NFL Thanksgiving Day History

One of the best traditions in sports is NFL on Thanksgiving Day. There are three NFC divisional games this year, all involving the team currently in first place facing a team whose playoff hopes depend on winning this game.

As always, it should be an awesome day of football, family, and food!

Here’s a look at some fun stats involving the history of NFL franchises on Thanksgiving.

NFL Thanksgiving Stats

  • Jaguars are the only active team to never appear on Thanksgiving
  • Rams have the longest active drought between appearances – haven’t played since 1975
  • The next two longest droughts are Browns (1989) and Bills (1994) – everyone else has played as recently as 2006
  • Unbeaten teams – Ravens are 2-0, Saints, Texans and Panthers are all 1-0
  • Winless teams – Browns are 0-3, Bucs and Bengals are both 0-1
  • Best record – Eagles are 7-1
  • Worst records – Steelers 2-6, Cardinals 6-15


Let’s dive into the history of each matchup on Thursday.

Lions vs Bears

All-time Thanksgiving records – Lions are 37-39-2, Bears are 17-15

 Lions and Bears played the very first Thanksgiving Day football game in 1934. The Bears beat the Lions 19-16.

Both teams are coached by first-year head coaches, making this the first Thanksgiving appearance for the Bears’ Matt Nagy and the Lions’ Matt Patricia.

Coming into 2018, the Lions had lost just once to the Bears over the past 5 seasons (won 9 of the last 10 games). That included the Bears being swept each year from 2013-2015.

Bears won the most recent meeting back in week 9, knocking off the Lions 34-22.

7-3 Bears have a 3 game advantage in the division over the 4-6 Lions


Cowboys vs Redskins

All-time Thanksgiving records: Cowboys are 30-19; Redskins are 3-7

Redskins have played each of the last two years on Thanksgiving – they beat Giants 20-10 in last year’s night game and lost 31-26 to Cowboys in 2016

Redskins have played 10 Thanksgiving games and are 1-7 all-time vs Cowboys (1-0 vs Lions, 1-0 vs Giants)

The one Redskins win came in 2012 – Robert Griffin III was amazing and threw 4 touchdown passes and over 300 yards.

Cowboys swept Redskins in 2016 and 2017. Lost 20-17 in week 7, after a missed field goal would have tied the game as time expired.

Redskins are 6-4 and Cowboys are 5-5. This game has major significance as a Redskins win (and sweep of the Cowboys) would give them a commanding 2.5 game lead (because of tiebreaker) and the Eagles are 4-6, currently 2 games back. A Cowboys win would give them a divisional split and a three game winning streak to build momentum towards a division win.


Falcons vs Saints

All-time Thanksgiving records: Saints are 1-0; Falcons are 1-1

Falcons beat the Lions 27-7 in 2005 in their first ever Thanksgiving day game and lost to the Colts 31-13 in 2007.

Saints lone game and victory was 30-27 over Cowboys in 2010.

Saints are 9-1 – in the past month they have beaten the Vikings in Minnesota, handed the Rams their first loss 45-35, put up 51 points in Cincinnati, and beat the Eagles 48-7.

Falcons are 4-6, having lost two in a row to the Browns and Cowboys. A loss Thursday would doom them in the NFC South race and be a huge dagger in their Wild Card hopes.

Saints beat the Falcons earlier in week 3, in a wild 43-37 overtime victory. Drew Brees threw 3 TD and Matt Ryan threw 5 TD and neither QB had an interception.

These teams have been evenly matched in recent years – Saints have won the last two games, before that Falcons had won three straight. All-time, Falcons lead the series 52-47.


For more NFL talk, follow me on twitter @msschneid and instagram @mikedropsports.


About Mike Schneid 473 Articles
Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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