Cowboys Thanksgiving Game Tradition: History, Record, and Who They Play in 2022

Why do the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving, when did the tradition begin, and what is the team's record when playing on the holiday?

Cowboys Thanksgiving Game Tradition: History, Record, and Who They Play in 2022

Thanksgiving in the United States is chock-full of traditions. Turkey, mashed potatoes, the family gathered ’round the dinner table (hopefully refraining from debating your uncle Al about the political topic du jour), and, of course, football. And what Thanksgiving football slate would be complete without America’s Team?

Let’s take a brief trip through history and discover why the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving every year and who the team is set to play in 2022.

Why Do the Cowboys Play on Thanksgiving?

The Cowboys have been hosting Thanksgiving games for nearly 60 years, as the team first played on the November holiday in 1966. That year, the Cowboys took on (and defeated) the Cleveland Browns. Though non-Sunday games were less common in the league’s early years, a crowd of 80,000+ fans showed up to the matchup, an early indication of the tradition’s success.

Since ’66, the Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving every single year, with the exception of 1975 and 1977. In the 1970s, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to experiment with playing the then-St. Louis Cardinals on Thanksgiving in place of the Cowboys.

At the time, the Cardinals were known to play some of the league’s most exciting games. Head coach Don Coryell’s unit was affectionately known as the “Cardiac Cards” due to the team’s propensity for playing high-octane matchups that went down to the wire.

The experiment didn’t yield much success, as St. Louis was blown out in each of the two contests, prompting Rozelle to give the honor back to Dallas. According to former Cowboys president and general manager Tex Schramm, the Cowboys told the commissioner that they’d re-take the mantel of hosting Thanksgiving games if Dallas could play host to one each year in perpetuity. Per Schramm, Rozelle said, “it’s yours, permanently.”

The Cowboys haven’t missed a Thanksgiving since.

Who Do the Cowboys Play on Thanksgiving in 2022?

In 2022, the Cowboys will take on the New York Giants in an NFC East clash that could very well have deep playoff implications. Both teams enter the Thursday contest with winning records, and both are firmly in the playoff picture.

In the NFL’s toughest division alongside the AFC East, the Cowboys and Giants are both vying for a division title behind the Philadelphia Eagles. But unless Jalen Hurts and Philly’s offense ends the year in a slump, something that’s unlikely if you consider the Eagles’ 8-0 start, both Dallas and New York will be in the thick of the Wild Card race.

Dallas hosts Big Blue for 2022’s second of three Thanksgiving games, with kickoff set to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET. The matchup is sandwiched between a Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills showdown at Ford Field and Minnesota Vikings vs. New England Patriots inter-conference clash.

Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day Record

Of the franchises to have played 10 or more games on Thanksgiving, no team has had more success than the Cowboys, who boast a .594 record. From the inception of the tradition until the end of the 2000s, the Cowboys had a winning record on Thanksgiving in each decade. Their overall record during that stretch was 27-14-1.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have struggled on Thanksgiving. They have a 4-8 mark in their last 12 games, placing their overall record on the holiday at 31-22-1. Last season, the team dropped its yearly Turkey Day contest to the Las Vegas Raiders in a nail-biting overtime affair by a score of 36-33. They’ll hope to turn things around this season against the division-rival Giants.

Justin Hier is a writer and editor for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Justin’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @HierJustin.