NFL on Thanksgiving Day

This article is about the series of National Football League games. For the Canadian Football League games, see Thanksgiving Day Classic. For the black college football rivalry, see Turkey Day Classic.
The NFL Thanksgiving logo used for 2016; the year is updated annually, with the new NFL shield being used for the first time in 2008.

The National Football League (NFL) on Thanksgiving Day is a traditional series of games played during the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. It has been a regular occurrence since the league's inception in 1920. Currently, three NFL games are played every Thanksgiving. The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys; a third game, with no fixed opponents, has been played annually since 2006.


The concept of American football games being played on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, shortly after the game had been invented, as it was a day that most people had offwork. In that year, the college football teams at Yale and Princeton began an annual tradition of playing each other on Thanksgiving Day.[1] The University of Michigan also made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games, holding 19 such games from 1885 to 1905.[2][3][4][5][6] The Thanksgiving Day games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890s have been cited as "The Beginning of Thanksgiving Day Football."[7] In some areas, high-school teams play on Thanksgiving, usually to wrap-up the regular-season.

By the time football had become a professional event, playing on Thanksgiving had already become an institution. Records of pro football being played on Thanksgiving date back to as early as the 1890s, with the first pro–am team, the Allegheny Athletic Association of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1902, the "National" Football League, a Major League Baseball-backed organization based entirely in Pennsylvania and unrelated to the current NFL, attempted to settle its championship over Thanksgiving weekend; after the game ended in a tie, eventually all three teams in the league claimed to have won the title. Members of the Ohio League, during its early years, usually placed their marquee matchups on Thanksgiving Day. For instance, in 1905 and 1906 the Latrobe Athletic Association and Canton Bulldogs, considered at the time to be two of the best teams in professional football (along with the Massillon Tigers), played on Thanksgiving. A rigging scandal with the Tigers leading up to the 1906 game led to severe drops in attendance for the Bulldogs and ultimately led to their suspension of operations. During the 1910s, the Ohio League stopped holding Thanksgiving games because many of its players coached high school teams and were unavailable. This was not the case in other regional circuits: in 1919, the New York Pro Football League featured a Thanksgiving matchup between the Buffalo Prospects and the Rochester Jeffersons. The game ended in a scoreless tie, leading to a rematch the next Sunday for the league championship.

Several other NFL teams played regularly on Thanksgiving in first eighteen years of the league, including the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals (1922–33; the Bears played the Lions from 1934 to 1938 while the Cardinals switched to the Green Bay Packers for 1934 and 1935), Frankford Yellow Jackets, Pottsville Maroons, Buffalo All-Americans, Canton Bulldogs (even after the team moved to Cleveland they played the 1924 Thanksgiving game in Canton), and the New York Giants (1929–38, who always played a crosstown rival). The first owner of the Lions, George A. Richards, started the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day game as a gimmick to get people to go to Lions football games, and to continue a tradition begun by the city's previous NFL teams.[8] What differentiated the Lions' efforts from other teams that played on the holiday was that Richards owned radio station WJR, a major affiliate of the NBC Blue Network; he was able to negotiate an agreement with NBC to carry his Thanksgiving games live across the network.[9]

During the Franksgiving controversy in 1939 and 1940, the only two teams to play the game were the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, as both teams were in the same state (Pennsylvania). (At the time, then-president Franklin Roosevelt wanted to move the holiday for economic reasons and many states were resistant to the move; half the states recognized the move and the other half did not. This complicated scheduling for Thanksgiving games. Incidentally, the two teams were also exploring the possibility of a merger at the time.[10]) Because of the looming World War II and the resulting shorter seasons, the NFL did not schedule any Thanksgiving games in 1941, nor did it schedule any in the subsequent years until the war ended in 1945. When the Thanksgiving games resumed in 1945, only the Lions' annual home game would remain on the Thanksgiving holiday. In 1951, the Packers began a thirteen-season run as the perpetual opponent to the Lions each year through 1963.

In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys, who had been founded six years earlier, adopted the practice of hosting Thanksgiving games. It is widely rumored that the Cowboys sought a guarantee that they would regularly host Thanksgiving games as a condition of their very first one (since games on days other than Sunday were uncommon at the time and thus high attendance was not a certainty).[11] Incidentally, Texas was the last state to recognize the "fourth Thursday" rule for Thanksgiving that had been imposed as a result of the Franksgiving compromise two decades prior, and had just adopted the rule (as opposed to the previous last-Thursday rule) in 1961, five years before Dallas started hosting Thanksgiving games. (The fourth and final Thursdays were the same between 1957 and 1960; the last time Texas had celebrated Thanksgiving on the week after the rest of the country was 1956.)

In 1975 and 1977, the St. Louis Cardinals replaced Dallas as a host team (Dallas then hosted St. Louis in 1976). Although the Cardinals, at the time known as the "Cardiac Cards" due to their propensity for winning very close games, were a modest success at the time, they were nowhere near as popular nationwide as the Cowboys, who were regular Super Bowl contenders during this era. This, combined with St. Louis's consistently weak attendance and opposition from the Kirkwood–Webster Groves Turkey Day Game (a local high school football contest) led to Dallas resuming regular hosting duties in 1978.

The All-America Football Conference and American Football League, both of which would later be absorbed into the NFL, also held Thanksgiving contests, although neither of those leagues had permanent hosts. Likewise, the AFL of 1926 also played two Thanksgiving games in its lone season of existence, while the AFL of 1936 hosted one in its first season, which featured the Cleveland Rams, a future NFL team, and the 1940–41 incarnation of the American Football League played two games in 1940 on the earlier "Franksgiving" date.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned St. Louis-hosted games in 1975 and 1977, the two "traditional" Thanksgiving Day pro football games since the 1970 AFL–NFL merger have then been in Detroit and Dallas. Because of TV network commitments in place through the 2013 season, to make sure that both the AFC-carrying network (NBC from the 1970 merger to 1997, and CBS since 1998) and the NFC-carrying network (CBS from the 1970 merger to 1993, and Fox since 1994) got at least one game each, one of these games was between NFC opponents, and one featured AFC-NFC opponents. Thus, the AFC could showcase only one team on Thanksgiving, and the AFC team was always the visiting team.

Since 2006, a third NFL game on Thanksgiving has been played at night. It originally aired on the NFL Network as part of its Thursday Night Football package until 2011; NBC began carrying the night game in 2012. The Thanksgiving night game has no fixed opponents or conferences, enabling the league to freely choose whatever marquee match-up to feature on that night. The 2012 changes also allowed both Dallas and Detroit in the future to offer NFC games (one would be played at night), and CBS can offer a game with two AFC teams. In 2014, the NFL added the cross-flex rule, allowing CBS to televise NFC away games, and Fox to broadcast AFC away games, under select circumstances on Sunday afternoons;[12][13] however, this did not cover the Thanksgiving contests.[14] CBS also signed a separate contract to carry Thursday Night Football from the 2014 season onward, which allowed that network to carry games from either conference on Thursdays;[15] since then, CBS has carried all-NFC contests every year on Thanksgiving, and in 2014 and 2015, no AFC teams played in any of the Thanksgiving games.

The NFL's flexible scheduling rule currently does not apply for Thanksgiving games; however, the NFL in theory could in the future apply the rule to change start times and networks for the three games.

Throwback uniforms

Since 2001 teams playing on Thanksgiving have worn throwback uniforms on numerous occasions. In some years (namely 2002), it extended to nearly all games of the weekend, and in some cases also involved classic field logos at the respective stadiums.

In 2001–2004, and again in 2008 and 2010, the Detroit Lions have worn throwback uniforms based on their very early years.

From 2001 to 2003, Dallas chose to represent the 1990s Cowboys dynasty by wearing the navy "Double-Star" jersey not seen since 1995. In 2004, the team wore uniforms not seen since 1963. In 2009, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the AFL, both Dallas and Oakland played in a "AFL Legacy Game." In 2013, the Cowboys intended to wear their 1960s throwbacks, but chose not to do so after the NFL adopted a rule banning alternate helmets during the season; rather than sport an incomplete throwback look, the Cowboys instead wore their standard blue jerseys at home for the first time since 1963.[16] In 2015, the Cowboys resurrected their 1994 white "Double-Star" jerseys only this time wore them with white pants as part of the league's "Color Rush", a trial run of specially-designed, monochromatic jerseys to be worn during Thursday games.[17]

Memorable games

Home team controversy

It has remained a tradition for Dallas and Detroit to host the afternoon games dating back several decades. However, in recent years, other teams have expressed interest in hosting Thanksgiving games. Lamar Hunt, the former owner of the Chiefs (who had hosted Thanksgiving games from 1967–69 as an AFL team prior to the merger), lobbied heavily in favor of his team hosting a game on the holiday. When the NFL adopted a third, prime time game, the Chiefs were selected as the first team to host such a contest.

The host issue came to a head in 2008, focusing particularly on the winless Lions. Going into the game, Detroit had lost their last four Thanksgiving games, and opinions amongst the media had suggested removing Detroit and replacing them with a more attractive matchup.[23][24] The team also required an extension to prevent a local television blackout.[25] The Lions were routed by Tennessee 47–10, en route to the team's 0–16 season.[26] NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Lions would stay on Thanksgiving for the 2009 season, but kept the issue open to revisit in the future.[27][28]

Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys, who typically represent a larger television draw,[29] have had much fewer public calls to be replaced on Thanksgiving. One issue that has been debated is a perceived unfair advantage of playing at home on Thanksgiving.[30] The advantage is given in the form of an extra day of practice for the home team while the road team has to travel to the game site. This is true for most Thursday games, but with the night games, the visitor can travel to the game site after practice and hold the final walk-thru the following morning.

With the introduction of the prime time game, which effectively allows all teams in the league an opportunity to play on Thanksgiving, along with the introduction of year-long Thursday Night Football ensuring all teams have one Thursday game during the regular season (thus negating any on-field advantages or disadvantages to being selected for Thanksgiving), the calls for Detroit and Dallas to be removed have curtailed.

Game results

(Winning teams are denoted by boldface type; tie games are italicized.)


Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 25, 1920Canton Bulldogs0 Akron Pros7
Decatur Staleys6Chicago Tigers0
Detroit Heralds0Dayton Triangles28
Columbus Panhandles0Elyria Athletics*0
Hammond Pros0Chicago Boosters*27
All-Tonawanda *14Rochester Jeffersons3
Nov. 24, 1921Canton Bulldogs14Akron Pros0
Buffalo All-Americans7Chicago Staleys6
Nov. 30, 1922Buffalo All-Americans21Rochester Jeffersons0
Chicago Bears0Chicago Cardinals6
Milwaukee Badgers0Racine Legion3
Oorang Indians18Columbus Panhandles6
Akron Pros0Canton Bulldogs14
Nov. 29, 1923 Toledo Maroons 0 Canton Bulldogs 28
Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 3
Hammond Pros 0 Green Bay Packers 19
Milwaukee Badgers 16 Racine Legion 0
Nov. 27, 1924 Buffalo Bisons 0 Akron Pros 22
Chicago Bears 21 Chicago Cardinals 0
Dayton Triangles 7 Frankford Yellowjackets 32
Milwaukee Badgers 10 Cleveland Bulldogs
(at Canton)
Green Bay Packers 17 Kansas City Blues 6
Nov. 26, 1925 Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 0
Kansas City Cowboys 17 Cleveland Bulldogs
(at Hartford)
Rock Island Independents 6 Detroit Panthers 3
Green Bay Packers 0 Pottsville Maroons 31
Nov. 25, 1926 New York Giants 17 Brooklyn Lions 0
Los Angeles Buccaneers 9 Detroit Panthers 6
Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 0
Green Bay Packers 14 Frankford Yellowjackets 20
Providence Steam Roller 0 Pottsville Maroons 8
Akron Pros 0 Canton Bulldogs 0
(AFL I) Los Angeles Wildcats 0 Chicago Bulls 0
(AFL I) Philadelphia Quakers 13 New York Yankees 10
Nov. 24, 1927 Chicago Cardinals 3 Chicago Bears 0
Providence Steam Roller 0 Pottsville Maroons 6
Green Bay Packers 17 Frankford Yellowjackets 9
Cleveland Bulldogs 30 New York Yankees 19

Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 29, 1928 Providence Steam Roller 7 Pottsville Maroons 0
Dayton Triangles 0 Detroit Wolverines 33
Green Bay Packers 0 Frankford Yellow Jackets 2
Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 34
Nov. 28, 1929 New York Giants 21 Staten Island Stapletons 7
Green Bay Packers 0 Frankford Yellow Jackets 0
Chicago Cardinals 40 Chicago Bears 6
Nov. 27, 1930 New York Giants 6 Staten Island Stapletons 7
Providence Steam Roller 12 Brooklyn Dodgers 33
Green Bay Packers 25 Frankford Yellowjackets 7
Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 6
Nov. 26, 1931 Green Bay Packers 38 Providence Steam Roller 7
New York Giants 6 Staten Island Stapletons 9
Chicago Cardinals 7 Chicago Bears 18
Nov. 24, 1932 Green Bay Packers 7 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
New York Giants 13 Staten Island Stapletons 13
Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 24
Nov. 30, 1933 New York Giants 10 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
Chicago Bears 22 Chicago Cardinals 6
Nov. 29, 1934 Green Bay Packers 0 Chicago Cardinals 6
New York Giants 27 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
Chicago Bears 19 Detroit Lions 16
Nov. 28, 1935 Green Bay Packers 7 Chicago Cardinals 9
New York Giants 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
Chicago Bears 2 Detroit Lions 14
Nov. 26, 1936 Chicago Bears 7 Detroit Lions 13
New York Giants 14 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
(AFL II) Cleveland Rams 7 Rochester Tigers 6
Nov. 25, 1937 Chicago Bears 13 Detroit Lions 0
New York Giants 13 Brooklyn Dodgers 13
Nov. 24, 1938 Chicago Bears 7 Detroit Lions 14
New York Giants 7 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 23, 1939 Pittsburgh Pirates 14 Philadelphia Eagles 17
Nov. 21, 1940 (AFL III) New York Yankees 16 Columbus Bullies 17
(AFL III) Buffalo Tigers 13 Milwaukee Chiefs 30
Nov. 28, 1940 Pittsburgh Steelers 0 Philadelphia Eagles 7


Season League Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 22, 1945 NFL Cleveland Rams 28 Detroit Lions 21
Nov. 28, 1946 NFL Boston Yanks 34 Detroit Lions 10
AAFC New York Yankees 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 27, 1947 NFL Chicago Bears 34 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 27 Los Angeles Dons 17
AAFC San Francisco 49ers 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 25, 1948 NFL Chicago Cardinals 28 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 31 Los Angeles Dons 14
AAFC Buffalo Bills 39 Chicago Rockets 35
Nov. 24, 1949 NFL Chicago Bears 28 Detroit Lions 7
AAFC New York Yankees 17 Los Angeles Dons 16
AAFC Cleveland Browns 14 Chicago Hornets 6
Nov. 23, 1950 NFL New York Yanks 14 Detroit Lions 49
Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Chicago Cardinals 17
Nov. 22, 1951 NFL Green Bay Packers 35 Detroit Lions 52
Nov. 27, 1952 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 48
Chicago Bears 23 Dallas Texans (at Akron, Ohio) 27
Nov. 26, 1953 NFL Green Bay Packers 15 Detroit Lions 34
Nov. 25, 1954 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 28
Nov. 24, 1955 NFL Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 24
Nov. 22, 1956 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 20
Nov. 28, 1957 NFL Green Bay Packers 6 Detroit Lions 18
Nov. 27, 1958 NFL Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 24
Nov. 26, 1959 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 17


Season League Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 24, 1960 NFL Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 23
AFL New York Titans 41 Dallas Texans 35
Nov. 23, 1961 NFL Green Bay Packers 17 Detroit Lions 9
AFL Buffalo Bills 14 New York Titans 21
Nov. 22, 1962 NFL Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 26
AFL New York Titans 46 Denver Broncos 45
Nov. 28, 1963 NFL Green Bay Packers 13 Detroit Lions 13
AFL Oakland Raiders 26 Denver Broncos 10
Nov. 26, 1964 NFL Chicago Bears 27 Detroit Lions 24
AFL Buffalo Bills 27 San Diego Chargers 24
Nov. 25, 1965 NFL Baltimore Colts 24 Detroit Lions 24
AFL Buffalo Bills 20 San Diego Chargers 20
Nov. 24, 1966 NFL San Francisco 49ers 41 Detroit Lions 14
Cleveland Browns 14 Dallas Cowboys 26
AFL Buffalo Bills 31 Oakland Raiders 10
Nov. 23, 1967 NFL Los Angeles Rams 31 Detroit Lions 7
St. Louis Cardinals 21 Dallas Cowboys 46
AFL Oakland Raiders 44 Kansas City Chiefs 22
Denver Broncos 20 San Diego Chargers 24
Nov. 28, 1968 NFL Philadelphia Eagles 12 Detroit Lions 0
Washington Redskins 20 Dallas Cowboys 29
AFL Buffalo Bills 10 Oakland Raiders 13
Houston Oilers 10 Kansas City Chiefs 24
Nov. 27, 1969 NFL Minnesota Vikings 27 Detroit Lions 0
San Francisco 49ers 24 Dallas Cowboys 24
AFL Denver Broncos 17 Kansas City Chiefs 31
San Diego Chargers 21 Houston Oilers 17


Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score OT
Nov. 26, 1970 Oakland Raiders 14 Detroit Lions 28
Green Bay Packers 3 Dallas Cowboys 16
Nov. 25, 1971 Kansas City Chiefs 21 Detroit Lions 32
Los Angeles Rams 21 Dallas Cowboys 28
Nov. 23, 1972 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 37
San Francisco 49ers 31 Dallas Cowboys 10
Nov. 22, 1973 Washington Redskins 20 Detroit Lions 0
Miami Dolphins 14 Dallas Cowboys 7
Nov. 28, 1974 Denver Broncos 31 Detroit Lions 27
Washington Redskins 23 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 27, 1975 Los Angeles Rams 20 Detroit Lions 0
Buffalo Bills 32 St. Louis Cardinals 14
Nov. 25, 1976 Buffalo Bills 14 Detroit Lions 27
St. Louis Cardinals 14 Dallas Cowboys 19
Nov. 24, 1977 Chicago Bears 31 Detroit Lions 14
Miami Dolphins 55 St. Louis Cardinals 14
Nov. 23, 1978 Denver Broncos 14 Detroit Lions 17
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 37
Nov. 22, 1979 Chicago Bears 0 Detroit Lions 20
Houston Oilers 30 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 27, 1980 Chicago Bears 23 Detroit Lions 17 (OT)
Seattle Seahawks 7 Dallas Cowboys 51
Nov. 26, 1981 Kansas City Chiefs 10 Detroit Lions 27
Chicago Bears 9 Dallas Cowboys 10
Nov. 25, 1982 New York Giants 13 Detroit Lions 6
Cleveland Browns 14 Dallas Cowboys 31
Nov. 24, 1983 Pittsburgh Steelers 3 Detroit Lions 45
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35
Nov. 22, 1984 Green Bay Packers 28 Detroit Lions 31
New England Patriots 17 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 28, 1985 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 31
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35
Nov. 27, 1986 Green Bay Packers 44 Detroit Lions 40
Seattle Seahawks 31 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 26, 1987 Kansas City Chiefs 27 Detroit Lions 20
Minnesota Vikings 44 Dallas Cowboys 38 (OT)
Nov. 24, 1988 Minnesota Vikings 23 Detroit Lions 0
Houston Oilers 25 Dallas Cowboys 17
Nov. 23, 1989 Cleveland Browns 10 Detroit Lions 13
Philadelphia Eagles 27 Dallas Cowboys 0
Nov. 22, 1990 Denver Broncos 27 Detroit Lions 40
Washington Redskins 17 Dallas Cowboys 27
Nov. 28, 1991 Chicago Bears 6 Detroit Lions 16
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 26, 1992 Houston Oilers 24 Detroit Lions 21
New York Giants 3 Dallas Cowboys 30
Nov. 25, 1993 Chicago Bears 10 Detroit Lions 6
Miami Dolphins 16 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 24, 1994 Buffalo Bills 21 Detroit Lions 35
Green Bay Packers 31 Dallas Cowboys 42
Nov. 23, 1995 Minnesota Vikings 38 Detroit Lions 44
Kansas City Chiefs 12 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 28, 1996 Kansas City Chiefs 28 Detroit Lions 24
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 27, 1997 Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 55
Tennessee Oilers 27 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 26, 1998 Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Detroit Lions 19 (OT)
Minnesota Vikings 46 Dallas Cowboys 36
Nov. 25, 1999 Chicago Bears 17 Detroit Lions 21
Miami Dolphins 0 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 23, 2000 New England Patriots 9 Detroit Lions 34
Minnesota Vikings 27 Dallas Cowboys 15
Nov. 22, 2001 Green Bay Packers 29 Detroit Lions 27
Denver Broncos 26 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 28, 2002 New England Patriots 20 Detroit Lions 12
Washington Redskins 20 Dallas Cowboys 27
Nov. 27, 2003 Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 22
Miami Dolphins 40 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 25, 2004 Indianapolis Colts 41 Detroit Lions 9
Chicago Bears 7 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 24, 2005 Atlanta Falcons 27 Detroit Lions 7
Denver Broncos 24 Dallas Cowboys 21 (OT)


Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score OT
Nov. 23, 2006 Miami Dolphins 27 Detroit Lions 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 Dallas Cowboys 38
Denver Broncos 10 Kansas City Chiefs 19
Nov. 22, 2007 Green Bay Packers 37 Detroit Lions 26
New York Jets 3 Dallas Cowboys 34
Indianapolis Colts 31 Atlanta Falcons 13
Nov. 27, 2008 Tennessee Titans 47 Detroit Lions 10
Seattle Seahawks 9 Dallas Cowboys 34
Arizona Cardinals 20 Philadelphia Eagles 48
Nov. 26, 2009 Green Bay Packers 34 Detroit Lions 12
Oakland Raiders 7 Dallas Cowboys 24
New York Giants 6 Denver Broncos 26
Nov. 25, 2010 New England Patriots 45 Detroit Lions 24
New Orleans Saints 30 Dallas Cowboys 27
Cincinnati Bengals 10 New York Jets 26
Nov. 24, 2011 Green Bay Packers 27 Detroit Lions 15
Miami Dolphins 19 Dallas Cowboys 20
San Francisco 49ers 6 Baltimore Ravens 16
Nov. 22, 2012 Houston Texans 34 Detroit Lions 31 (OT)
Washington Redskins 38 Dallas Cowboys 31
New England Patriots 49 New York Jets 19
Nov. 28, 2013 Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 40
Oakland Raiders 24 Dallas Cowboys 31
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 22
Nov. 27, 2014 Chicago Bears 17 Detroit Lions 34
Philadelphia Eagles 33 Dallas Cowboys 10
Seattle Seahawks 19 San Francisco 49ers 3
Nov. 26, 2015 Philadelphia Eagles 14 Detroit Lions 45
Carolina Panthers 33 Dallas Cowboys 14
Chicago Bears 17 Green Bay Packers 13
Nov. 24, 2016 Minnesota Vikings 13 Detroit Lions 16
Washington Redskins 26 Dallas Cowboys 31
Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Indianapolis Colts 7
Nov. 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Day standings

Of current NFL franchises. This includes American Football League (AFL) games; however, it does not include All-America Football Conference (AAFC) games.

Team Last Game Wins Losses Ties Win % Other names appeared under
Baltimore Ravens201320 1.000
Carolina Panthers201510 1.000
Houston Texans201210 1.000
New Orleans Saints201010 1.000
Philadelphia Eagles201561 .857
Los Angeles Rams197531 .750 Cleveland Rams (1937–1945), does not include 1936 AFL's Cleveland Rams
Miami Dolphins201152 .714
Minnesota Vikings201652 .714
Tennessee Titans200852 .714 Houston Oilers (1960–1996)
Tennessee Oilers (1997–1998)
Indianapolis Colts2016211.625 Baltimore Colts (1953–1983)
San Diego Chargers1969211.625 All games were in the AFL. Have never played an NFL Thanksgiving game since the merger.
Dallas Cowboys201630181.622
New York Giants2009743.607
New England Patriots201232 .600
Chicago Bears201517152.529 Decatur Staleys (1920)
Chicago Staleys (1921)
Kansas City Chiefs200655 .500 Dallas Texans (1960–1962), does not include 1–0 record of unrelated NFL Dallas Texans.
New York Jets201244 .500 New York Titans (1960–1962)
San Francisco 49ers2014221.500 Does not include 1–0 record when team was a member of the AAFC.
Seattle Seahawks201422 .500
Atlanta Falcons200711 .500
Detroit Lions201637382.494
Buffalo Bills1994341.438 Does not include 1–0 record of unrelated AAFC team of same name.
Oakland Raiders201334 .429
Green Bay Packers201514202.417
Denver Broncos200947 .364
Arizona Cardinals20086152.304 Chicago Cardinals (1920–1959)
St. Louis Cardinals (1960–1987)
Phoenix Cardinals (1988–1993)
Pittsburgh Steelers201626 .250
Washington Redskins201627 .222
Cincinnati Bengals201001 .000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers200601 .000
Cleveland Browns198903 .000 Does not include 3–0 record when team was a member of the AAFC.

Notable appearance droughts

The last currently active franchise to have never played on Thanksgiving through 2015 is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who joined the league in 1995. The Browns have not appeared since rejoining the league as an expansion team in 1999.

An idiosyncrasy in the NFL's current scheduling formula, which has been in effect since 2002 and revised in 2010, effectively prevents teams from the AFC North from playing the Lions or Cowboys on Thanksgiving, as the formula has the AFC North playing in Dallas or Detroit in years when the other team is slated to play the AFC game on Thanksgiving. These teams can, under the 2014 television contracts, play only in the third (night) game; should cross-flex be expanded to Thursdays (thus allowing both Fox and CBS to carry AFC games), this idiosyncrasy will be eliminated.

San Diego has the longest active appearance drought as of 2015. They have not played on Thanksgiving since 1969, one year before the AFL–NFL merger.

Since 2010, the league has made efforts to end the longest droughts. New Orleans, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Houston, and Carolina all played their first Thanksgiving games during this time frame. San Francisco likewise played their first Thanksgiving game since 1972 in 2011. The Los Angeles Rams, however, have still not played on Thanksgiving since 1975, either in its current home city or in St. Louis.

Thanksgiving Day records of defunct teams

League teams only, since 1920.
Team Wins Losses Ties Win Pct. Other names appeared under
Frankford Yellow Jackets 20 1.000 Defunct (1931)
New York Yankees* 20 1.000 Defunct (1949)
Pottsville Maroons 20 1.000 Defunct (1928)
Boston Yanks 10 1.000 Defunct (1948)
Buffalo Bills* 10 1.000 Defunct (1949), unrelated to current NFL team with this name
Dallas Texans 10 1.000 Defunct (1952), does not count AFL's Dallas Texans, which are now the Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Buccaneers 10 1.000 Defunct (1926)
Oorang Indians 10 1.000 Defunct (1923)
Rock Island Independents 10 1.000 Defunct (1925)
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks 10 1.000 Defunct (1921)
Akron Pros 311.700 Defunct (1926)
Buffalo Bisons 111.500 Buffalo All-Americans (1920–1923), Defunct (1929)
Canton Bulldogs 111.500 Defunct (1926)
Cleveland Bulldogs 11 .500 Defunct (1927)
Dayton Triangles 11 .500 Defunct (1929)
Kansas City Cowboys 11 .500 Kansas City Blues (1924), Defunct (1926)
Milwaukee Badgers 11 .500 Defunct (1926)
Brooklyn Lions 01 .000 Defunct (1926)
Chicago Tigers 01 .000 Defunct (1920)
Detroit Heralds 01 .000 Defunct (1920)
New York Yanks 01 .000 Defunct (1950)
Providence Steam Roller 01 .000 Defunct (1931)
Racine Legion 01 .000 Defunct (1926)
Toledo Maroons 01 .000 Defunct (1923)
Brooklyn Dodgers* 02 .000 Defunct (1949)
Chicago Hornets* 02 .000 Chicago Rockets (1946–1948), Defunct (1949)
Columbus Panhandles 02 .000 Defunct (1926)
Detroit Panthers 02 .000 Defunct (1926)
Hammond Pros 02 .000 Defunct (1926)
Rochester Jeffersons 02 .000 Defunct (1925)
Los Angeles Dons* 03 .000 Defunct (1949)

*All-America Football Conference team.

Game MVPs

Since 1989, informal and sometimes lighthearted Man of the Match awards have been issued by the networks broadcasting the respective games. Running back Emmitt Smith holds the record for most Thanksgiving MVPs with five (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 2002). Voting on the respective awards is typically done informally by the announcing crew themselves, and criteria are loose. Noteworthy statistical accomplishments weigh heavily, and "group" awards are common. The announcement of the winner(s), and the presentation of the award is normally done immediately following the game, during post-game network coverage.

Turkey Leg Award (CBS & FOX)

In 1989, John Madden of CBS awarded the first "Turkey Leg Award", for the game's most valuable player. Pursuant to its name, it was an actual cooked turkey leg, and players typically took a celebratory bite out of the leg for the cameras during post-game interviews. Reggie White of the Eagles was the first recipient. The gesture was seen mostly as a humorous gimmick relating to Madden's famous multi-legged turkey,[32] cooked and delivered by local restaurant owner Joe Pat Fieseler of Harvey's Barbecue (located less than a mile from Texas Stadium). Since then, however, the award has gained subtle notoriety. Madden brought the award to FOX in 1994, and it continued through 2001.

Because of the loose and informal nature of the award, at times it has been awarded to multiple players. On one occasion in 1994, it was given to players of both teams.

Galloping Gobbler (FOX)

When John Madden left FOX after 2001, the network introduced a new award starting in 2002, named the "Galloping Gobbler." It was represented by a small figurine of a silver turkey wearing a football helmet[33] striking a Heisman-like pose.[34] Much like Cleatus and Digger, the original Galloping Gobbler trophy reflected Fox's irreverent mascots, and went through several iterations.[33] Unimpressed by its tackiness, 2002 winner Emmitt Smith (who holds the record for most Thanksgiving MVP awards and had won the Turkey Leg Award four previous times) famously threw his in a trash can.[33]

In 2007, the kitschy statuette was replaced with a bronze-colored statue of a nondescript turkey holding a football.[34] In 2011, the trophies were discarded altogether and replaced by an attractive plaque. Unlike the aforementioned "Turkey Leg Award", the "Galloping Gobbler" is normally awarded to only one player annually,[35] however in 2016, co-winners were honored.[36]

All-Iron Award (CBS)

When the NFL returned to CBS in 1998, they introduced their own award, the "All-Iron Award", which is, suitably enough, a small silver iron, a reference to Phil Simms' All-Iron team for toughness. The All-Iron winner also receives a skillet of blackberry cobbler made by Simms' mother.

Through 2006, the trophy was only awarded to one player annually. Occasionally, it has been issued as a "group award" in addition to a single player award. In 2008, Simms stated it was "too close to call" and named four players to the trophy; he then gave the award to several people every year until 2013, after which he reverted to a single MVP in 2014.

Prime time games (NFLN & NBC)

During the time when NFL Network held the broadcast rights the prime time game, from 2007 to 2011 they gave out the "Pudding Pie Award" for MVPs. The award was an actual pie. In 2009, NFL Network gave Brandon Marshall a pumpkin pie rather than the chocolate pudding pie of the previous two years.

NBC, which carried Thanksgiving afternoon games through 1997, did not issue an MVP award during that time. NBC began broadcasting the Thanksgiving prime time game in 2012, at which point the MVP award was added. The award is currently called the Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving Night Player of the Game, and is typically awarded to multiple players on the winning team.[37] From 2012 to 2015, the NBC award was referred to as the "Madden Thanksgiving Player-of-the-Game", honoring John Madden (who announced NBC games from 2006 to 2008).[38][39] In the first few years, the award specifically went to players on both offense and defense, but in recent years, defensive players have not necessarily been recognized. The winning players are presented with ceremonial game balls and, as a gesture to Madden, a cooked turkey leg.[40]

Complete list

CBS Turkey Leg Award
Year MVP (Team)
1989 Reggie White (Phi)
1990 Troy Aikman & Emmitt Smith (Dal)
1991 Barry Sanders (Det)
1992 Emmitt Smith & Cowboys Offensive line
1993 Richard Dent (Chi)
CBS All-Iron Award
Year MVP (Team)
1998 Stephen Boyd (Det)
1999 Dexter Coakley (Dal)
2000 Charlie Batch (Det)
2001 Mike Anderson (Den)
2002 Troy Brown (NE)
2003 Jay Fiedler & Chris Chambers (Mia)
2004 Peyton Manning & Colts Offensive line
2005 Ron Dayne (Den)
2006 Joey Harrington (Mia)
2007 Tony Romo & Cowboys defense*
2008 Albert Haynesworth (Ten)
Chris Johnson (Ten)
Kevin Mawae (Ten)
LenDale White (Ten)
2009 Miles Austin (Dal)
Tony Romo (Dal)
Jason Witten (Dal)
2010 Tom Brady (NE)
2011 DeMarcus Ware (Dal)
2012 Andre Johnson (Hou)
Matt Schaub (Hou)
J.J. Watt (Hou)
2013 Tony Romo (Dal)
DeMarco Murray (Dal)
Lance Dunbar (Dal)
HM: Matthew McGloin (Oak)
2014 Calvin Johnson (Det)
2015 Luke Kuechly (Car)
Jerricho Cotchery (Car)
Kurt Coleman (Car)
Cam Newton (Car)
2016 Matt Prater (Det)
Darius Slay (Det)
Matthew Stafford (Det)

FOX Turkey Leg Award
Year MVP (Team)
1994 Emmitt Smith & Jason Garrett (Dal)
Brett Favre & Sterling Sharpe (GB)
1995 Herman Moore (Det)
Brett Perriman (Det)
Johnnie Morton (Det)
1996 Emmitt Smith (Dal)
1997 Luther Ellis (Det)
1998 Randy Moss (Min)
1999 Gus Frerotte (Det)
Greg Hill (Det)
Johnnie Morton (Det)
Robert Porcher (Det)
2000 Robert Smith (Min)
Randy Moss (Min)
Daunte Culpepper (Min)
Cris Carter (Min)
2001 Brett Favre & Ahman Green (GB)
FOX Galloping Gobbler Award
Year MVP (Team)
2002 Emmitt Smith (Dal)
2003 Dré Bly (Det)
2004 Julius Jones (Dal)
2005 Michael Vick (Atl)
2006 Tony Romo (Dal)
2007 Brett Favre (GB)
2008 DeMarcus Ware (Dal)
2009 Donald Driver (GB)
2010 Drew Brees (NO)
2011 Aaron Rodgers (GB)
2012 Robert Griffin III (Was)
2013 Reggie Bush (Det)
2014 LeSean McCoy (Phi)
2015 Matthew Stafford (Det)
2016 Dak Prescott & Ezekiel Elliott (Dal)

NFLN Pudding Pie Award
Year MVP (Team)
2006 Not given
2007 Reggie Wayne (Ind)
2008 Donovan McNabb & Brian Westbrook (Phi)
2009 Brandon Marshall (Den)
2010 Brad Smith & Darrelle Revis (NYJ)
2011 Terrell Suggs (Bal)
NBC Player of the Game
Year MVP (Team)
2012 Tom Brady (NE)
Vince Wilfork (NE)
Steve Gregory (NE)
2013 Jacoby Jones (Bal)
Justin Tucker (Bal)
2014 Russell Wilson (Sea)
Richard Sherman (Sea)
2015 Jay Cutler (Chi)
Tracy Porter (Chi)
2016 Le'Veon Bell (Pit)
Ben Roethlisberger (Pit)
Antonio Brown (Pit)

*Of the members of the 2007 Cowboys defense, Chris Canty, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Greg Ellis were particularly noted.


DuMont was the first network to televise Thanksgiving games in 1953; CBS took over in 1956, and in 1965, the first ever color television broadcast of an NFL game was the Thanksgiving match between the Lions and the Baltimore Colts.

Starting in 2012, all three broadcast networks with NFL rights will carry one game apiece. The first two games are split between CBS and Fox. These games are rotated annually, with CBS getting the 12:30 p.m. (EST) "early" game, and Fox getting the 4:25 p.m. "late" game in even-numbered years, while Fox likewise gets the "early" game and CBS the "late" game in odd-numbered years. The third game, with a prime time 8:30 p.m. start, is carried by NBC. The NFL may involve the Flexible Scheduling rule in the future to reassign games if the night game has less importance than the Dallas or Detroit game.

Westwood One holds national radio broadcast rights to all three games, and the participating teams also air the games on their local flagship stations and regional radio networks.

See also


  1. "Navy vs Michigan st (NJ)". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  2. "1885 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  3. "1887 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  4. "1888 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  5. "1889 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  6. "1891 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  7. "Football on Thanksgiving: A Brief But Comprehensive History". Midwest Sports Fans. November 23, 2011.
  8. "The Origins of the Thanksgiving Day Tradition". Detroit Lions. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  9. Jaworowski, Matt (November 24, 2016). Timeline: How football became a Thanksgiving tradition. WIVB-TV. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  10. See also: Pennsylvania Keystoners
  11. Scales, Kristi (November 26, 2014). "Why Do the Cowboys Play on Thanksgiving Day?". 5 Points Blue (Dallas Cowboys). Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  12. "NFL announces Week 13 flex plan". ESPN. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  13. Best, Neil (December 14, 2011). "NFL renews lucrative TV deals". Newsday. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  14. Rosenthal, Gregg (April 23, 2014). "2014 NFL Schedule: Flex games can now start in Week 5". National Football League. Retrieved June 4, 2015. Thursday, Saturday, and Monday games are not affected.
  15. "CBS to broadcast eight Thursday night football games in 2014". CBS Sports. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  16. Eatman, Nick (November 26, 2013). "Cowboys To Wear Blue Jerseys At Home Thursday". Dallas Cowboys. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  17. Splash of color for Thursday Night teams. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  18. Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions - November 25th, 1976 |
  19. 1993 - Dolphins @ Cowboys - Leon Lett Opps - YouTube
  20. Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys - November 25th, 1993 |
  21. "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football Preview: Games, TV Schedule, Point Spreads, Picks and Predictions". 2011-11-21. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
  22. Silver, Michael (2011-11-21). "NFL Thanksgiving games are appealing, for once – NFL – Yahoo! Sports". Retrieved 2012-11-23.
  23. Bakay, Nick (12 November 2008). "Manly House of Football: Another helping of Lions football for the holiday? No, thanks!".
  24. Kulfan, Ted. Annual Lions game is roasted. The Detroit News. 25 November 2008
  25. Slevin, Peter (November 27, 2008). "In Detroit, Tradition Takes a Hike; Annual Thanksgiving Football Game Offers Little Joy for Troubled City". Washington Post. p. A1.
  26. Lage, Larry (November 28, 2008). "Once-beaten Titans dominate winless Lions 47–10". Associated Press.
  27. Niyo, John (31 January 2009). "Turkey game safe ... for now". Detroit Free Press. p. C6.
  28. Kowalski, Tom (22 March 2009). "Lions president says NFL will not take away team's Thanksgiving Day game".
  29. Horn, Barry (10 March 2009). "Networks vie for Dallas Cowboys' home opener". Dallas Morning News.
  30. King, Peter (1 December 2008). "The best football writer of our time".
  31. Patra, Kevin (23 April 2014). "2014 NFL Schedule: No AFC teams on Thanksgiving Day". Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  32. Imnam, Cam (November 23, 2016). "John Madden talks Thanksgiving, his health, Raiders rise, 49ers fall, NFL TV ratings". The Mercury News. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  33. 1 2 3 "Galloping Gobbler: An evolution of greatness". Laces Out – Fox Blog. Fox Sports. November 21, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  34. 1 2 "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football History, Trivia, and Fun Facts". Sports Geekery. November 24, 2014. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  35. "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football History, Trivia, and Fun Facts - Sports Geekery". 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  36. Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott win Galloping Gobbler after Thanksgiving win vs. Washington
  37. 2016 Steelers-Colts Game Broadcast on NBC, Post-game coverage: November 24, 2016
  38. "Easton-P'burg TV coverage won't crash gate". The Morning Call. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012. As an added bonus, John Madden will return to NBC to open the broadcast and will give his first "Madden Thanksgiving Player of the-Game" award
  39. "Thanksgiving Night Game on NBC New England Patriots vs. New York Jets" (Press release). NBCUniversal. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  40. Turkey Leg Award is the best NFL football on Thanksgiving tradition. SB Nation (November 24, 2016). Retrieved November 25, 2016.


External links

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