THANKSGIVING CRYSTAL BALL
Giving thanks for a day of wall-to-wall football
My friends, THE GURU is here to give thanks. Thanks for family, thanks for friends and thanks for a day of football and food, from early morning until late at night.
I’ll start tomorrow in a Brooklyn parking lot with THE TRE MAN and my father-in-law, SLICK WILLIE, tailgating before the 99th meeting between Xavier High School and Fordham Prep, the oldest rivalry in New York City. The Taylor pork roll is sliced, the beverages are on ice, and the potato casserole is in the oven. Yup, it’s going to be quite a morning.
After piling on the calories for a couple of hours, we’ll watch the high schoolers slap each other around before heading home for - yup - more football and more food. This year’s turkey day schedule again features three games, a tradition the NFL established in 2006 when it expanded from its long-running doubleheader setup.
Of course, Thanksgiving football has long been a national pastime with the holiday’s first pro games occurring in 1920. The initial slate featured six American Professional Football Association (APFA) games with five of the contests resulting in shutouts, highlighted by a scoreless tie between those Columbus Panhandles and the Elyria Athletics. The APFA became the NFL two years later.
By the mid-1930s, the league settled into a groove of up to three Thanksgiving games with league heavyweights like the Bears and Giants often featured. And then, in 1934, the Lions played on the holiday for the first time. The rest is history.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Thanksgiving football, by the numbers:
82…games played by Dee-troit, more than any other franchise. Next up are Dallas (54), Chicago (37), and Green Bay (36).
21…matchups between the Lions and Packers, the most-played Thanksgiving rivalry. The Lions and Bears have played 20 times.
5…Thanksgiving MVP awards won by former Dallas running back Emmitt Smith, tops for any player.
1…active NFL team that has not appeared on Thanksgiving, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
0…games held between 1941-44 due to World War II.
The tradition continues Thursday with three interesting games featuring playoff contenders and nary a turkey in the bunch. I’m looking for a big effort after last week’s 9-5 record (.643) moved my season mark to 96-68 (.585) so let’s take a look.
12:30 pm ET, CBS: Buffalo (7-3) at Dee-troit (4-6).
The Bills are living everyone’s worst nightmare with two trips to Dee-troit in the span of a week. Actually, that’s not fair as I’ve been a fan of the Motor City ever since I sampled one - or two - of the town’s famous Coney dogs back in 2010 or so. Simply delicious.
This matchup pits a Buffalo team that is struggling a bit against the red-hot Lions, winners of three straight. The temptation here is to do two things: a) find a Coney dog and b) pick the Lions. For the sake of my stomach, and my sanity, I’ll do neither. BILLS, 34-28
4:30 pm ET, Fox: NY Giants (7-3) at Dallas (7-3)
For weeks we’ve been saying the Giants are going to hit a rough patch and I’d say that happened in last week’s lopsided home loss to Dee-troit. Unfortunately for BROTHER BLUENIK and his ilk, I don’t see things getting better in Dallas on a short week. It just feels like a big win for the hosts. COWBOYS, 30-13
8:20 pm ET, NBC: New England (6-4) at Minnesota (8-2)
By nature, football fans and commentators are reactionary and, as a case in point, look at how some folks are reading into last week’s Vikings loss to the Cowboys. Heck, one would think the sky is falling.
My opinion: Minnesota simply had a bad day at the office, like the time yours truly challenged a younger colleague to a White Castle-eating contest. Last week, the Vikings played the part of THE GURU with the Cowboys looking like that young, vibrant colleague.
I see Kevin O’Connell’s crew bouncing back this week in a spirited battle against the coach who drafted him in 2008. Yes, that’s right: Bill Belichick & Co. selected O’Connell in 2008, choosing the former San Diego State QB with a third-round selection. He lasted one season in Foxboro before bouncing around the league for a bit and entering coaching in 2015. A great matchup. VIKINGS, 16-12
That’s it for now, folks. Enjoy the games, the time with family and friends, and, yes, the food. Happy Thanksgiving and God bless!