NFL Thanksgiving primer: 3 unusually good games, 5 winning teams


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The NFL will stage an unusually attractive set of Thanksgiving games, with five potential playoff teams participating.

The Buffalo Bills play at Detroit in the early-afternoon game. The New York Giants meet the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Tex., in the late-afternoon game. The New England Patriots are in Minneapolis for the night game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Among those teams, only the Lions are not currently positioned to be in the playoffs. And even they are playing very un-Lions-like football lately, entering Thursday’s game with three straight victories.

The NFL has declared this its first “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration.” CBS, Fox and NBC will air tributes throughout the day to the late Hall of Fame coach, legendary broadcaster and video game icon. The NFL Foundation will make a $10,000 donation to the youth or high school football program chosen by the player picked as the “Madden Player of the Game” in each of Thursday’s three matchups. Madden died in December at age 85.

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The Bills play their second straight game at Ford Field. They beat the Cleveland Browns, 31-23, there Sunday in a game that was relocated from Orchard Park, N.Y., to Detroit because of the massive snowstorm in western New York.

That triumph ended a two-game losing skid for the Bills. They opted to use the visiting locker room, sideline and coaching booth Sunday, knowing that’s where they’d be Thursday. They also chose to return to the Buffalo area following Sunday’s victory, rather than remaining in Detroit for the abbreviated workweek.

The Bills have had their issues recently but remain a strong Super Bowl contender in the AFC. They’ll try to move back into sole possession of first place in the AFC East — at least until Sunday — with a win Thursday. Quarterback Josh Allen should be able to get the offense revved up against the Lions, who are ranked last in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense. But they’re sixth in the league in total offense and eighth in scoring offense. The Lions are coming off wins over the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Giants.

The Cowboys and Giants play for second place in the NFC East. They have matching records of 7-3 and are two games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys prevailed, 23-16, in Week 3 in East Rutherford, N.J., in the teams’ first meeting of the season, with Cooper Rush filling in for the then-injured Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Owner Jerry Jones declared the Cowboys capable of being a Super Bowl team after they gave a dominant performance Sunday on the road in a 40-3 triumph over the Vikings. That superb outing followed a stunning loss at Green Bay a week earlier. So consistency is the issue.

The Giants face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1992. They have greatly overachieved in Brian Daboll’s rookie season as an NFL head coach and are seeking only their second postseason appearance since the 2011 season. But they’ve lost two of their past three games, raising the possibility that a regression to the mean is in progress. Quarterback Daniel Jones must deal with the Cowboys’ formidable pass rush. Tailback Saquon Barkley enters the game as the league’s second-leading rusher.

The Vikings will attempt to rebound from the debacle against the Cowboys. That defeat came one week after their dramatic overtime victory over the Bills in Orchard Park in the most compelling game of the NFL season so far.

The Patriots have won three straight and five of their past six games to move back into playoff position. They held the New York Jets without a touchdown Sunday and won, 10-3, on a touchdown on an 84-yard punt return by rookie Marcus Jones with five seconds remaining.


Source: WP