The NFL will once again be a part of Thanksgiving Day traditions in 2021, with three games to be played on Nov. 25. The league's regular season schedule released Wednesday includes the trio of games fans can watch while fans are enjoying turkey and stuffing with friends and family.
Here are previews of the three games:
Outside of a four-year stretch in the early 1940s, the NFL has held Thanksgiving Day games every year since 1920. The Lions are the richest of Thanksgiving Day traditions and have been an annual participant since 1934. Last year's Thanksgiving Day game was a disappointment for Detroit fans, as Deshaun Watson and the Texans cruised to a 41-25 victory. There is a chance that neither of the starting quarterbacks in that game are back with their teams this season: Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams during the offseason, and Watson is facing legal troubles.
The Lions offense has undergone significant changes since the 2020 regular season concluded. Stafford is out and Jared Goff is in. Kenny Golladay and essentially every other wide receiver on last season's roster has moved on. The offensive line will be integrating No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell into the program.
Chicago finished the 2020 regular season with an 8-8 record. Former No. 2 overall selection Mitchell Trubisky left for Buffalo in free agency, which led to the signing of Andy Dalton. Shortly after making a social media post proclaiming Dalton as 'QB1,' the Bears were aggressive in moving up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. It remains to be seen how early Fields takes the field for the NFC North franchise, but that will be one of the biggest storylines leading up to the season. It's possible he'll be the Bears' starter for this matchup.
The Bears last appeared on Thanksgiving Day in 2019 when they defeated Detroit, 24-20. Chicago has played 36 Thanksgiving Day games -- the third-most in league history -- compiling a 19-15-2 record in those opportunities.
The Cowboys became the second regular Thanksgiving Day participant beginning in 1966. All but two Thanksgivings have included games featuring both the Lions and Cowboys since Dallas' inclusion.
The Raiders will be making the franchise's first Thanksgiving appearance since 2013. It will be their first since moving to Las Vegas. The team has compiled a 3-4 record during seven previous Thanksgiving Day appearances. Jon Gruden's team made significant changes to its offensive line and defense this offseason. Running back Kenyan Drake was added to a skill player grouping that features Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. Yannick Ngakoue was added on defense to bolster the unit's pass rush production. Las Vegas finished with an 8-8 record in 2020 and fell short of the playoffs.
Dallas' season was sent into a tailspin when quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury. The defensive output was unacceptable, and that prompted a change at coordinator. Former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is the new leader of the defense, which added Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons No. 12 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. The offense should bounce back swiftly with a healthy offensive line and Prescott. Second-year wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was on pace to a noteworthy season before instability at the quarterback position set in.
The NFL added a primetime game to the Thanksgiving Day schedule in 2006. There had been a primetime game on Thanksgiving Day every year since 2006 until the Steelers-Ravens game was postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Buffalo is just two years removed from a 26-15 Thanksgiving Day victory over the Cowboys. The franchise has made just nine Thanksgiving Day appearances and has an even 4-4-1 record. Quarterback Josh Allen produced an MVP caliber season before his Bills fell short in the AFC Championship against Kansas City. General manager Brandon Beane has constructed one of the most talented rosters in the league and they should be back in Super Bowl contention.
The Saints have played on Thanksgiving Day just three times but the most recent was 2019 when they knocked off the Falcons. In fact, New Orleans is a perfect 3-0 all-time on Thanksgiving. The team will have a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2006 when Drew Brees signed his deal in free agency. Brees announced his retirement this offseason after the Saints tallied 12 victories in the 2020 regular season and advanced to the NFC Divisional Round against the eventual Super Bowl champions. Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are competing to replace Brees as starter.