There was a time when part of the allure of the annual Thanksgiving Day games, hosted by the Lions and Cowboys, was how teams would respond to the short work week. The mystery there is certainly gone, given that the NFL now trots out a Thursday night game nearly every week of the season. In 2006, the league also added a third game, a night contest, to the Thanksgiving Day slate. They have not yet settled on a permanent host team for the Turkey Day nightcap, and they may never do so, but this week the Ravens will be hosting their second Thanksgiving night game.
All three games this Thursday have playoff implications, in one form or another. A look at the slate:
Packers at Lions (12:30 p.m., FOX)
Ndamukong Suh grabbed the headlines the last time these two met on Thanksgiving, a 27-15 Green Bay win in 2011. Suh famously stomped on the arm of Green Bay lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith and was ejected. Tempers are sure to be high again this year as the Packers (5-5-1) trail the Lions (6-5) by just a half game in the NFC North. With over 10 teams still alive in the NFC playoff picture, a win here is something close to a must for both.
Raiders at Cowboys (4:30 p.m., CBS)
The Cowboys (6-5) are riding high after their win at MetLife Stadium last Sunday, but can’t overlook the Raiders (4-7), who are still looking to make a run at a wild card spot. Oakland last played on Thanksgiving in 2009, a 24-7 loss to the Cowboys. The Raiders won’t have an easy time picking up a road win as the Jerry Dome has become a tough place for visitors. The Cowboys are 4-1 this season at home, with their only loss coming to Denver by a narrow margin, 51-48, in Week 5.
Steelers at Ravens (8:30 p.m., NBC)
The Steelers are playing their first Turkey Day game since an infamous 1998 affair against the Lions when referee Phil Luckett helped serve up a Detroit win. Luckett claimed that Steelers captain Jerome Bettis said, “head-tails!” when calling the overtime coin flip. The Lions won the toss with “tails,” despite Bettis insisting that he had only called, “tails,” and Detroit went on to win the game with a field goal. As for this year’s game, the Steelers and Ravens are two of six teams that currently own a 5-6 record in the AFC.