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NFL on Thanksgiving Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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.

Since its inception in 1920, the National Football League (NFL) has played games on Thanksgiving Day, patterned upon the historic playing of college football games on and around the holiday. The NFL's Thanksgiving Day games have traditionally included one game hosted by the Detroit Lions since 1934, and one game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys since 1966 (with two exceptions in 1975 and 1977). Since 2006, a third prime time game has also been played on Thanksgiving. Unlike the afternoon games, this game has no fixed teams.

In 2022, the NFL branded the Thanksgiving Day games as the John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration, to honor head coach and broadcaster John Madden, who had died in December 2021.[1]

In 2023, the league added a Black Friday game to complement the three Thanksgiving games. Similar to the third Thanksgiving game, this additional game does not have any fixed opponents.

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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 off from work. In that year, the college football teams at Yale and Princeton began an annual tradition of playing each other on Thanksgiving Day.[2] The University of Michigan also made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games, holding 19 such games from 1885 to 1905.[3][4][5][6][7] The Thanksgiving Day games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890s have been cited as "The Beginning of Thanksgiving Day Football."[8] In some areas, most commonly in New England, 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.

The Detroit Lions, seen here during the 2007 Thanksgiving game against their division rival Green Bay Packers, have played on Thanksgiving since 1934.

Several other NFL teams played regularly on Thanksgiving in the 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.[9] 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 (the forerunner to today's American Broadcasting Company); he was able to negotiate an agreement with NBC to carry his Thanksgiving games live across the network.[10]

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-U.S. 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.[11]) 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.

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.

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).[12] This is only partly true: Dallas had in fact decided on their own to host games on Thanksgiving because there was nothing else to do or watch on that day.[citation needed] In 1975 and 1977, at the behest of then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle, 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, a series of ugly Cardinals losses in the three-game stretch, 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; it was then, after Rozelle asked Dallas to resume hosting Thanksgiving games, that the Cowboys requested (and received) an agreement guaranteeing the Cowboys a spot on Thanksgiving Day forever.[13]

Since 1978, Thanksgiving games have been hosted in Detroit and Dallas every year, with Detroit in the early time slot and Dallas in the late afternoon slot. Because of television network commitments in place through the 2013 season, to make sure that both the AFC-carrying network (NBC from 1965 to 1997, and CBS since 1998) and the NFC-carrying network (CBS from 1956 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.

In 1997, the Salvation Army began the tradition of kicking off its Christmas Kettle campaign during halftime of the Dallas game.[14]

Since 2006, a third NFL game on Thanksgiving has been played in primetime. It originally aired on the NFL Network as part of its Thursday Night Football package until 2011, when the game was moved to NBC's Sunday Night Football package under the NFL's current television deals. The night game has never had any conference tie-ins, meaning the league can place any game into the time slot. Since NBC took over the primetime game in 2012, divisional matchups have been normally scheduled, with the exceptions being in 2016, 2021 and 2022. In 2014, a series of changes to the broadcast contracts freed CBS from its obligation to carry an AFC team; by 2018, the last vestiges of conference ties to the Thanksgiving games were eliminated (in practice, games on Fox remain all-NFC contests).

The originally scheduled 2020 primetime game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed to the following Wednesday, December 2, after multiple Baltimore players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 in the days before the game. This thus marked the first time no primetime contest was held since 2005.[15]

On November 11, 2022, the league announced that the Thanksgiving games would be branded as the "John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration", honoring the memory of head coach and broadcaster John Madden. Madden called 20 Thanksgiving games during his broadcasting career.[1]

Throwback uniforms

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

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 new policy requiring players and teams to utilize only one helmet a season to address the league's new concussion protocol; 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. In 2022, after the NFL lifted the one-helmet rule, the Cowboys resumed wearing the throwback navy "Double-Star" jerseys on Thanksgiving.

In 2001–2004, and again in 2008, 2010, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2023 the Detroit Lions have worn throwback uniforms based on their very early years. For 2019 and 2022, Detroit wore its silver Color Rush uniforms.

Memorable games

  • 1920: An urban legend states that the Chicago Tigers and Decatur Staleys challenged each other to a Thanksgiving duel, in Chicago, in the league's inaugural season, with the loser being relegated out of the league at the end of the season, purportedly explaining why the Tigers were the only NFL team to fold after the 1920 season (no other team would fold until 1921). The claims of it being a duel are unsubstantiated; nevertheless, the Tigers, after a 27–0 win over the non-league Thorn Tornadoes the next week, never played football again. The Staleys would move to Chicago during the next season, later renaming themselves the Bears.[17]
  • 1921: In a matchup of two of the league's best teams, the Chicago Staleys lost to the Buffalo All-Americans at home. The Staleys demanded a rematch, with Buffalo agreeing to a December match only on the terms of it being considered an off-the-record exhibition game. That later match, which Chicago won, ended up counting despite the All-Americans' insistence, controversially handing Chicago the championship.
  • 1929: Ernie Nevers scored 40 points—an NFL record that still stands, and the entirety of the Chicago Cardinals' scoring that day (including the extra points)—in a rout over their crosstown rivals the Chicago Bears, who scored only 6 points.
  • 1952: The Dallas Texans were forced to move their lone remaining home game to the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio as the undercard to a high school football contest. Their opponent for that game, the Chicago Bears, underestimated the then-winless Texans and sent their second string team to the game; the Texans scored a 27–23 upset over the Bears for their only win of their existence.
  • 1962: The Detroit Lions handed the 10–0 Green Bay Packers their lone defeat of the season, 26–14. The game was dubbed the "Thanksgiving Day Massacre" due to the dominant performance by the Lions defense, who sacked Bart Starr 11 times.[18][19]
  • 1964–65: The 1964 and 1965 AFL contests featured the Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers, the two teams that would eventually meet in those years' American Football League Championship Games. Buffalo won the 1964 Thanksgiving game 27–24 and the 1965 game ended in a 20–20 tie. Both games were played at Balboa Stadium in San Diego.
  • 1969: In a blinding snowstorm at Tiger Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings blanked the Lions 27–0, featuring an interception by Jim Marshall, who lateraled to Alan Page on the return, resulting in a touchdown.
  • 1974: Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Clint Longley took over for an injured Roger Staubach with the team down 16–3 and rallied them to an improbable 24–23 victory over the Washington Redskins on two deep passes.
  • 1976: The Buffalo Bills offense put forth one of the best and the worst performances in Thanksgiving history. O. J. Simpson set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game, with 273. However, Bills backup quarterback Gary Marangi—playing in relief of Joe Ferguson and himself battling shoulder injuries—completed only 4 of 21 pass attempts, for 29 yards passing, no touchdowns (one was called back on a penalty) and a rating of 19.7. The Detroit Lions defeated the Bills 27–14.[20] In a 2022 interview, Simpson, Marangi and Joe DeLamielleure expressed embarrassment over the game (part of a rebuilding season in which Bills coach Lou Saban quit midseason, Jim Ringo went winless as Saban's replacement and their star receivers had been traded away), noting that Simpson had broken a record he already held at the time (which Simpson compared to "kissing your sister") and that he had more pride in other games the Bills won with Simpson rushing for over 200 yards, despite not setting records.[21]
  • 1980: With the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears tied 17–17 at the end of regulation, the game went to overtime, the first Thanksgiving game to do so (overtime was not added to the NFL regular season until 1974), and the first overtime game at the Silverdome. Bears running back Dave Williams returned the fifth-quarter opening kickoff 95 yards for a game-winning touchdown, ending the shortest overtime period in NFL history at the time (13 seconds).
  • 1986: The Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers had the second-highest scoring game in Thanksgiving history (the highest-scoring game came in 1951). It was the best day of receiver Walter Stanley's career; Stanley netted 207 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, including an 83-yard punt return to win the game for Green Bay, 44–40. Stanley had an otherwise undistinguished career in the NFL.
  • 1989: In what was known as the "Bounty Bowl", the Philadelphia Eagles crushed the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 27–0. Allegations surfaced that the Eagles had placed a bounty on the Cowboys kicker, thus becoming the first of a string of three bitterly contested games between the two teams, the other two being Bounty Bowl II and the Porkchop Bowl a year later.
  • 1993: In one of the more famous Thanksgiving Day games in recent history, the Dallas Cowboys led the Miami Dolphins 14–13 with just seconds remaining in a rare, sleet-filled Texas Stadium. Miami's Pete Stoyanovich attempted a game winning 40-yard field goal that was blocked by the Cowboys' Jimmie Jones. Dick Enberg (who was calling the game for NBC) proclaimed "The Cowboys will win." Indeed, since the kick landed beyond the line of scrimmage, once the ball stopped moving the play would be declared dead and Dallas would gain possession. However, the ball landed and began spinning on its tip, leading Cowboys lineman Leon Lett to try to gain possession. Lett slipped, fell, and knocked the ball forward. By rule, the ball was live and the Dolphins fell on it at the two yard line. With the recovery, Stoyanovich got a second chance to win the game and he hit the much shorter field goal. The Dolphins won 16–14.[22]
  • 1994: Troy Aikman was injured and third-string quarterback (and future Cowboys head coach) Jason Garrett was forced to start for Dallas against the Packers. The Cowboys won a 42–31 shoot-out against Brett Favre.
  • 1998: In another controversial Thanksgiving Day game, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions went to overtime tied 16–16. Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in the air, but head referee Phil Luckett declared Detroit the winner of the toss after Bettis reportedly said "He...tails." Luckett concluded Bettis' call was "heads", but Bettis insisted he had said "tails." The Lions elected to receive, and they went on to kick a field goal on the first possession, winning 19–16. As a result of the fiasco, officials are now required to confirm a captain's call before tossing the coin, and at least two officials must be involved in each toss. A later rule change now prevents teams from automatically winning a game by scoring a field goal on the first possession. The day also saw a memorable performance by the Minnesota Vikings in a 46–36 win over the Dallas Cowboys as Vikings rookie wide receiver Randy Moss caught three touchdowns, all of over 50 yards.
  • 2008: The 10–1 Tennessee Titans routed the 0–11 Lions by a score of 47–10, one of the most lopsided results in history on Thanksgiving. The Lions would go on to finish the season 0–16, clinching the 33rd[23] winless season in NFL history, the ninth since 1930, and the first under the 16-game schedule.
  • 2011: The trio of games[24] was lauded as one of the better Thanksgiving Day slates of games in NFL history as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 27–15, the Dallas Cowboys edged the Miami Dolphins 20–19 and the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 16–6.[25] The night game pitted head coaches and Harbaugh brothers John of the Ravens and Jim of the 49ers against each other – a preview of the next year's Super Bowl XLVII.
  • 2012: The prime time contest became infamous for the "Butt fumble", an incident in which New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran headfirst into the buttocks of Brandon Moore, one of his own offensive linemen. He subsequently fumbled the ball; and it was recovered by the New England Patriots, who immediately returned it for a touchdown, part of 35 second quarter points by the Patriots in a one-sided 49–19 victory. In an earlier game, one of the NFL's most infamous rule changes came when former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz challenged a play in which Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett's knee clearly touched the ground before sprinting for an 81-yard touchdown. Referee Walt Coleman stated that, by rule, scoring plays are automatically reviewed and the play was not challengeable by a coach. Because of the improperly attempted challenge, the review was cancelled and Coleman assessed a 15-yard kickoff penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The NFL then passed a new rule that stated that if a coach attempted to challenge a play that is automatically reviewed, the review would continue. It was called the 'Jim Schwartz rule'. Houston won the game 34–31 in overtime.
  • 2013: During the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens matchup, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin became the subject of controversy when video replay showed him interfering with a kick return as he was standing just off the field along the visiting team's sideline while Baltimore's Jacoby Jones broke free on a kickoff return for a potential game-breaking touchdown.[26] Tomlin, with his back to the approaching play, appeared to glance over his shoulder then place his foot briefly onto the field as he jumped out of the way, causing Jones to veer inside where he was tackled. Several Ravens players claimed Tomlin had intentionally interfered with Jones; if officials had agreed, a touchdown could have been awarded to the Ravens based on the palpably unfair act. However, no penalty was called for interference or for standing in the white border area reserved for the officiating crew. The Ravens beat the Steelers 22–20. Following a league investigation, on December 4, 2013, the NFL announced that they had fined Tomlin $100,000 for his actions on the field.[27]
  • 2022: In a game nicknamed "23 Seconds"[28] or "21 Seconds"[29] in homage to the 13 Seconds playoff game the year before, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Detroit Lions 28–25 on an end-of-game drive that elapsed 21 of the last 23 seconds off the game clock, culminating in the winning field goal by Tyler Bass with two seconds remaining.[30]

Home team controversy

It has remained a tradition for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions to host the afternoon games dating several decades. Other teams eventually expressed interest in hosting Thanksgiving games. Lamar Hunt, the former owner of the Chiefs (who had hosted Thanksgiving games from 1967 to 1969 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, but the team was not made a permanent host, and Hunt's death shortly after the 2006 contest ended the lobbying on behalf of the team.

The host issue came to a head in 2008, focusing particularly on the winless Lions. Going into the game, the Lions had lost their last four Thanksgiving games, and opinions amongst the media had suggested removing the Lions and replacing them with a more attractive matchup.[citation needed] The team also required an extension to prevent a local television blackout.[31] The Lions were routed by the Tennessee Titans 47–10, en route to the team's 0–16 season.[32] 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.[33][34]

Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys, who typically represent a larger television draw,[35] have had far 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.[36] 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 on Wednesday and hold the final walkthrough 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 the Lions and the Cowboys to be removed have diminished.


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

Starting in 1970, the Detroit "early" game and the Dallas "late" game initially rotated annually as intra-conference (NFC at NFC) and inter-conference (AFC at NFC) games. This was to satisfy the then-television contract balance between the network holding the rights to the "AFC package" and televised inter-conference games in which the visiting team is from the AFC (NBC from 1970 to 1997, and CBS since 1998) and the network with the "NFC package" (CBS from 1970 to 1993, and Fox since 1994).

In 2006, the third game in primetime originally aired on the NFL Network. In 2012, NBC took over broadcasting the primetime game, and ever since all three broadcast networks with Sunday NFL rights carry one Thanksgiving game apiece. The first two games continue to be split between CBS and Fox, with CBS getting the 12:30 p.m. (EST) Detroit "early" game, and Fox getting the 4:30 p.m. Dallas "late" game in even-numbered years, and Fox getting the "early" game and CBS the "late" game in odd-numbered years.

In 2014, a system known as "cross-flex" was introduced, in which the two networks bound by conference restrictions, CBS and Fox, could carry games from the other conference as part of their Sunday afternoon package,[37][38] including the potential for CBS to broadcast an NFC vs. NFC game on Thanksgiving.[39] From that year through 2016, CBS carried all-NFC contests every year on Thanksgiving, and in 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2023, no AFC teams played in any of the Thanksgiving games. To date, the NFL has never assigned an AFC road game to Fox on Thanksgiving.

Westwood One most recently held national radio broadcast rights to all three games, with Compass Media Networks sharing rights to the Cowboys contest. (Under league rules, only radio stations that carry at least 12 Cowboys games in a season are allowed to carry the Compass broadcast.) The participating teams also air the games on their local flagship stations and regional radio networks.

The Cowboys' Thanksgiving game has regularly been the most watched NFL regular season telecast each year, with the Lions' Thanksgiving game usually in the top five.[citation needed]

Game results

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


  • All three of the generally recognized iterations of the American Football League that played during this era (AFL I in 1926, AFL II in 1936 and AFL III in 1940) played Thanksgiving games, which are also listed as indicated.
  • Non-NFL team games between league teams and non league teams counted in the 1920 standings. The All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks later joined the league as the Tonawanda Kardex, albeit only for one game.
  • Thanksgiving fell on the final Thursday in November until 1938 and was held on two conflicting days from 1939 to 1941.


  • No Thanksgiving games were held from 1941 to 1944 due to World War II.
  • Thanksgiving games were played on the fourth Thursday in November from 1945 onward.
  • The All-America Football Conference (AAFC) also played Thanksgiving games from 1946 to 1949.
Season League Visiting team Score Home team Score Network
November 22, 1945 NFL Cleveland Rams 28 Detroit Lions 21
November 28, 1946 NFL Boston Yanks 34 Detroit Lions 10
AAFC New York Yankees 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
November 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
November 25, 1948 NFL Chicago Cardinals 28 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 31 Los Angeles Dons 14
AAFC Buffalo Bills 39 Chicago Rockets 35
November 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
November 23, 1950 NFL New York Yanks 14 Detroit Lions 49
Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Chicago Cardinals 17
November 22, 1951 NFL Green Bay Packers 35 Detroit Lions 52
November 27, 1952 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 48
Chicago Bears 23 Dallas Texans (at Akron, Ohio) 27
November 26, 1953 NFL Green Bay Packers 15 Detroit Lions 34 DuMont
November 25, 1954 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 28 DuMont
November 24, 1955 NFL Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 24 DuMont
November 22, 1956 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 20 CBS
November 28, 1957 NFL Green Bay Packers 6 Detroit Lions 18 CBS
November 27, 1958 NFL Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 24 CBS
November 26, 1959 NFL Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 17 CBS


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


  • From 1970 to 2005, two afternoon games were played every Thanksgiving. They were held at Detroit and Dallas, with the Lions hosting the "early" game (12:30 p.m. EST) and the Cowboys holding the "late" game (initially at 4:00 p.m. EST, then moved to 4:15 p.m. EST in 1998). Detroit always hosted the "early" game because a 12:30 p.m. EST kick-off at Dallas would be 11:30 a.m. local time (CST), and the NFL avoids starting games before noon locally. Detroit's 12:30 p.m. "early" game kickoff is also thirty minutes earlier than the typical afternoon start time (1:00 p.m.). This helps reduce the chance of the two games overlapping.
  • The two games initially rotated annually as intra-conference (NFC at NFC) and inter-conference (AFC at NFC) games. This was to satisfy the then-television contract balance between the network holding the rights to the "AFC package" and televised inter-conference games in which the visiting team is from the AFC (NBC from 1970 to 1997, and CBS since 1998) and the network with the "NFC package" (CBS from 1970 to 1993, and Fox since 1994).
  • CBS and NBC initially started their Thanksgiving pregame coverage thirty minutes before kickoff of their respective games, similar to their thirty-minute pregame coverage on Sunday afternoons. After Fox acquired NFL rights in 1994, and debuted the hour-long Fox NFL Sunday pregame show, they also started their hour-long pregame coverage at 11:30 a.m. when televising the Detroit "early" game, but kept a thirty-minute pregame show when televising the Dallas "late" game. When CBS reacquired NFL rights in 1998, they still started their The NFL Today pregame coverage at 12:00 p.m. when televising the Detroit "early" game due to the fact that their morning parade coverage ran until noon.
  • Dallas was replaced by the St. Louis Cardinals as a host team in 1975 and 1977; Dallas and St. Louis faced each other at Texas Stadium in 1976. Because of the Missouri Turkey Day Game, the long-established KirkwoodWebster Groves high school football game that takes place on Thanksgiving in St. Louis, weak fan support in St. Louis, and general national preference of the Cowboys over the historically weaker Cardinals, the Cardinals' hosting of the Thanksgiving game was not popular. Dallas returned to hosting the game in 1978 and has hosted since. Likewise, the Rams never played on Thanksgiving while in St. Louis, in part because of the Turkey Day Game and also because the Missouri State High School Activities Association held its state football championship games on Thanksgiving weekend at The Dome at America's Center from 1996 to 2015.
  • After the NFL division realignment in 2002, no team from the AFC North could play a Thanksgiving Day game against the traditional hosts. This was because under the current rotation, the Cowboys and the Lions each play AFC North teams in years that Fox is scheduled to broadcast its Thanksgiving Day game, requiring an NFC opponent. The last game to feature a team currently in the AFC North was the Lions matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998. AFC North teams could play in the prime time game, as the Bengals did in 2010.
Season Visiting team Score Home team Score OT Significance Network
November 26, 1970 Oakland Raiders 14 Detroit Lions 28 NBC
Green Bay Packers 3 Dallas Cowboys 16 Cowboys–Packers rivalry CBS
November 25, 1971 Kansas City Chiefs 21 Detroit Lions 32 NBC
Los Angeles Rams 21 Dallas Cowboys 28 Cowboys–Rams rivalry CBS
November 23, 1972 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 37 NBC
San Francisco 49ers 31 Dallas Cowboys 10 49ers–Cowboys rivalry CBS
November 22, 1973 Washington Redskins 20 Detroit Lions 0 CBS
Miami Dolphins 14 Dallas Cowboys 7 NBC
November 28, 1974 Denver Broncos 31 Detroit Lions 27 NBC
Washington Redskins 23 Dallas Cowboys 24 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry CBS
November 27, 1975 Los Angeles Rams 20 Detroit Lions 0 CBS
Buffalo Bills 32 St. Louis Cardinals 14 NBC
November 25, 1976 Buffalo Bills 14 Detroit Lions 27 NBC
St. Louis Cardinals 14 Dallas Cowboys 19 CBS
November 24, 1977 Chicago Bears 31 Detroit Lions 14 Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Miami Dolphins 55 St. Louis Cardinals 14 NBC
November 23, 1978 Denver Broncos 14 Detroit Lions 17 NBC
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 37 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry CBS
November 22, 1979 Chicago Bears 0 Detroit Lions 20 Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Houston Oilers 30 Dallas Cowboys 24 Governor's Cup NBC
November 27, 1980 Chicago Bears 23 Detroit Lions 17 (OT) Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Seattle Seahawks 7 Dallas Cowboys 51 NBC
November 26, 1981 Kansas City Chiefs 10 Detroit Lions 27 NBC
Chicago Bears 9 Dallas Cowboys 10 CBS
November 25, 1982 New York Giants 13 Detroit Lions 6 CBS
Cleveland Browns 14 Dallas Cowboys 31 NBC
November 24, 1983 Pittsburgh Steelers 3 Detroit Lions 45 NBC
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35 CBS
November 22, 1984 Green Bay Packers 28 Detroit Lions 31 Lions–Packers rivalry CBS
New England Patriots 17 Dallas Cowboys 20 NBC
November 28, 1985 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 31 NBC
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35 CBS
November 27, 1986 Green Bay Packers 44 Detroit Lions 40 Lions–Packers rivalry CBS
Seattle Seahawks 31 Dallas Cowboys 14 NBC
November 26, 1987 Kansas City Chiefs 27 Detroit Lions 20 NBC
Minnesota Vikings 44 Dallas Cowboys 38 (OT) Cowboys–Vikings rivalry CBS
November 24, 1988 Minnesota Vikings 23 Detroit Lions 0 Lions–Vikings rivalry CBS
Houston Oilers 25 Dallas Cowboys 17 Governor's Cup NBC
November 23, 1989 Cleveland Browns 10 Detroit Lions 13 NBC
Philadelphia Eagles 27 Dallas Cowboys 0 Cowboys–Eagles rivalry (Bounty Bowl I) CBS
November 22, 1990 Denver Broncos 27 Detroit Lions 40 NBC
Washington Redskins 17 Dallas Cowboys 27 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry CBS
November 28, 1991 Chicago Bears 6 Detroit Lions 16 Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 Dallas Cowboys 20 Cowboys–Steelers rivalry NBC
November 26, 1992 Houston Oilers 24 Detroit Lions 21 NBC
New York Giants 3 Dallas Cowboys 30 Cowboys–Giants rivalry CBS
November 25, 1993 Chicago Bears 10 Detroit Lions 6 Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Miami Dolphins 16 Dallas Cowboys 14 NBC
November 24, 1994 Buffalo Bills 21 Detroit Lions 35 NBC
Green Bay Packers 31 Dallas Cowboys 42 Cowboys–Packers rivalry Fox
November 23, 1995 Minnesota Vikings 38 Detroit Lions 44 Lions–Vikings rivalry Fox
Kansas City Chiefs 12 Dallas Cowboys 24 NBC
November 28, 1996 Kansas City Chiefs 28 Detroit Lions 24 NBC
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 21 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry Fox
November 27, 1997 Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 55 Bears–Lions rivalry Fox
Tennessee Oilers 27 Dallas Cowboys 14 NBC
November 26, 1998 Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Detroit Lions 19 (OT) CBS
Minnesota Vikings 46 Dallas Cowboys 36 Cowboys–Vikings rivalry Fox
November 25, 1999 Chicago Bears 17 Detroit Lions 21 Bears–Lions rivalry Fox
Miami Dolphins 0 Dallas Cowboys 20 CBS
November 23, 2000 New England Patriots 9 Detroit Lions 34 CBS
Minnesota Vikings 27 Dallas Cowboys 15 Cowboys–Vikings rivalry Fox
November 22, 2001 Green Bay Packers 29 Detroit Lions 27 Lions–Packers rivalry Fox
Denver Broncos 26 Dallas Cowboys 24 CBS
November 28, 2002 New England Patriots 20 Detroit Lions 12 CBS
Washington Redskins 20 Dallas Cowboys 27 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry Fox
November 27, 2003 Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 22 Lions–Packers rivalry Fox
Miami Dolphins 40 Dallas Cowboys 21 CBS
November 25, 2004 Indianapolis Colts 41 Detroit Lions 9 CBS
Chicago Bears 7 Dallas Cowboys 21 Fox
November 24, 2005 Atlanta Falcons 27 Detroit Lions 7 Fox
Denver Broncos 24 Dallas Cowboys 21 (OT) CBS


  • Since 2006, three contests have been scheduled for Thanksgiving. In addition to the traditional Detroit and Dallas home afternoon games, a third game is now played in primetime and televised by NFL Network (2006–2011) or NBC (since 2012). The third game's start times have generally been the same as other primetime games, with pregame coverage beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST and kickoff at 8:20 p.m. EST. The primetime game is hosted by a different team (other than the Lions and Cowboys) each season.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Denver Broncos in the first "Thanksgiving Tripleheader" primetime game in 2006. This game also marked the first time that more than two games were played on Thanksgiving (as well as the first all-AFC holiday matchup) since the AFL–NFL merger in 1970.
  • In 2012, the Dallas game's kickoff time was moved from 4:15 p.m. EST to 4:30 p.m. EST, with the networks also moving their pregame coverage for that game to 4:00 p.m. EST.
  • The 2014 season was the first in which CBS no longer had to air an inter-conference (AFC at NFC) Thanksgiving game. Instead, all three games featured NFC vs. NFC opponents for the first time. There were also all-NFC matchups in 2015, 2018 and 2023.[39][40] 2017 and 2019 each featured five NFC teams and only one participating AFC team.
  • From 2012 to 2015, and 2017 to 2019, the primetime game was held between division rivals. The originally scheduled 2020 primetime divisional rivalry game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed to Sunday, November 29 and eventually again to Wednesday, December 2 after multiple Baltimore players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 in the days before the game. This marked the first time no Thanksgiving prime time contest was held since 2005.[15]
  • Since 2023, the three Thanksgiving day games were complimented by the first ever Black Friday game on Amazon Prime Video.[41]
Season Visiting team Score Home team Score OT Significance Network
November 23, 2006 Miami Dolphins 27 Detroit Lions 10 CBS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 Dallas Cowboys 38 Buccaneers' first Thanksgiving game Fox
Denver Broncos 10 Kansas City Chiefs 19 Broncos–Chiefs rivalry; debut of Thursday Night Football NFL Network
November 22, 2007 Green Bay Packers 37 Detroit Lions 26 Lions–Packers rivalry Fox
New York Jets 3 Dallas Cowboys 34 CBS
Indianapolis Colts 31 Atlanta Falcons 13 Colts enter as the defending Super Bowl champions NFL Network
November 27, 2008 Tennessee Titans 47 Detroit Lions 10 CBS
Seattle Seahawks 9 Dallas Cowboys 34 Fox
Arizona Cardinals 20 Philadelphia Eagles 48 A preview of that season's NFC Championship Game. NFL Network
November 26, 2009 Green Bay Packers 34 Detroit Lions 12 Lions–Packers rivalry Fox
Oakland Raiders 7 Dallas Cowboys 24 50th anniversary for both teams (AFL Legacy Game) CBS
New York Giants 6 Denver Broncos 26 Super Bowl XXI rematch NFL Network
November 25, 2010 New England Patriots 45 Detroit Lions 24 CBS
New Orleans Saints 30 Dallas Cowboys 27 Saints' first Thanksgiving game, enter as the defending Super Bowl champions; 2009 Week 15 rematch Fox
Cincinnati Bengals 10 New York Jets 26 2009 AFC Wild Card playoff rematch; Bengals' first Thanksgiving game NFL Network
November 24, 2011 Green Bay Packers 27 Detroit Lions 15 Lions–Packers rivalry; Packers enter as the defending Super Bowl champions Fox
Miami Dolphins 19 Dallas Cowboys 20 Super Bowl VI rematch CBS
San Francisco 49ers 6 Baltimore Ravens 16 Ravens' first Thanksgiving game; first Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh matchup NFL Network
November 22, 2012 Houston Texans 34 Detroit Lions 31 (OT) Texans' first Thanksgiving game CBS
Washington Redskins 38 Dallas Cowboys 31 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry Fox
New England Patriots 49 New York Jets 19 Jets–Patriots rivalry (Butt Fumble) NBC
November 28, 2013 Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 40 Lions–Packers rivalry Fox
Oakland Raiders 24 Dallas Cowboys 31 CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 22 Ravens–Steelers rivalry; Ravens enter as the defending Super Bowl champions NBC
November 27, 2014 Chicago Bears 17 Detroit Lions 34 Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Philadelphia Eagles 33 Dallas Cowboys 10 Cowboys–Eagles rivalry Fox
Seattle Seahawks 19 San Francisco 49ers 3 49ers–Seahawks rivalry and the 2013 NFC Championship game rematch; Seahawks enter as the defending Super Bowl champions NBC
November 26, 2015 Philadelphia Eagles 14 Detroit Lions 45 Fox
Carolina Panthers 33 Dallas Cowboys 14 Panthers' first Thanksgiving game CBS
Chicago Bears 17 Green Bay Packers 13 Bears–Packers rivalry NBC
November 24, 2016 Minnesota Vikings 13 Detroit Lions 16 Lions–Vikings rivalry CBS
Washington Redskins 26 Dallas Cowboys 31 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry Fox
Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Indianapolis Colts 7 2015 Week 13 rematch NBC
November 23, 2017 Minnesota Vikings 30 Detroit Lions 23 Lions–Vikings rivalry Fox
Los Angeles Chargers 28 Dallas Cowboys 6 Chargers' first Thanksgiving game since before the AFL–NFL merger CBS
New York Giants 10 Washington Redskins 20 Giants–Redskins rivalry NBC
November 22, 2018 Chicago Bears 23 Detroit Lions 16 Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
Washington Redskins 23 Dallas Cowboys 31 Cowboys–Redskins rivalry Fox
Atlanta Falcons 17 New Orleans Saints 31 Falcons–Saints rivalry NBC
November 28, 2019 Chicago Bears 24 Detroit Lions 20 Bears–Lions rivalry;
Bears celebrating their 100th anniversary
Buffalo Bills 26 Dallas Cowboys 15 Commemoration of Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII (NFL 100) CBS
New Orleans Saints 26 Atlanta Falcons 18 Falcons–Saints rivalry NBC
November 26, 2020 Houston Texans 41 Detroit Lions 25 CBS
Washington Football Team 41 Dallas Cowboys 16 Dallas–Washington rivalry Fox
November 25, 2021 Chicago Bears 16 Detroit Lions 14 Bears–Lions rivalry Fox
Las Vegas Raiders 36 Dallas Cowboys 33 (OT) Sixth overtime game; first since 2012 CBS
Buffalo Bills 31 New Orleans Saints 6 NBC
November 24, 2022 Buffalo Bills 28 Detroit Lions 25 CBS
New York Giants 20 Dallas Cowboys 28 Cowboys–Giants rivalry Fox
New England Patriots 26 Minnesota Vikings 33 NBC
November 23, 2023 Green Bay Packers 29 Detroit Lions 22 Lions–Packers rivalry Fox
Washington Commanders 10 Dallas Cowboys 45 Commanders–Cowboys rivalry CBS
San Francisco 49ers 31 Seattle Seahawks 13 49ers–Seahawks rivalry NBC
November 24, 2023
(Black Friday)
Miami Dolphins 34 New York Jets 13 Dolphins–Jets rivalry
First ever Black Friday game.
Amazon Prime
November 28, 2024 Chicago Bears Detroit Lions Bears–Lions rivalry CBS
New York Giants Dallas Cowboys Cowboys–Giants rivalry Fox
Miami Dolphins Green Bay Packers The first designated "extra" inter-conference game on Thanksgiving. NBC
November 29, 2024
(Black Friday)
Las Vegas Raiders Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs–Raiders rivalry Amazon Prime

Game standings

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

Team Games played First game Most recent Wins Losses Ties Win % Other names appeared under
Arizona Cardinals 21 1922 2008 6 15 2 .304 Chicago Cardinals (1920–1959)
St. Louis Cardinals (1960–1987)
Phoenix Cardinals (1988–1993)
Atlanta Falcons 4 2005 2019 1 3 0 .250
Baltimore Ravens 2 2011 2013 2 0 0 1.000
Buffalo Bills 11 1961 2022 6 4 1 .591 Does not include 1–0 record of unrelated AAFC team of same name.
Carolina Panthers 1 2015 2015 1 0 0 1.000
Chicago Bears 37 1920 2021 20 15 2 .568 Decatur Staleys (1920)
Chicago Staleys (1921)
Cincinnati Bengals 1 2010 2010 0 1 0 .000
Cleveland Browns 3 1966 1989 0 3 0 .000 Does not include 3–0 record when team was a member of the AAFC.
Dallas Cowboys 56 1966 2023 33 22 1 .598
Denver Broncos 11 1962 2009 4 7 0 .364
Detroit Lions 84 1934 2023 37 45 2 .452 Portsmouth Spartans (1930–1933)
Green Bay Packers 37 1923 2023 15 20 2 .432
Houston Texans 2 2012 2020 2 0 0 1.000
Indianapolis Colts 4 1965 2016 2 1 1 .625 Baltimore Colts (1953–1983)
Jacksonville Jaguars 0 Never Never 0 0 0 Only active franchise to have never played on Thanksgiving.
Kansas City Chiefs 10 1967 2006 5 5 0 .500 Dallas Texans (1960–1962), does not include 1–0 record of unrelated NFL Dallas Texans.
Las Vegas Raiders 8 1963 2021 4 4 0 .500 Oakland Raiders (1960–1981; 1995–2019)
Los Angeles Raiders (1982–1994)
Los Angeles Chargers 5 1964 2017 3 1 1 .700 San Diego Chargers (1961–2016)
Los Angeles Rams 5 1936 1975 4 1 0 .800 Cleveland Rams (1936–1945)
St. Louis Rams (1995–2015)
Miami Dolphins 7 1973 2011 5 2 0 .714
Minnesota Vikings 9 1969 2022 7 2 0 .778
New England Patriots 6 1984 2022 3 3 0 .500 Boston Patriots (1960–1970)
New Orleans Saints 4 2010 2021 3 1 0 .750
New York Giants 16 1926 2022 7 6 3 .531
New York Jets 8 1960 2012 4 4 0 .500 New York Titans (1960–1962)
Philadelphia Eagles 7 1939 2015 6 1 0 .857
Pittsburgh Steelers 8 1939 2016 2 6 0 .250
San Francisco 49ers 6 1966 2023 3 2 1 .583 Does not include 1–0 record when team was a member of the AAFC.
Seattle Seahawks 5 1980 2023 2 3 0 .400
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 2006 2006 0 1 0 .000
Tennessee Titans 7 1968 2008 5 2 0 .714 Houston Oilers (1960–1996)
Tennessee Oilers (1997–1998)
Washington Commanders 13 1968 2023 4 9 0 .308 Boston Braves (1932)
Boston Redskins (1933–1936)
Washington Redskins (1937–2019)
Washington Football Team (2020–2021)

Notable appearance droughts

The last currently active franchise to have never played on Thanksgiving through 2023 is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who joined the league in 1995.

An idiosyncrasy in the NFL's current scheduling formula, which has been in effect in its basic form since 2002, effectively prevented teams from the AFC North from playing at the Lions or Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The formula had the AFC North playing at Dallas or at Detroit in years when other divisions were slated to fill the AFC slot on Thanksgiving. These teams, under the television contracts in place at the time, could only play in the third (night) game. With changes in the scheduling practices in 2014 ("cross-flexing"), the division is no longer barred from participating in one of the afternoon games. Even with cross-flexing available, an AFC North team has yet to play at Detroit or Dallas on Thanksgiving, and all of the AFC North's appearances have thus far been in the night game.

The Los Angeles Rams have the longest active appearance drought of any team, with their last appearance coming in 1975.

Since 2010, several appearance droughts have ended. 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 Chargers, who last played on the holiday in 1969 (while the team was still an AFL franchise in San Diego), appeared for the first time as an NFL member in 2017.[42]

Thanksgiving Day records of defunct teams

League teams only, since 1920.
Team Wins Losses Ties Win Pct. Other names appeared under
Frankford Yellow Jackets 2 0   1.000 Defunct (1931)
New York Yankees* 2 0   1.000 Defunct (1949)
Pottsville Maroons 2 0   1.000 Defunct (1928)
Boston Yanks 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1948)
Buffalo Bills* 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1949), unrelated to current NFL team with this name
Dallas Texans 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1952), does not count AFL's Dallas Texans, which are now the Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Buccaneers 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1926)
Oorang Indians 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1923)
Rock Island Independents 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1925)
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks 1 0   1.000 Defunct (1921)
Akron Pros 3 1 1 .700 Defunct (1926)
Buffalo Bisons 1 1 1 .500 Buffalo All-Americans (1920–1923), Defunct (1929)
Canton Bulldogs 1 1 1 .500 Defunct (1926)
Cleveland Bulldogs 1 1   .500 Defunct (1927)
Dayton Triangles 1 1   .500 Defunct (1929)
Kansas City Cowboys 1 1   .500 Kansas City Blues (1924), Defunct (1926)
Milwaukee Badgers 1 1   .500 Defunct (1926)
Brooklyn Lions 0 1   .000 Defunct (1926)
Chicago Tigers 0 1   .000 Defunct (1920)
Detroit Heralds 0 1   .000 Defunct (1920)
New York Yanks 0 1   .000 Defunct (1950)
Providence Steam Roller 0 1   .000 Defunct (1931)
Racine Legion 1 1   .500 Defunct (1926)
Toledo Maroons 0 1   .000 Defunct (1923)
Brooklyn Dodgers* 0 2   .000 Defunct (1949)
Chicago Hornets* 0 2   .000 Chicago Rockets (1946–1948), Defunct (1949)
Columbus Panhandles 0 2   .000 Defunct (1926)
Detroit Panthers 0 2   .000 Defunct (1926)
Hammond Pros 0 2   .000 Defunct (1926)
Rochester Jeffersons 0 2   .000 Defunct (1925)
Los Angeles Dons* 0 3   .000 Merged with Los Angeles Rams after 1949 season

*All-America Football Conference team.

Most frequent match-ups among active teams

Count Matchup Record Years played
22 Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Lions, 12–9–1 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1984, 1986, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2023
20 Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions Bears, 12–8 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1947, 1949, 1964, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2021
12 Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears Bears, 7–3–2 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933
11 Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Commanders Cowboys, 9–2 1968, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1996, 2002, 2012, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2023
5 Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings Vikings, 3–2 1969, 1988, 1995, 2016, 2017
5 Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins Dolphins, 3–2 1973, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2011
4 Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys Cowboys, 4–0 1967, 1976, 1983, 1985
4 Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs Tie, 2–2 1971, 1981, 1987, 1996

Game MVPs

Since 1989, informal and sometimes lighthearted Man of the Match/MVP 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, 2002), followed by Tony Romo with four (2006, 2007, 2009, 2013). Among players not from Detroit or Dallas, Josh Allen, Drew Brees and Brett Favre each hold three. Voting on the respective awards is typically done informally by the announcing crew, and criteria are loose. Noteworthy statistical accomplishments weigh heavily, and "group" awards are not uncommon. 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",[43] 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 an amusing gimmick tied to the holiday and relating to Madden's famous multi-legged turkeys and turduckens.[44] Since then, however, the award has gained 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 (1994) it was given to players from both teams.

Later Fox awards

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 silver figurine of a cartoonish turkey wearing a football helmet[45] striking a Heisman-like pose.[46] Much like Cleatus and Digger, the original Galloping Gobbler trophy reflected Fox's irreverent mascots, and went through several iterations.[45] Unimpressed by its tackiness, Emmitt Smith famously threw the 2002 award into a trash can.[45]

In 2007, the kitschy statuette was replaced with a bronze-colored statue of a nondescript turkey holding a football.[46] In 2011, the trophies were discarded altogether and replaced by a commemorative plaque. Unlike the aforementioned "Turkey Leg Award", the Galloping Gobbler was normally awarded to only one player annually,[47] however in 2016, co-winners were honored.[48]

For 2017, the Galloping Gobbler was permanently retired, and replaced with the "Game Ball", a stylish, ornate football-shaped trophy, reminiscent of the tradition where game-used balls are typically awarded to players of the game. For 2019–2020 (coinciding with Fox's new partnership with WWE SmackDown), the "Game Ball" was replaced by a WWE Championship Belt. The "Game Ball" returned in 2021.

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 received a skillet of blackberry cobbler made by Simms' mother.

Through 2006, the trophy was only awarded to one player annually. Occasionally, it was issued as a "group 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.

Simms was removed from the broadcast booth for the 2017 season in favor of Tony Romo, who did not carry on the tradition. Instead, the "Chevrolet Player of the Game" award was extended to CBS' Thanksgiving Day game. As in CBS' regular Sunday afternoon NFL coverage as well as Fox's regular NFL coverage, Chevrolet will donate money in the player's name to the United Way if the game is played in Detroit, or the Salvation Army if the Thanksgiving Day game is played in Dallas.

For the 2019 season, CBS revived the Turkey Leg Award, awarding it to Josh Allen.[49]

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. 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).[50][51] The award then became the Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving Night Player of the Game in 2016. It is typically awarded to multiple players on the winning team.[52] In the first few years, the award specifically went to players on both offense and defense, but in recent years, there have been no quotas for each phase. The winning players are presented with ceremonial game balls and, as a gesture to Madden, a cooked turkey leg.[53] The 2021 award also featured a turkey leg statuette in addition to legs prepared and seasoned by local chef (and former NBC star) Emeril Lagasse.

Madden Player of the Game (2022–present)

As part of the new "John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration" branding in 2022, the league announced that each network will now select a "Madden Player of the Game", with the NFL Foundation donating $10,000 in each winner's name to a youth or high school football program of their choice.[1] Turkey legs continue to be awarded to the players of the game in homage to Madden,[54] except for 2023 when Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love was informed that there was none available.[55]

Complete list

See also



  1. ^ a b c "NFL honors John Madden with Thanksgiving Day commemoration". National Football League. November 11, 2022. Archived from the original on November 11, 2022. Retrieved November 11, 2022.
  2. ^ "Navy vs Michigan st (NJ)". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  3. ^ "1885 Football Team". University of colonge, Bentley Historical Library. Archived from the original on 2009-03-04. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  4. ^ "1887 Football Team". University of colonge , Bentley Historical Library. Archived from the original on 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  5. ^ "1888 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. Archived from the original on 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
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