NFL on Thanksgiving Day

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This article is about the series of National Football League games. For the Canadian Football League games, see Thanksgiving Day Classic. For the black college football rivalry, see Turkey Day Classic.
The NFL Thanksgiving logo used for 2010; the year is updated annually, with the new NFL shield being used for the first time in 2008.

The National Football League on Thanksgiving Day is a traditional series of games played during the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. It has been a regular occurrence since the league's inception in 1920. Currently, three NFL games are played every Thanksgiving. The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, with one team from each conference playing either team on a rotating basis; a third game, with no fixed opponents, has been played annually since 2006.


The concept of American football games being played on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, shortly after the game had been invented. In that year, the college football teams at Yale and Princeton began an annual tradition of playing each other on Thanksgiving Day.[1] The University of Michigan also made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games, holding 19 such games from 1885 to 1905.[2][3][4][5][6] The Thanksgiving Day games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890s have been cited as "The Beginning of Thanksgiving Day Football."[7] In some areas, 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 first owner of the Lions, G.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.[8]

Several other NFL teams played regularly on Thanksgiving in 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). 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-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.[9]) 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 one game would be played each year (except 1950 and 1952), and only the Lions would have a permanent Thanksgiving game. In 1951, the Packers began a thirteen-season run as the perpetual opponent to the Lions each year through 1963.

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). Incidentally, Texas was the last state to recognize the "fourth Thursday" rule for Thanksgiving that had been imposed as a result of the Franksgiving compromise two decades prior, and had just adopted the rule (as opposed to the previous last-Thursday rule) in 1961, five years before Dallas started hosting Thanksgiving games. (The fourth and final Thursdays were the same between 1957 and 1960; the last time Texas had celebrated Thanksgiving on the week after the rest of the country was 1956.) The two "traditional" Thanksgiving Day pro football games have then been in Detroit and Dallas. Because of TV network commitments, to make sure that both the AFC-carrying network and the NFC-carrying network 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.

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. (The 1936–41 incarnations of the American Football League ended their seasons the weekend before Thanksgiving.)

Since 2006, a third NFL game on Thanksgiving has been played at night. It originally aired on the NFL Network as part of its Thursday Night Football package until 2011; NBC began carrying the night game in 2012. The Thanksgiving night game has no fixed opponents or conferences, enabling the league to freely choose whatever marquee match-up to feature on that night. The 2012 changes will allow both Dallas and Detroit in the future to offer NFC games (one would be played at night), and CBS can offer a game with two AFC teams. The changes also allow, as happened in 2014 when none of the six teams selected to play on Thanksgiving were from the AFC, the networks to choose opponents from either conference, regardless of whether they own the rights to that conference.

Throwback uniforms[edit]

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

In 2001–2004, and again in 2008 and 2010, the Detroit Lions have worn throwback uniforms based on their very early years.

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 1960. 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 rule banning alternate helmets during the season; rather than sport an incomplete throwback look, the Cowboys instead wore their standard blue jerseys at home for the first time since 1963.[10]

Memorable games[edit]

Home team controversy[edit]

It has remained a tradition for Dallas and Detroit to host the afternoon games dating back several decades. However, in recent years, other teams have expressed interest in hosting Thanksgiving games. Lamar Hunt, the former owner of the Chiefs, lobbied heavily in favor of his team hosting a game on Thanksgiving. When the NFL adopted a third prime time game, the Chiefs were selected as the first team to host such a contest.

The host issue came to a head in 2008, focusing particularly on the winless Lions. Going into the game, Detroit had lost their last four Thanksgiving games, and opinions amongst the media had suggested removing Detroit and replacing them with a more attractive matchup.[14][15] The team also required an extension to prevent a local television blackout.[16] The Lions were routed by Tennessee 47–10, en route to the team's 0–16 season.[17] NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Lions would stay on Thanksgiving for 2009 season, but kept the issue open to revisit in the future.[18][19]

Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys, which typically has a larger television draw,[20] have had much 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.[21]

With the introduction of the prime time game, which effectively allows all teams in the league an opportunity to play on Thanksgiving, the calls for Detroit and Dallas to be removed have curtailed.

Game results[edit]

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


SeasonVisiting TeamScoreHome TeamScore
Nov. 24, 1892Lehigh Mountain Hawks21Pittsburgh Athletic Club0
 Allegheny Athletic Association4Cleveland Athletic Club0
Nov. 30, 1893Penn State Nittany Lions12Pittsburgh Athletic Club0
Nov. 29, 1894Penn State Nittany Lions-Pittsburgh Athletic Club-
 Altoona Athletic Club4Greensburg Athletic Association6
Nov. 28, 1895Beaver Falls Y.M.C.A-Greensburg Athletic Association-
 Duquesne Country and Athletic Club10Pittsburgh Athletic Club6
 Crescent Athletic Club0Orange Tornadoes10
Nov. 26, 1896West Virginia Mountaineers0Pittsburgh Athletic Club0
 Greensburg Athletic Association10Latrobe Athletic Association0
 Washington & Jefferson Presidents4Duquesne Country and Athletic Club0
 Paterson Independents-Orange Tornadoes-
Nov. 25, 1897Greensburg Athletic Association16Pittsburgh Athletic Club0
 West Virginia Mountaineers6Latrobe Athletic Association16
 Washington & Jefferson Presidents14Duquesne Country and Athletic Club0
 Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA0Columbia Football Club6
 Elizabeth Athletic Club4Orange Tornadoes6
Nov. 24, 1898Grove City, Pennsylvania0Greensburg Athletic Association35
 Latrobe Athletic Association0Pittsburgh Athletic Club6
 Washington & Jefferson Presidents0Duquesne Country and Athletic Club11
 Ormiston Athletic Association?Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA Reserves?
 Orange Tornadoes5Riverside Athletic Association
Played in New York City
Nov. 30, 1899Indiana Normal School0Latrobe Athletic Association35
 Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA12Phoenix Athletic Association5
 Philadelphia & Reading YMCA0Frankford Yellow Jackets28
 Newark Athletic Club6Orange Tornadoes6
Nov. 29, 1900Homestead Library & Athletic Club17Latrobe Athletic Association0
 Newark Athletic Association6Orange Tornadoes0
Nov. 28, 1901Washington & Jefferson Presidents0Homestead Library & Athletic Club42
Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA18Frankford Yellow Jackets0
Yale Consolidated0Orange Tornadoes29
Nov. 27, 1902Philadelphia Athletics0Pittsburgh Stars0
 Orange Tornadoes0Philadelphia Phillies11
 Oil City Athletic Club10Franklin Athletic Club0
Nov. 26, 1903Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA0Latrobe Athletic Association6
 Wooster College0Massillon Tigers34
 East End Athletic Association0Franklin Athletic Club23
 Forest Hill6Orange Tornadoes6
Nov. 27, 1904Kittaning, Pennsylvania0Latrobe Athletic Association53
 Akron East Ends5Massillon Tigers6
Nov. 30, 1905Canton Athletic Club4Massillon Tigers14
Nov. 29, 1906Latrobe Athletic Association0Canton Bulldogs16
Nov. 28, 1907Columbus Panhandles2All-Massillons4
 Parkdale Athletic Association5Union Club of Phoenixville0
Nov. 26, 1908Parkdale Athletic Association0Union Club of Phoenixville0
Nov. 25, 1909Reliance Club of Conshohocken0Union Club of Phoenixville6
Nov. 24, 1910Wabash South Side Athletic Club0Fort Wayne Friars25
 Elyria Athletics0Tiffin Cornells0
 Columbus Panhandles0Dayton Oakwoods0
 Akron Indians5Shelby Blues8
 Minneapolis Beavers0Minneapolis Marines8
 Transfiguration Catholic Club0Corley Catholic Club21
 Reliance Club of Norristown3Union Club of Phoenixville6
Nov. 30, 1911Shelby Blues6Akron Tigers0
 Ann Arbor Independents0Detroit Heralds10
 Notre Dame Corby Hall18Fort Wayne Friars0
 USS Massachusetts0Union Club of Phoenixville17
Nov. 28, 1912Elyria Athletics10Akron Indians0
 All-Syracuse0Rochester Jeffersons18
 Cincinnati Christ Church0Cincinnati Celts7
 Notre Dame Corby Hall18Fort Wayne Friars0
 Frankford Yellow Jackets0Union Club of Phoenixville47
Nov. 27, 1913Shelby Blues7Akron Indians7
 Canton Professionals7Akron Indians7
 Detroit Heralds0Toledo Maroons7
 Notre Dame Corby Hall33Fort Wayne Friars0
 Dayton St. Mary's Cadets26Dayton Oakwoods21
 Cincinnati Christ Church7Cincinnati Celts7
 All-New Britain13Rockville, CT0
 Tonawanda0Lancaster Malleables7
Nov. 26, 1914Akron Indians21Canton Professionals0
 Brookdale Athletic Club7Union Club of Phoenixville35
 Conshohocken Athletic Club33Junior Athletic Club of Norristown0
 Syracuse Westcotts6Lancaster Malleables
Played at International Fair Association Grounds
Nov. 25, 1915Columbus Panhandles0Fort Wayne Friars3
 Cincinnati Christ Church Reds0Cincinnati Celts13
 Pine Village, Indiana29Purdue All-Stars0
 Frankford Yellow Jackets0Union Club of Phoenixville21
 Conshohocken Athletic Club3Norristown Billikens2
 Lancaster Malleables0Tonawanda Lumberjacks8
 Bayonne Vikings-Union AA of Washburn Park-
Nov. 30, 1916Youngstown Patricians0Massillon Tigers27
 Detroit Heralds6Cleveland Indians20
 Pitcairn Quakers9Dayton Triangles20
 Bethlehem Blue Stars6Union Club of Phoenixville13
 Norristown Billikens3Conshohocken Athletic Club35
 Bayonne Vikings-Plainfield, NJ-
Nov. 29, 1917Canton Bulldogs7Detroit Heralds0
Camp Dix 309th Infantry2Buffalo All-Stars0
Rochester Jeffersons7Tonawanda Lumberjacks
Played at Buffalo Baseball Park
 Union Club of Phoenixville13Norristown Billikens0
Van Sicklens0Staten Island Stapletons27
Nov. 28, 1918Dayton Triangles62Miamis0
Buffalo Pierce-Arrows0Buffalo Niagaras20
U.S. Army Ambulance Corps12Lehigh Mountain Hawks0
Nov. 27, 1919Massillon Tigers7Cleveland Indians0
Rochester Jeffersons0Buffalo Prospects0
Thomas Athletic Club of Bethlehem3Holmesburg Athletic Club19
Ewing Athletic Association-Frankford Yellow Jackets
Montanas6Staten Island Stapletons14
Iroquois AA0Bayonne Vikings6



SeasonLeagueVisiting TeamScoreHome TeamScore
Nov. 22, 1945NFLCleveland Rams28Detroit Lions21
Nov. 28, 1946NFLBoston Yanks34Detroit Lions10
AAFCNew York Yankees21Brooklyn Dodgers7
Nov. 27, 1947NFLChicago Bears34Detroit Lions14
AAFCCleveland Browns27Los Angeles Dons17
AAFCSan Francisco 49ers21Brooklyn Dodgers7
Nov. 25, 1948NFLChicago Cardinals28Detroit Lions14
AAFCCleveland Browns31Los Angeles Dons14
AAFCBuffalo Bills39Chicago Rockets35
Nov. 24, 1949NFLChicago Bears28Detroit Lions7
AAFCNew York Yankees17Los Angeles Dons16
AAFCCleveland Browns14Chicago Hornets6
Nov. 23, 1950NFLNew York Yanks14Detroit Lions49
Pittsburgh Steelers28Chicago Cardinals17
Nov. 22, 1951NFLGreen Bay Packers35Detroit Lions52
Nov. 27, 1952NFLGreen Bay Packers24Detroit Lions48
Chicago Bears23Dallas Texans (at Akron, Ohio)27
Nov. 26, 1953NFLGreen Bay Packers15Detroit Lions34
Nov. 25, 1954NFLGreen Bay Packers24Detroit Lions28
Nov. 24, 1955NFLGreen Bay Packers10Detroit Lions24
Nov. 22, 1956NFLGreen Bay Packers24Detroit Lions20
Nov. 28, 1957NFLGreen Bay Packers6Detroit Lions18
Nov. 27, 1958NFLGreen Bay Packers14Detroit Lions24
Nov. 26, 1959NFLGreen Bay Packers24Detroit Lions17


SeasonLeagueVisiting TeamScoreHome TeamScore
Nov. 24, 1960NFLGreen Bay Packers10Detroit Lions23
AFLNew York Titans41Dallas Texans35
Nov. 23, 1961NFLGreen Bay Packers17Detroit Lions9
AFLBuffalo Bills14New York Titans21
Nov. 22, 1962NFLGreen Bay Packers14Detroit Lions26
AFLNew York Titans46Denver Broncos45
Nov. 28, 1963NFLGreen Bay Packers13Detroit Lions13
AFLOakland Raiders26Denver Broncos10
Nov. 26, 1964NFLChicago Bears27Detroit Lions24
AFLBuffalo Bills27San Diego Chargers24
Nov. 25, 1965NFLBaltimore Colts24Detroit Lions24
AFLBuffalo Bills20San Diego Chargers20
Nov. 24, 1966NFLSan Francisco 49ers41Detroit Lions14
Cleveland Browns14Dallas Cowboys26
AFLBuffalo Bills31Oakland Raiders10
Nov. 23, 1967NFLLos Angeles Rams31Detroit Lions7
St. Louis Cardinals21Dallas Cowboys46
AFLOakland Raiders44Kansas City Chiefs22
Denver Broncos20San Diego Chargers24
Nov. 28, 1968NFLPhiladelphia Eagles12Detroit Lions0
Washington Redskins20Dallas Cowboys29
AFLBuffalo Bills10Oakland Raiders13
Houston Oilers10Kansas City Chiefs24
Nov. 27, 1969NFLMinnesota Vikings27Detroit Lions0
San Francisco 49ers24Dallas Cowboys24
AFLDenver Broncos17Kansas City Chiefs31
San Diego Chargers21Houston Oilers17


SeasonVisiting TeamScoreHome TeamScoreOT
Nov. 26, 1970Oakland Raiders14Detroit Lions28
Green Bay Packers3Dallas Cowboys16
Nov. 25, 1971Kansas City Chiefs21Detroit Lions32
Los Angeles Rams21Dallas Cowboys28
Nov. 23, 1972New York Jets20Detroit Lions37
San Francisco 49ers31Dallas Cowboys10
Nov. 22, 1973Washington Redskins20Detroit Lions0
Miami Dolphins14Dallas Cowboys7
Nov. 28, 1974Denver Broncos31Detroit Lions27
Washington Redskins23Dallas Cowboys24
Nov. 27, 1975Los Angeles Rams20Detroit Lions0
Buffalo Bills32St. Louis Cardinals14
Nov. 25, 1976Buffalo Bills14Detroit Lions27
St. Louis Cardinals14Dallas Cowboys19
Nov. 24, 1977Chicago Bears31Detroit Lions14
Miami Dolphins55St. Louis Cardinals14
Nov. 23, 1978Denver Broncos14Detroit Lions17
Washington Redskins10Dallas Cowboys37
Nov. 22, 1979Chicago Bears0Detroit Lions20
Houston Oilers30Dallas Cowboys24
Nov. 27, 1980Chicago Bears23Detroit Lions17(OT)
Seattle Seahawks7Dallas Cowboys51
Nov. 26, 1981Kansas City Chiefs10Detroit Lions27
Chicago Bears9Dallas Cowboys10
Nov. 25, 1982New York Giants13Detroit Lions6
Cleveland Browns14Dallas Cowboys31
Nov. 24, 1983Pittsburgh Steelers3Detroit Lions45
St. Louis Cardinals17Dallas Cowboys35
Nov. 22, 1984Green Bay Packers28Detroit Lions31
New England Patriots17Dallas Cowboys20
Nov. 28, 1985New York Jets20Detroit Lions31
St. Louis Cardinals17Dallas Cowboys35
Nov. 27, 1986Green Bay Packers44Detroit Lions40
Seattle Seahawks31Dallas Cowboys14
Nov. 26, 1987Kansas City Chiefs27Detroit Lions20
Minnesota Vikings44Dallas Cowboys38(OT)
Nov. 24, 1988Minnesota Vikings23Detroit Lions0
Houston Oilers25Dallas Cowboys17
Nov. 23, 1989Cleveland Browns10Detroit Lions13
Philadelphia Eagles27Dallas Cowboys0
Nov. 22, 1990Denver Broncos27Detroit Lions40
Washington Redskins17Dallas Cowboys27
Nov. 28, 1991Chicago Bears6Detroit Lions16
Pittsburgh Steelers10Dallas Cowboys20
Nov. 26, 1992Houston Oilers24Detroit Lions21
New York Giants3Dallas Cowboys30
Nov. 25, 1993Chicago Bears10Detroit Lions6
Miami Dolphins16Dallas Cowboys14
Nov. 24, 1994Buffalo Bills21Detroit Lions35
Green Bay Packers31Dallas Cowboys42
Nov. 23, 1995Minnesota Vikings38Detroit Lions44
Kansas City Chiefs12Dallas Cowboys24
Nov. 28, 1996Kansas City Chiefs28Detroit Lions24
Washington Redskins10Dallas Cowboys21
Nov. 27, 1997Chicago Bears20Detroit Lions55
Tennessee Oilers27Dallas Cowboys14
Nov. 26, 1998Pittsburgh Steelers16Detroit Lions19(OT)
Minnesota Vikings46Dallas Cowboys36
Nov. 25, 1999Chicago Bears17Detroit Lions21
Miami Dolphins0Dallas Cowboys20
Nov. 23, 2000New England Patriots9Detroit Lions34
Minnesota Vikings27Dallas Cowboys15
Nov. 22, 2001Green Bay Packers29Detroit Lions27
Denver Broncos26Dallas Cowboys24
Nov. 28, 2002New England Patriots20Detroit Lions12
Washington Redskins20Dallas Cowboys27
Nov. 27, 2003Green Bay Packers14Detroit Lions22
Miami Dolphins40Dallas Cowboys21
Nov. 25, 2004Indianapolis Colts41Detroit Lions9
Chicago Bears7Dallas Cowboys21
Nov. 24, 2005Atlanta Falcons27Detroit Lions7
Denver Broncos24Dallas Cowboys21(OT)


SeasonVisiting TeamScoreHome TeamScoreOT
Nov. 23, 2006Miami Dolphins27Detroit Lions10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers10Dallas Cowboys38
Denver Broncos10Kansas City Chiefs19
Nov. 22, 2007Green Bay Packers37Detroit Lions26
New York Jets3Dallas Cowboys34
Indianapolis Colts31Atlanta Falcons13
Nov. 27, 2008Tennessee Titans47Detroit Lions10
Seattle Seahawks9Dallas Cowboys34
Arizona Cardinals20Philadelphia Eagles48
Nov. 26, 2009Green Bay Packers34Detroit Lions12
Oakland Raiders7Dallas Cowboys24
New York Giants6Denver Broncos26
Nov. 25, 2010New England Patriots45Detroit Lions24
New Orleans Saints30Dallas Cowboys27
Cincinnati Bengals10New York Jets26
Nov. 24, 2011Green Bay Packers27Detroit Lions15
Miami Dolphins19Dallas Cowboys20
San Francisco 49ers6Baltimore Ravens16
Nov. 22, 2012Houston Texans34Detroit Lions31(OT)
Washington Redskins38Dallas Cowboys31
New England Patriots49New York Jets19
Nov. 28, 2013Green Bay Packers10Detroit Lions40
Oakland Raiders24Dallas Cowboys31
Pittsburgh Steelers20Baltimore Ravens22
Nov. 27, 2014Chicago BearsN/ADetroit LionsN/A
Philadelphia EaglesN/ADallas CowboysN/A
Seattle SeahawksN/ASan Francisco 49ersN/A

Thanksgiving Day standings[edit]

Of current NFL franchises. This includes American Football League and All-America Football Conference games.

TeamLast GameWinsLossesTiesWin Pct.Other names appeared under
Baltimore Ravens201320 1.000
Houston Texans201210 1.000
New Orleans Saints201010 1.000
Indianapolis Colts2007201.833Baltimore Colts (1953–83)
Minnesota Vikings200051 .833
Philadelphia Eagles200841 .800
St. Louis Rams197531 .750Cleveland Rams (1937–45), Los Angeles Rams (1946–94)
Miami Dolphins201152 .714
Tennessee Titans200852 .714Houston Oilers (1960–96), Tennessee Oilers (1997–98)
San Francisco 49ers2011311.700
Dallas Cowboys201329161.641
San Diego Chargers1969211.625
New York Giants2009743.607
New England Patriots201232 .600
New York Jets201244 .571New York Titans (1960–62)
Chicago Bears200416132.548Decatur Staleys (1920), Chicago Staleys (1921)
Kansas City Chiefs200655 .500Dallas Texans (1960–62), does not include 1–0 record of unrelated NFL Dallas Texans.
Cleveland Browns198933 .500
Atlanta Falcons200711 .500
Detroit Lions201334372.479
Green Bay Packers201314192.429
Oakland Raiders201334 .429
Buffalo Bills1994351.389Does not include 1–0 record of unrelated AAFC team of same name.
Denver Broncos200947 .364
Washington Redskins201226 .333
Seattle Seahawks200812 .333
Arizona Cardinals20086152.304Chicago Cardinals (1920–59), St. Louis Cardinals (1960–87), Phoenix Cardinals (1988–93)
Pittsburgh Steelers201325 .286
Cincinnati Bengals201001 .000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers200601 .000

Notable appearance droughts[edit]

The last two current active franchises to have never played on Thanksgiving through 2013 are Carolina and Jacksonville, both of which joined the league in 1995. The Browns have not appeared since the rejoining the league as an expansion team in 1999, and the Rams have not played since 1975.

An idiosyncrasy in the NFL's current scheduling formula, which has been in effect since 2002 and revised in 2010, effectively precludes teams from the AFC North from playing the Lions or Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Conversely, the AFC East actually appears in successive years. Without further revisions or exceptions to the formula, AFC North teams can only appear in the prime time game.

San Diego has the longest active appearance drought as of 2013. They have not played on Thanksgiving since 1969, one year before the AFL–NFL merger.

Since 2010, the league has made efforts to end the longest droughts. Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Baltimore all played their first Thanksgiving game during this time frame, as did Houston, who joined the league in 2002. San Francisco likewise played their first Thanksgiving game since 1972 in the 2011 season.

Thanksgiving Day records of defunct teams[edit]

League teams only, since 1920.
TeamWinsLossesTiesWin Pct.Other names appeared under
Frankford Yellow Jackets20 1.000Defunct (1931)
New York Yankees*20 1.000Defunct (1949)
Pottsville Maroons20 1.000Defunct (1928)
Boston Yanks10 1.000Defunct (1948)
Buffalo Bills*10 1.000Defunct (1949), unrelated to current NFL team with this name
Dallas Texans10 1.000Defunct (1952), does not count AFL's Dallas Texans, which are now the Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Buccaneers10 1.000Defunct (1926)
Oorang Indians10 1.000Defunct (1923)
Rock Island Independents10 1.000Defunct (1925)
All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks10 1.000Defunct (1921)
Akron Pros311.700Defunct (1926)
Buffalo Bisons111.500Buffalo All-Americans (1920–23), Defunct (1929)
Canton Bulldogs111.500Defunct (1926)
Cleveland Bulldogs11 .500Defunct (1927)
Dayton Triangles11 .500Defunct (1929)
Kansas City Cowboys11 .500Kansas City Blues (1924), Defunct (1926)
Milwaukee Badgers11 .500Defunct (1926)
Brooklyn Lions01 .000Defunct (1926)
Chicago Tigers01 .000Defunct (1920)
Detroit Heralds01 .000Defunct (1920)
New York Yanks01 .000Defunct (1950)
Providence Steam Roller01 .000Defunct (1931)
Racine Legion01 .000Defunct (1926)
Toledo Maroons01 .000Defunct (1923)
Brooklyn Dodgers*02 .000Defunct (1949)
Chicago Hornets*02 .000Chicago Rockets (1946–1948), Defunct (1949)
Columbus Panhandles02 .000Defunct (1926)
Detroit Panthers02 .000Defunct (1926)
Hammond Pros02 .000Defunct (1926)
Rochester Jeffersons02 .000Defunct (1925)
Los Angeles Dons*03 .000Defunct (1949)

*All-America Football Conference team.

Game MVPs[edit]

Since 1989, informal and sometimes lighthearted 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 and 2002). Voting on the respective awards is typically done informally by the announcing crew themselves, and criteria is loose. Noteworthy statistical accomplishments weigh heavily, and "group" awards are common.

Turkey Leg Award (CBS & FOX)[edit]

In 1989, John Madden of CBS awarded the first "Turkey Leg Award," 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 a humorous gimmick relating to Madden's famous multi-legged turkey, cooked and delivered by local restaurant owner Joe Pat Fieseler of Harvey's Barbecue (located less than a mile from Texas Stadium). Since then, however, the award has gained subtle 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 in 1994, it was given to players of both teams.

Galloping Gobbler (FOX)[edit]

When John Madden left FOX after 2001, the network introduced a new award, named the "Galloping Gobbler." It is represented by a small statue of a silver turkey wearing a football helmet.

Unlike the aforementioned "Turkey Leg Award," the "Galloping Gobbler" is only awarded to one player annually.

All-Iron Award (CBS)[edit]

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

Typically the trophy is only awarded to one player annually. Occasionally, it has been issued as a "group award" in addition to a single player award. In 2008, Simms stated it was "too close to call" and named four players to the trophy.

Prime time games (NFLN & NBC)[edit]

When the NFL Network held the right to broadcast the night 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 began broadcasting the night game from 2012 onward. Their MVP award is called the "Madden Thanksgiving Player-of-the-Game", honoring John Madden (who announced NBC games from 2006 to 2008).[22][23]

*Of the members of the 2007 Cowboys defense, Chris Canty, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Greg Ellis were particularly noted.


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

Starting in 2012, all three broadcast networks with NFL rights will carry one game apiece. The first two games are split between CBS and Fox. These games are rotated annually, with CBS getting the 12:30 p.m. (EST) "early" game, and Fox getting the 4:25 p.m. "late" game in even-numbered years, while Fox likewise gets the "early" game and CBS the "late" game in odd-numbered years. The third game, with a prime time 8:30 p.m. start, is carried by NBC.

The NFL on Westwood One Sports holds national radio broadcast rights to all three games.

See also[edit]


Works cited[edit]


  1. ^ "Yale vs Princeton (NJ)". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ "1885 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  3. ^ "1887 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  4. ^ "1888 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  5. ^ "1889 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  6. ^ "1891 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  7. ^ "Football on Thanksgiving: A Brief But Comprehensive History". Midwest Sports Fans. November 23, 2011. 
  8. ^ "The Origins of the Thanksgiving Day Tradition". Detroit Lions. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  9. ^ See also: Pennsylvania Keystoners
  10. ^
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ November 21, 2011 (2011-11-21). "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football Preview: Games, TV Schedule, Point Spreads, Picks and Predictions". Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  13. ^ Silver, Michael (2011-11-21). "NFL Thanksgiving games are appealing, for once – NFL – Yahoo! Sports". Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  14. ^ Bakay, Nick (12 November 2008). "Manly House of Football: Another helping of Lions football for the holiday? No, thanks!". 
  15. ^ Kulfan, Ted. Annual Lions game is roasted. The Detroit News. 25 November 2008
  16. ^ Slevin, Peter (November 27, 2008). "In Detroit, Tradition Takes a Hike; Annual Thanksgiving Football Game Offers Little Joy for Troubled City". Washington Post. p. A1. 
  17. ^ Lage, Larry (November 28, 2008). "Once-beaten Titans dominate winless Lions 47–10". Associated Press. 
  18. ^ Niyo, John (31 January 2009). "Turkey game safe ... for now". Detroit Free Press. p. C6. 
  19. ^ Kowalski, Tom (22 March 2009). "Lions president says NFL will not take away team's Thanksgiving Day game". 
  20. ^ Horn, Barry (10 March 2009). "Networks vie for Dallas Cowboys' home opener". Dallas Morning News. 
  21. ^ King, Peter (1 December 2008). "The best football writer of our time". 
  22. ^ "Easton-P'burg TV coverage won't crash gate". The Morning Call. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012. "As an added bonus, John Madden will return to NBC to open the broadcast and will give his first "Madden Thanksgiving Player of the-Game" award" 
  23. ^ "Thanksgiving Night Game on NBC New England Patriots vs. New York Jets" (Press release). NBCUniversal. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012. 

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