The big day is approaching. Turkeys are being plumped and prepped while plans are being put together for family and friends to spend all day with each other, whether they want to or not. Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved and important holidays in our country. Laced with historical context and overtones of goodwill and fellowship, it is an opportunity for us all to be thankful for what we have in life. However, for all the fuss over food and awkward family gatherings, there is another element to Thanksgiving Day that can have a polarizing effect on families…ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
The age-old tradition of large feasts and family first met its match nearly 100 years ago. The National Football League seized the opportunity to provide a source of entertainment (or distraction) for families who gather on Thanksgiving by scheduling games on the big day. Traditionally, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are hosts, while a third game was added to the schedule in 2006. These games have produced many thrilling contests over the years, and at this late stage of the season, they often help shape division outcomes and playoff pictures.
This year’s games feature three teams still in contention for the playoffs and three others whose seasons are floundering, but who still can shake up the outcome of their divisions. First, we have the morning game at 9:30 a.m. between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. These NFC North division rivals are two of the oldest franchises in the NFL, and both are still fighting for a chance to get to the playoffs. Detroit currently leads the division at 6–5 while Green Bay is only one and a half game back at 5–5–1. This is obviously a big opportunity for both teams to set themselves up for a playoff run in what is becoming one of the fiercest divisional battles in the NFL, especially since the Chicago Bears are also 6–4 and in the NFC North. Prediction: Detroit wins at home and takes control of the division; final score: Detroit 28, Green Bay 24.
The next game takes place at 1:30 p.m. and will be played by the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. Oakland is essentially out of the running for the playoffs at 4–7 with division leaders Kansas City and Denver both at 9–2, but Dallas still has a chance, holding on to a 6–5 record in a very weak NFC East division. Oakland has proven to be a dangerous team at times, and Dallas has proven to be vulnerable to such teams all season long. However, this is Dallas’ tradition and they boast a winning record on Thanksgiving Day. Prediction: Dallas takes a step forward toward the playoffs; final score: Dallas 31, Oakland 17.
The final game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. This is the one that always causes problems. Whoever has been cooking all day is usually just about finished by now and is ready to feed their guests. But for some, football is just as good as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green beans, croissants and gravy. There may be a struggle to distract the sports fans from the television and get them into the dining room for quality conversation and endless eats. Thankfully, this year’s evening game features two teams that aren’t doing so well.
The Baltimore Ravens, last year’s Superbowl winners, host the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is another pair of division rivals who have had many heated battles in the past, but this year just hasn’t gone their way. Both teams have underachieved so far at 5–6, and are all but eliminated from the playoffs. This is good news for those who wish to shut off the TV for the night and enjoy the company of their families and friends, because it will probably be easy to do so. After a day filled with football, the fans in your house will feel slightly underwhelmed at the prospect of watching these two teams, and most will certainly be eager to strap on the feedbag. However, there is always the chance that football still reigns supreme to some. This is a notion that must be accepted as a part of Thanksgiving Day festivities, especially if you are hosting anyone who is a fan of either team. The game will be broadcast nationally no matter what, and there will be people interested in all areas of the country. Prediction: Baltimore shows some of its mettle from last year’s championship effort and thwarts Pittsburgh; Baltimore 34, Pittsburgh 13.
Whether you like it or not, football has become part of the Thanksgiving tradition. That being said, there is always room for everyone at the table, and let’s not forget what the holidays are all about. So here’s to a Thanksgiving full of great food, good company and, yes, a few games of football.