NFL Thanksgiving Schedule 2024: Ranking Each of the League’s Holiday Games

    Which NFL teams are scheduled to play on Thanksgiving Day, when did this football tradition begin, and which teams have yet to see themselves scheduled?

    NFL football on Thanksgiving has become synonymous with the holiday, and it always spotlights the six teams taking the field while family and friends gather for the special occasion.

    Here’s a quick preview of the upcoming games set to take place this holiday while taking a closer look at the rich history of NFL football on Thanksgiving Day.

    NFL Thanksgiving Games Schedule

    • Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
      CBS | 12:30 p.m. ET
    • New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
      FOX | 4:30 p.m. ET
    • Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers
      NBC | 8:20 p.m. ET

    Ranking the Thanksgiving Day Matchups

    1) Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions

    History has a tendency to repeat itself, huh?

    This is the game that started the tradition back in 1934 and will top the list as the most intriguing game of the Thanksgiving Day slate in 2024. This game could have plenty of playoff implications in the conference and prove to be a pivotal game for the NFC North crown.

    The Detroit Lions’ high-powered offense will face off against a defensive unit that showed drastic improvement over the final month of the 2023 NFL season.

    Jared Goff efficiently distributes the ball to one of the best collections of skill-position players in the league. The Lions could be even better than they were last season if Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Jameson Williams all continue to evolve their game under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

    On the flip side, the Chicago Bears have sky-high expectations for their offense with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft — QB Caleb Williams — being surrounded by one of the best trio of NFL wide receivers, with DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, and Rome Odunze.

    This could be a high-scoring affair to start the Thanksgiving Day festivities on an exciting note.

    2) Miami Dolphins vs. Green Bay Packers

    The odds of any full-time Miami resident being excited about going to Green Bay, Wisconsin, in late November are probably pretty low. Now consider that Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa has an 0-7 career record when the temperature falls below 45 degrees, and this feels a bit cruel to the Miami organization.

    The Dolphins’ 2023 season came to an end in frigid conditions at Arrowhead Stadium with a 26-7 loss at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. In addition, Miami’s high-powered offense wasn’t quite as potent against winning teams last season.

    The Dolphins averaged just 17.6 points per game in their six games against winning teams last year, which was a significant 10 points per game lower than their season average of 27.9.

    All concerns aside, Miami’s offense is always fun to watch with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and De’Von Achane on the field. They will test Green Bay’s retooled defense that added LB Edgerrin Cooper in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

    On the flip side, Jordan Love is an ascending quarterback talent who has a handful of exciting young receivers to throw the ball and a new feature back in Josh Jacobs to hand the rock to.

    Both of these teams are expected to be in the mix for playoff spots in their respective conferences, which should make this a fun one to watch at Lambeau Field.

    3) New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys

    This game may draw the most eyeballs and win the TV ratings war of the day, with the polarizing Dallas Cowboys taking center stage again in front of a nationally televised audience. However, this could easily be the most lopsided game of the slate.

    The Cowboys outscored the New York Giants 89-17 over their two games last year, which was one of the biggest point differentials between divisional opponents of the entire 2023 season.

    Sure, Giants head coach Brian Daboll could get QB Daniel Jones back on track with the addition of rookie dynamic WR Malik Nabers. Yet, the lack of overall talent on the offensive side of the ball for New York doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that this game will be all that fun to watch.

    Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb will be the main attraction of this contest — apologies to those excited to Ezekiel Elliott in a Cowboys uniform again. However, this has the potential to wind up in a similar outcome to their season-opening matchup from last year, when Dallas dominated the G-Men.

    How Long Has the NFL Played on Thanksgiving?

    The word “tradition” can oftentimes be thrown around a bit loosely, but NFL games being played on Thanksgiving truly has become a tradition that dates all the way back to 1934 when the Detroit Lions hosted the Chicago Bears.

    Then-Lions owner George A. Richards moved games to Thanksgiving in an attempt to garner greater exposure for the team and drive up attendance numbers.

    Ironically enough, the city of Detroit had already seen Thanksgiving games back in 1917 when the Canton Bulldogs defeated the Detroit Herald 7-0. Additionally, the Bears franchise was no stranger to playing football on Thanksgiving up to that point either, with the then-Decatur Staleys taking the field that holiday in 1920.

    Richards managed to broker a deal with NBC to air their game against Chicago on Thanksgiving over the network, which helped produce a soldout crowd of 26,000.

    Why Does the NFL Play on Thanksgiving?

    After the success of the Lions-Bears matchup in 1934 — with the exception of 1941-1944, when the league didn’t hold a Thanksgiving contest due to World War II — the league made it an annual tradition to play games on the holiday.

    After the success of the 1934 matchup, this became an annual occurrence because the league wanted to continue to gain exposure, grow in popularity, and make football synonymous with the holiday.

    Which Teams Always Play on Thanksgiving?

    If we’re trying to assign family dynamic parallels to NFL teams that are always present on Thanksgiving, then the discussion begins with the group’s grandparent, the Lions.

    Detroit laid the foundation of football becoming an annual tradition back in 1934, who dropped to a 37-45 record on Thanksgiving after losing 29-22 to the Green Bay Packers last season.

    Past the Lions playing annually on Thanksgiving, the NFL was in search of a franchise to make the annual commitment to play in the late afternoon behind Detroit for a while in the 1960s. Fortunately, the then-Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm wanted the team to play on Thanksgiving to give the team even more national exposure.

    The gamble paid off in a big way. An enormous crowd of 80,000 fans arrived to watch the Cowboys defeat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 at the Cotton Bowl, which helped them become an annual staple of the Thanksgiving Day schedule, with the exception of 1975-1977.

    Dallas has a 33-22 record on Thanksgiving and has regularly drawn over 40 million viewers during its recent holiday games.

    Which Teams Have Never Played on Thanksgiving?

    If the Lions and Cowboys are the parents who host Thanksgiving on a yearly basis, then the Jacksonville Jaguars are the only family members of the NFL who have never received an invite to the holiday gathering.

    This can somewhat be explained by Jacksonville’s relatively short franchise history. They entered the NFL in 1995 with the Carolina Panthers, who have only played on Thanksgiving once themselves (2015).

    This could change soon with the NFL adding a third game to the Thanksgiving slate since 2006, but the Jags are still waiting for the invite to the holiday party heading into the 2024 season.

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