavalier Picks:

Dylan: Vikings

Jalen: Lions

Washington Redskins (6-3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (9-1)

4:30 p.m. ET, FOX

A highly anticipated showdown between two longtime NFC East rivals is the headliner on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys enter Thanksgiving with the NFL’s best record due in large part to the NFL’s best offensive line and their two rookie sensations: QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,102 yards) and he has already broken the Cowboys rookie rushing record in only 10 games, and Prescott has shined all season while filling in for injured QB Tony Romo, and it is officially the Dak era in Dallas as it was announced last week that he would remain the Cowboys starting QB. Prescott has played mistake-free football for most of the season (17 TD, 2 INT in 316 pass attempts), and that must continue on Thanksgiving as he goes up against a Redskins defense led by former All-Pro DB Josh Norman. Washington is led on offense by QB Kirk Cousins, who currently ranks third in the NFL in passing yards with 3,091 yards on the season. Cousins has a disposal of weapons in WR Jamison Crowder (637 yards, 6 TD), WR Pierre Garson (48 rec, 593 yards), TE Jordan Reed (535 yards, 3 TD) and WR DeSean Jackson (467 yards, 2 TD) who should have a big day against the Dallas secondary who ranks in the bottom half of the league in pass defense. Both teams should be able to score, so it could come down to which defense can get a stop at a crucial point in the game.

Highland Cavalier Picks:

Dylan: Cowboys

Jalen: Cowboys

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

The nightcap on Thanksgiving features two teams fighting to remain in division title races. Both the Steelers and Colts are having seasons below their normal standards, but both are still right in the middle of division title races thanks to down years in both the AFC North and the AFC South. There is one big question mark heading into Thursday night’s game: will Colts QB Andrew Luck play? Luck is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion during Sunday’s game against Tennessee. If Luck can’t play, then Indianapolis would turn to journeyman Scott Tolzien to start at quarterback. If Tolzien is the man under center Thursday night, then fans should expect to see a heavy dose of veteran RB Frank Gore (642 yards, 4 TD). The Steelers are finally back to full strength following the return of veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger (20 TD, 7 INT). Roethlisberger and fellow stars RB Le’Veon Bell (579 yards, 2 TD) and WR Antonio Brown (77 rec, 907 yards) will look to have a big day against a Colts defense who ranks 30th in the league in total defense. A win for the Steelers would put them a game up on the Ravens in the AFC North, and a Colts win would put them only half a game behind the Texans in the AFC South race.

Highland Cavalier Picks:

Dylan: Colts

Jalen: Steelers

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