American Football Database

The Canadian Football League also holds a Thanksgiving Day Classic on Canadian Thanksgiving.

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's Thanksgiving Classic is a 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. Since 2006, three 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 game with an NFC team as the visitors airs on Fox, as it has the rights to the NFC; CBS airs the game with the AFC team as a visitor. Since 2006, there has been a third NFL game on Thanksgiving that airs on NFL Network as part of its Thursday Night Football package.

The NFL on Westwood One holds national radio broadcast rights to all three games. The team's usual Thursday night announcers handle the evening game, with a mix of other Westwood One announcers handling the Cowboys game. The Detroit game, however, uses other announcers not normally employed by Westwood One; Detroit-area broadcasters were used until 2008, but in 2009, Sports USA Radio Network took over the announcing duties for the Lions game.


Football on Thanksgiving is actually a tradition that predates the league's formation itself. Records of pro football being played on Thanksgiving date back to as early as 1902, when 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.[1]

Several other NFL teams played regularly on Thanksgiving in the past, including the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals (1922-33; the Bears played the Lions from 1934 to 1939 while the Cardinals switched to the Green Bay Packers for 1934 and 1935), Frankford Yellow Jackets, New York Giants (1929–38, who always played a crosstown rival), and Green Bay Packers (1951–63, always as the away team to the Lions). In 1939 and 1940, during the Franksgiving controversy, 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. This complicated scheduling for Thanksgiving games.)

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). 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.

AFL, AAFC and AFC Thanksgiving games

The Detroit and Dallas arrangements were made in spite of the fact that the American Football League played Thanksgiving Day games in each of its ten years of existence, 1960-1969, actually beginning the tradition six years before the NFL Dallas Cowboys. From 1960 through 1966, one AFL game was played every Thanksgiving. In 1967, 1968 and 1969, in the buffer period before the AFL-NFL merger, each Turkey Day had two AFL games. The team with the best record in AFL Thanksgiving Day games was the New York Titans, who played in the first three, and were 3-0. The Oakland Raiders were second best, with a 3-1 record. The addition of the NFL Network game on Thanksgiving has AFC fans hoping that their conference will now have equal exposure, perhaps with an NFC-NFC, AFC-NFC, and an AFC-AFC game each Thanksgiving; in fact, the Kansas City Chiefs (after the Thanksgiving 2006 game) attempted to regain "regular" status with the night game (it was Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt who actively pushed for the night game to be established, and the league appeased him with the request[2]).

The Chiefs' claim as Thanksgiving "regulars," however, was dubious, as they had only played an AFL Thanksgiving game once—in the inaugural AFL season as the Dallas Texans—prior to when the AFL-NFL merger was finalized in 1967, when the AFL decided to put mostly West Coast and Midwestern teams on Thanksgiving. The Buffalo Bills, on the other hand, played five games on Thanksgiving in the AFL's existence, between 1962 and 1968, more than any other team, although all of those were away games (Western New York's predecessor 1920s NFL franchises also played numerous times on Thanksgiving in their first 5 years, and the Bills of the AAFC, see next paragraph, also played once and won; incidentally, the Buffalo team always was away in these cases as well). The Titans, Chiefs/Texans, Raiders, and Broncos each played four Thanksgiving games. The Chargers played on Thanksgiving three times in the AFL's time span and the Oilers twice (both of those in the last two years of the league's existence).

After Hunt's death in December 2006, the NFL effectively turned around, deciding not to give any AFC team (or even the conference in general) the permanent hosting for that night game, as the subsequent Thanksgiving night games have both been hosted by still other NFC teams: the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. It would not be until 2009 that another AFC team (incidentally, the same Denver Broncos that were the away team in the 2006 match) would host the night game.

From 1946 to 1949, the All-America Football Conference also played on Thanksgiving; the first season, 1946, featured the crosstown rivalry of the Yankees and Dodgers of New York City, much as the NFL did in the 1920s and 1930s. Then, in 1947, the league began scheduling two games on Thanksgiving, with the Los Angeles Dons getting an annual home game and the Cleveland Browns, the league's best team, playing away (and amassing a 3-0 record in these games). The Dodgers hosted a 1947 Thanksgiving game, but ceded hosting to the Chicago franchise in 1948 and 1949. The other away team was rotated. Incidentally, all of the AAFC's Thanksgiving games featured the away team winning. When the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950, the newly expanded league gave the Chicago Cardinals a second Thanksgiving game (the league, at this time, was only playing one game on Thanksgiving, the Lions game) as recognition of Chicago's AAFC team having done the same. This was not renewed in 1951, when Thanksgiving became exclusively for the game when the Green Bay Packers went to Detroit to play the Lions (in 1952, a second Thanksgiving game was played, but only because the Dallas Texans lost their stadium midseason and had to squeeze a home game in at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio on that day to complete their schedule).

The first AFL of 1926 also played two games in its lone season. The Philadelphia Quakers defeated the New York Yankees in New York by a score of 13-10, while the Los Angeles Wildcats and Chicago Bulls played to a scoreless tie. Neither of the subsequent American Football Leagues (1936-37 or 1940-41) played on Thanksgiving.

Throwback uniforms

From 2001 to 2004, teams playing on Thanksgiving wore throwback uniforms to celebrate the teams' heritage, similar to those adopted in the 1994 season when the league celebrated its 75th anniversary. As the traditional home teams Detroit and Dallas were, naturally, the most notable. Detroit always wore uniforms based on those of its early years. Therefore, the Lions had to remove all decals from their helmets to reflect the absence of helmet logos in that earlier era, and for the 2008 season, revived that tradition against the Tennessee Titans on November 27. The Lions and New England Patriots both wore throwbacks for their November 25, 2010 matchup.

From 2001–2003, Dallas chose to represent the 1990s Cowboys dynasty who won three Super Bowls in a four-year span by wearing the navy "Double-Star" jersey not seen since the 1995 season. In 2004, the team went further back into its history by wearing uniforms not seen since the team's inception in 1960. The 2007 season marked the first time since 2000 that the Cowboys chose to wear their home white uniforms for their annual Thanksgiving game.

Since the 2005 season, teams have been permitted to wear their throwback jersey on any two weeks of the year, not necessarily Thanksgiving. In 2009, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the fourth American Football League, both the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders played in a "AFL Legacy Game" as both teams began play in 1960.

Though the San Diego Chargers have not played on Thanksgiving itself since the AFL-NFL merger, they also wore their throwback white helmets and "powder blue" jerseys on Thanksgiving weekend during this time. The popularity of the throwback jerseys led to the team returning to white helmets in 2007 as well as several other teams (beginning with the Buffalo Bills in 2005 and subsequently with many other teams in 2007) adopting throwback uniforms as their third jersey. The Chargers wore the 1963 throwbacks as part of the 2009 celebration of the AFL's 50th Anniversary, but not on Thanksgiving.

During the years when throwbacks were used regularly, altered its team logo frame to have the logos of each team be retro.

Memorable games

A 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 and the winners getting shared NFL franchise rights to the city of Chicago (along with the Chicago Cardinals). The legend purports to explain why the Tigers were the only NFL team to fold after the 1920 season (no other team would fold until 1921) and why the Staleys relocated to Chicago that year, later adopting their current name, the "Chicago Bears." However, though in fact the two did meet that year (with Decatur winning 6-0), the claims of it being a duel are unsubstantiated. Staleys owner George Halas, by all indications, was looking to move to Chicago all along (but in fact did not do so until a week into the 1921 season). Furthermore, and more importantly, there's no evidence that the Tigers were at any of the league's organizational meetings and is widely believed to have never joined the league at all; the only reason that they are listed as such today is because they played all of their games up to that point against NFL teams. (Some sources claim that it was the Cardinals-Tigers matchup on November 7, 1920 that was the subject of the duel, though this is even more suspicious because they played two more league games after that point.) The Tigers, after a 27-0 win over the non-league Thorn Tornadoes the next week, never played football again.

The 1921 Thanksgiving matchup between the same Chicago Staleys and the Buffalo All-Americans was notable in that the two teams were undefeated; after Buffalo defeated Chicago, the Staleys (who had refused to play any games outside of their home stadium at all that year) demanded a rematch. Buffalo agreed, on the condition that the rematch be considered an exhibition game and not be counted in the standings. After Chicago won the December 4 rematch, Halas turned to the league and demanded the game be counted. The league agreed with Chicago, and furthermore instituted a now-obsolete tiebreaker saying the rematch actually counted more than the original game, giving the championship to Chicago in a decision referred to as the "Staley Swindle" by some Buffalo sports fans.

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.

Some memorable Thanksgiving Day games include the 1974 Cowboys-Redskins game in which unknown Cowboys backup quarterback Clint Longley took over for an injured Roger Staubach with the team down 16-3 and rallied them to an improbable victory on two deep passes. A similar experience occurred in 1994 when Troy Aikman was injured and third-string Cowboys quarterback Jason Garrett was forced to start against the Green Bay Packers and won in a shoot-out with Brett Favre 42-31. Furthering this a decade later, Drew Henson started for the Cowboys in 2004 against the Bears; after showing no performance in the first half, he was benched in favor of Vinny Testaverde. Testeverde, with the help of then-rookie running back Julius Jones, led the Cowboys to a 21-7 win.

In the 1976 Thanksgiving matchup between the Lions and the Buffalo Bills, the Bills put forth at the same time one of the best and the worst performances in Thanksgiving history. On the positive side, running back O. J. Simpson set the league record for most rushing yards in a single game, with 273. However, Simpson achieved this feat due in large part to the fact that the Bills' backup quarterback, Gary Marangi, gained only 29 yards passing and completed only 4 out of 21 passes, in addition to throwing an interception affording a passer rating of 19.7. Despite Simpson's record-setting performance, the Bills lost the game, 27-14. Simpson's record would later be surpassed numerous times (the current record is 296, set by Adrian Peterson in 2007).

In 1980, Chicago Bear David Williams returned the opening kickoff in overtime for a touchdown against Detroit, the only time that has happened on a Thanksgiving game.

1986's Thanksgiving matchup between the Lions and the Packers, the highest scoring game in Thanksgiving history, was the best day of receiver Walter Stanley's career; Stanley netted 207 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the contest, including an 83-yard punt return to win the game for the Packers, 44-40. Stanley had an otherwise undistinguished career in the NFL.

The 1989 Bounty Bowl between the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, a 27-0 drubbing of the home team, led to allegations 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 later that year and the Porkchop Bowl the next season.

Some of the games have been infamous for other reasons. In 1993, the Cowboys led the Dolphins 14-13 with just seconds remaining in a snow-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 of NBC proclaimed "The Cowboys will win." However, Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett chased the ball and touched it, giving the Dolphins a chance to regain possession, and then kick a much shorter field goal to take an improbable 16-14 victory.

In 1998, the Steelers and Lions went to overtime. Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in the air, but confusion surrounded the call. The officials misheard Pittsburgh's call and awarded Detroit the ball, who went on to win 19-16 on their first drive in overtime. As a result of the fiasco, team captains are now required to call the coin toss before the coin is tossed.

The 2010 Thanksgiving game between the Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints saw only the second attempted drop kick since the 1940s when Cowboys punter Matt McBriar (who, having played Australian rules football at the amateur level, was familiar with the maneuver) botched a punt and allowed the ball to hit the ground before he kicked it. McBriar did not successfully execute the drop kick by letting the ball bounce more than once before kicking.[3] The officials declared the kick an illegal kick, but the penalty was declined.

Home team controversy

While it has remained a tradition to keep the games in their host cities every season, in recent years NFL fans as well as other teams have wanted the Thanksgiving games rotated on an annual basis. The NFL adopted a compromise position in 2006 when it added the third game to NFL Network, rotated on an annual basis, while also allowing the Cowboys and Lions to keep their annual home games.

The issue once again came to a head in 2008, albeit solely focusing on the Lions, heading into that year's Thanksgiving games. Leading into the game, there was already some popular support (including from columnist Nick Bakay[4] and ESPN personalities Mike Ditka, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic[2]) for removing the Lions from the Thanksgiving game and replacing it with a game with more of a playoff impact, either through rotation like the night game or one that is flexibly scheduled. The Lions matchup was with the Tennessee Titans, whose undefeated season had come to an end in their regular Sunday game that week to the New York Jets, while the Lions were entering the game winless and, by the end of the season, had become the first NFL team to lose every game in a season since the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished 0–14 in their expansion season. The team has also had three local blackouts heading into the game, the first non-sellouts for the team since 2001, and required an extension to sell out the Thanksgiving game in time for it to be televised locally.[5] Indeed, the Titans improved to 11–1 for the year by crushing the Lions 47–10, dropping the Lions to 0–12 and handing them their worst loss ever (measured by margin of loss, 37 points) on Thanksgiving.[6]

Following the 2008 season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Lions will be permitted to keep their Thanksgiving game for at least the 2009 season. Though league officials reserved the right to revisit the situation, this did not occur, and the Lions played on Thanksgiving as usual.[7] Lions president Tom Lewand claims that their game is not in jeopardy, the controversy is media-generated and that the owners have never seriously talked about removing them; however, this contradicts Goodell who stated that "it's come up a few times."[8] On March 23, 2009, the league owners officially kept the Lions on the Thanksgiving game with an announcement that the Lions would host the Green Bay Packers, one of their division rivals, on November 26.

If a change were to be made, under current television contracts with CBS and Fox (which expire after the 2013 season), the early game (with a 12:30 start time) would have to be hosted by a team in the Eastern Time Zone and in the United States (if it were to be moved back a half-hour, the Central Time Zone would also be eligible to host, but because of numerous issues including extended halftime shows, this is unlikely; the annual game in Toronto is also out of the running because the date of American Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Canada), and their opponent be of the opposite conference of the one playing the Cowboys (as it is today). Furthermore, such a move would leave the Dallas Cowboys as the only team to always play on Thanksgiving, and with the Cowboys being the league's biggest television draw,[9] there have been far fewer public calls to remove them. columnist Peter King had originally speculated during the controversy that when the current schedule rotation ends after 2009, both the Cowboys' and Lions' home Thanksgiving games will be reassessed by the league and possibly revoked-- the Lions' for their poor performance, and the Cowboys because of a perceived unfair home field advantage that requires the visiting team to both travel and prepare for a game only four days after their previous one.[10] This never materialized, and the 2010 NFL season featured no changes to the permanent hosting.

In 2010, the rotating host team was the New York Jets, who hosted the Cincinnati Bengals in the New Meadowlands Stadium, which the two New York teams share. The Jets and Bengals played on the NFL Network Thanksgiving evening. The traditional Thanksgiving Day participants - Detroit and Dallas - played in the afternoon. Detroit hosted the New England Patriots in the early game; Dallas hosted the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the late game.[11]

Game results

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


Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
Nov. 25, 1920 Canton Bulldogs 0 Akron Pros 7
  Decatur Staleys 6 Chicago Tigers 0
  Detroit Heralds 0 Dayton Triangles 28
  Columbus Panhandles 0 Elyria Athletics* 0
  Hammond Pros 0 Chicago Boosters* 27
  All-Tonawanda * 14 Rochester Jeffersons 3
Nov. 24, 1921 Canton Bulldogs 14 Akron Pros 0
  Buffalo All-Americans 7 Chicago Staleys 6
Nov. 30, 1922 Buffalo All-Americans 21 Rochester Jeffersons 0
  Chicago Bears 0 Chicago Cardinals 6
  Milwaukee Badgers 0 Racine Legion 3
  Oorang Indians 18 Columbus Panhandles 6
  Akron Pros 0 Canton Bulldogs 14
Nov. 29, 1923 Toledo Maroons 0 Canton Bulldogs 28
  Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 3
  Hammond Pros 0 Green Bay Packers 19
  Milwaukee Badgers 16 Racine Legion 0
Nov. 27, 1924 Buffalo Bisons 0 Akron Pros 22
  Chicago Bears 21 Chicago Cardinals 0
  Dayton Triangles 7 Frankford Yellowjackets 32
  Milwaukee Badgers 10 Cleveland Bulldogs
Played at Canton, Ohio
  Green Bay Packers 17 Kansas City Blues 6
Nov. 26, 1925 Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 0
  Kansas City Cowboys 17 Cleveland Bulldogs
Played at Hartford, Connecticut
  Rock Island Independents 6 Detroit Panthers 3
  Green Bay Packers 0 Pottsville Maroons 31
Nov. 25, 1926 New York Giants 17 Brooklyn Lions 0
  Los Angeles Buccaneers 9 Detroit Panthers 6
  Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 0
  Green Bay Packers 14 Frankford Yellowjackets 20
  Providence Steam Roller 0 Pottsville Maroons 8
  Akron Pros 0 Canton Bulldogs 0
AFL I Philadelphia Quakers 13 New York Yankees 10
  Los Angeles Wildcats 0 Chicago Bulls 0
Nov. 24, 1927 Chicago Cardinals 3 Chicago Bears 0
  Providence Steam Roller 0 Pottsville Maroons 6
  Green Bay Packers 17 Frankford Yellowjackets 9
  Cleveland Bulldogs 30 New York Yankees 19
Nov. 29, 1928 Providence Steam Roller 7 Pottsville Maroons 0
  Dayton Triangles 0 Detroit Wolverines 33
  Green Bay Packers 0 Frankford Yellowjackets 2
  Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 34
Nov. 28, 1929 New York Giants 21 Staten Island Stapletons 7
  Green Bay Packers 0 Frankford Yellowjackets 0
  Chicago Cardinals 40 Chicago Bears 6
Nov. 27, 1930 New York Giants 6 Staten Island Stapletons 7
  Providence Steam Roller 12 Brooklyn Dodgers 33
  Green Bay Packers 25 Frankford Yellowjackets 7
  Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 6
Nov. 26, 1931 Green Bay Packers 38 Providence Steam Roller 7
  New York Giants 6 Staten Island Stapletons 9
  Chicago Cardinals 7 Chicago Bears 18
Nov. 24, 1932 Green Bay Packers 7 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
  New York Giants 13 Staten Island Stapletons 13
  Chicago Cardinals 0 Chicago Bears 24
Nov. 30, 1933 New York Giants 10 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
  Chicago Bears 22 Chicago Cardinals 6
Nov. 29, 1934 Green Bay Packers 0 Chicago Cardinals 6
  New York Giants 27 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
  Chicago Bears 19 Detroit Lions 16
Nov. 28, 1935 Green Bay Packers 7 Chicago Cardinals 9
  New York Giants 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
  Chicago Bears 2 Detroit Lions 14
Nov. 26, 1936 Chicago Bears 7 Detroit Lions 13
  New York Giants 14 Brooklyn Dodgers 0
Nov. 25, 1937 Chicago Bears 13 Detroit Lions 0
  New York Giants 13 Brooklyn Dodgers 13
Nov. 24, 1938 Chicago Bears 7 Detroit Lions 14
  New York Giants 7 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 23, 1939 Pittsburgh Steelers 14 Philadelphia Eagles 17
Nov. 28, 1940 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 Philadelphia Eagles 0
No game held from 1941-1944 due to WWII
Nov. 22, 1945 Cleveland Rams 28 Detroit Lions 21
Nov. 28, 1946 Boston Yanks 34 Detroit Lions 10
AAFC New York Yankees 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 27, 1947 Chicago Bears 34 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 27 Los Angeles Dons 17
  San Francisco 49ers 21 Brooklyn Dodgers 7
Nov. 25, 1948 Chicago Cardinals 28 Detroit Lions 14
AAFC Cleveland Browns 31 Los Angeles Dons 28
  Buffalo Bills 39 Chicago Rockets 35
Nov. 24, 1949 Chicago Bears 28 Detroit Lions 7
AAFC New York Yankees 17 Los Angeles Dons 16
  Cleveland Browns 14 Chicago Hornets 6
Nov. 23, 1950 New York Yanks 14 Detroit Lions 49
  Pittsburgh Steelers 28 Chicago Cardinals 17
Nov. 22, 1951 Green Bay Packers 35 Detroit Lions 52
Nov. 27, 1952 Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 48
  Chicago Bears 23 Dallas Texans
Played at Akron, Ohio
Nov. 26, 1953 Green Bay Packers 15 Detroit Lions 34
Nov. 25, 1954 Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 28
Nov. 24, 1955 Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 24
Nov. 22, 1956 Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 20
Nov. 28, 1957 Green Bay Packers 6 Detroit Lions 18
Nov. 27, 1958 Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 24
Nov. 26, 1959 Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 17

* 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.


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


  • From 1970 to 2005, three NFC teams played each Thanksgiving, as opposed to one AFC team. In 2006, Kansas City hosted a prime time Thanksgiving game. The game marked a new "Thanksgiving Tripleheader" tradition. The Denver/Kansas City game marked the first time more than two games were played on Thanksgiving (as well as the first and, to date, only all-AFC holiday matchup) since the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970.
  • The two afternoon games are held at Detroit (12:30 p.m. EST) and Dallas (4:15 p.m. EST), respectively. Detroit always hosts the first 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. The two games rotate annually as intra-conference (NFC vs. NFC) and inter-conference (AFC vs. NFC) games. This is largely due to the format of the television contract with CBS and Fox. Since both Detroit and Dallas are NFC teams, in order for CBS to televise one of the games, one game must be against an AFC opponent. Inter-conference games of which the AFC team is away, are televised on CBS. For fairness between both networks and markets, the two games rotate annually between the two networks.
  • The "early" game kicks off at a special time of 12:30 p.m. EST as opposed to the typical afternoon start time of 1 p.m. This provides an additional 30 minutes to prevent overlapping of the "late" game, and also gives both networks time for a pregame show and some additional time for a halftime concert. As a result, the network hosting the early game has to either start it at 11:30 a.m. (as Fox NFL Sunday does) or cut it to 30 minutes (as The NFL Today does; CBS carries parade coverage that does not end until noon). The network with the 4:15 game begins pregame coverage at 3:30 p.m.
  • Since 2006, three contests have been played on 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. This game has been played at Kansas City (2006), at Atlanta (2007), at Philadelphia (2008), and at Denver (2009). Current plans call for the various NFL teams (other than the Lions and Cowboys) to take turns hosting the night game on a rotation basis.
  • Dallas was replaced by the St. Louis Cardinals as a host team in 1975 and 1977; Dallas and St. Louis faced each other in Dallas in 1976. Because of the long-established KirkwoodWebster Groves high school football game that takes place on Thanksgiving in St. Louis, the Cardinals' hosting of the Thanksgiving game was not popular. Dallas returned to hosting the game in 1978 and has hosted ever since. Likewise, the St. Louis Rams have not played on Thanksgiving since moving to St. Louis, likely for the same reason.
  • Since the NFL added the third game in 2006, the AFC North is the only division not to feature a team play on Thanksgiving. The division would have to play in the prime-time game, since it is currently locked out of the regular rotation with the Lions and Cowboys due to those teams playing against an NFC team in the years those teams play that division. To date, the last game to feature an AFC North team--then called the AFC Central--was the Lions matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998 that is best remembered for the Jerome Bettis coin toss controversy. This will change for 2010, though, when the Cincinnati Bengals travel to play the New York Jets in the prime-time game.
Season Visiting Team Score Home Team Score OT
Nov. 26, 1970 Oakland Raiders 14 Detroit Lions 28
Green Bay Packers 3 Dallas Cowboys 16
Nov. 25, 1971 Kansas City Chiefs 21 Detroit Lions 32
Los Angeles Rams 21 Dallas Cowboys 28
Nov. 23, 1972 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 37
San Francisco 49ers 31 Dallas Cowboys 10
Nov. 22, 1973 Washington Redskins 20 Detroit Lions 0
Miami Dolphins 14 Dallas Cowboys 7
Nov. 28, 1974 Denver Broncos 31 Detroit Lions 27
Washington Redskins 23 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 27, 1975 Los Angeles Rams 20 Detroit Lions 0
Buffalo Bills 32 St. Louis Cardinals 14
Nov. 25, 1976 Buffalo Bills 14 Detroit Lions 27
St. Louis Cardinals 14 Dallas Cowboys 19
Nov. 24, 1977 Chicago Bears 31 Detroit Lions 14
Miami Dolphins 55 St. Louis Cardinals 14
Nov. 23, 1978 Denver Broncos 14 Detroit Lions 17
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 37
Nov. 22, 1979 Chicago Bears 0 Detroit Lions 20
Houston Oilers 30 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 27, 1980 Chicago Bears 23 Detroit Lions 17 (OT)
Seattle Seahawks 7 Dallas Cowboys 51
Nov. 26, 1981 Kansas City Chiefs 10 Detroit Lions 27
Chicago Bears 9 Dallas Cowboys 10
Nov. 25, 1982 New York Giants 13 Detroit Lions 6
Cleveland Browns 14 Dallas Cowboys 31
Nov. 24, 1983 Pittsburgh Steelers 3 Detroit Lions 45
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35
Nov. 22, 1984 Green Bay Packers 28 Detroit Lions 31
New England Patriots 17 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 28, 1985 New York Jets 20 Detroit Lions 31
St. Louis Cardinals 17 Dallas Cowboys 35
Nov. 27, 1986 Green Bay Packers 44 Detroit Lions 40
Seattle Seahawks 31 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 26, 1987 Kansas City Chiefs 27 Detroit Lions 20
Minnesota Vikings 44 Dallas Cowboys 38 (OT)
Nov. 24, 1988 Minnesota Vikings 23 Detroit Lions 0
Houston Oilers 25 Dallas Cowboys 17
Nov. 23, 1989 Cleveland Browns 10 Detroit Lions 13
Philadelphia Eagles 27 Dallas Cowboys 0
Nov. 22, 1990 Denver Broncos 27 Detroit Lions 40
Washington Redskins 17 Dallas Cowboys 27
Nov. 28, 1991 Chicago Bears 6 Detroit Lions 16
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 26, 1992 Houston Oilers 24 Detroit Lions 21
New York Giants 3 Dallas Cowboys 30
Nov. 25, 1993 Chicago Bears 10 Detroit Lions 6
Miami Dolphins 16 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 24, 1994 Buffalo Bills 21 Detroit Lions 35
Green Bay Packers 31 Dallas Cowboys 42
Nov. 23, 1995 Minnesota Vikings 38 Detroit Lions 44
Kansas City Chiefs 12 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 28, 1996 Kansas City Chiefs 28 Detroit Lions 24
Washington Redskins 10 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 27, 1997 Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 55
Tennessee Oilers 27 Dallas Cowboys 14
Nov. 26, 1998 Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Detroit Lions 19 (OT)
Minnesota Vikings 46 Dallas Cowboys 36
Nov. 25, 1999 Chicago Bears 17 Detroit Lions 21
Miami Dolphins 0 Dallas Cowboys 20
Nov. 23, 2000 New England Patriots 9 Detroit Lions 34
Minnesota Vikings 27 Dallas Cowboys 15
Nov. 22, 2001 Green Bay Packers 29 Detroit Lions 27
Denver Broncos 26 Dallas Cowboys 24
Nov. 28, 2002 New England Patriots 20 Detroit Lions 12
Washington Redskins 20 Dallas Cowboys 27
Nov. 27, 2003 Green Bay Packers 14 Detroit Lions 22
Miami Dolphins 40 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 25, 2004 Indianapolis Colts 41 Detroit Lions 9
Chicago Bears 7 Dallas Cowboys 21
Nov. 24, 2005 Atlanta Falcons 27 Detroit Lions 7
Denver Broncos 24 Dallas Cowboys 21 (OT)
Nov. 23, 2006 Miami Dolphins 27 Detroit Lions 10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 Dallas Cowboys 38
Denver Broncos 10 Kansas City Chiefs 19
Nov. 22, 2007 Green Bay Packers 37 Detroit Lions 26
New York Jets 3 Dallas Cowboys 34
Indianapolis Colts 31 Atlanta Falcons 13
Nov. 27, 2008 Tennessee Titans 47 Detroit Lions 10
Seattle Seahawks 9 Dallas Cowboys 34
Arizona Cardinals 20 Philadelphia Eagles 48
Nov. 26, 2009 Green Bay Packers 34 Detroit Lions 12
Oakland Raiders 7 Dallas Cowboys 24
New York Giants 6 Denver Broncos 26
Nov. 25, 2010 New England Patriots 45 Detroit Lions 24
New Orleans Saints 30 Dallas Cowboys 27
Cincinnati Bengals 10 New York Jets 26
Nov. 24, 2011 Chi, GB, Min, Atl, Car, SF Detroit Lions
Buf or Mia Dallas Cowboys

Thanksgiving Day standings

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

Team Last Game Wins Losses Ties Win Pct. Other names appeared under
New Orleans Saints 2010 1 0   1.000
Miami Dolphins 2006 5 1   .833
Minnesota Vikings 2000 5 1   .833
Indianapolis Colts 2007 2 0 1 .833 Baltimore Colts (1953–83)
Philadelphia Eagles 2008 4 1   .800
St. Louis Rams 1975 3 1   .750 Cleveland Rams (1937–45), Los Angeles Rams (1946–94)
Tennessee Titans 2008 5 2   .714 Houston Oilers (1960–96), Tennessee Oilers (1997–98)
San Francisco 49ers 1972 3 1 1 .700
Dallas Cowboys 2010 27 15 1 .640
San Diego Chargers 1969 2 1 1 .625
New York Giants 2009 7 4 3 .607
Chicago Bears 2004 16 13 2 .548 Decatur Staleys (1920), Chicago Staleys (1921)
New England Patriots 2010 2 2   .500
Atlanta Falcons 2007 1 1   .500
Oakland Raiders 2009 3 3   .500
Cleveland Browns 1989 3 3   .500
New York Jets 2010 4 3   .500 New York Titans (1960–62)
Kansas City Chiefs 2006 5 5   .500 Dallas Texans (1960–62), does not include 1-0 record of unrelated NFL Dallas Texans.
Detroit Lions 2010 33 36 2 .479
Green Bay Packers 2009 13 18 2 .424
Buffalo Bills 1994 3 5 1 .389 Does not include 1-0 record of unrelated AAFC team of same name.
Denver Broncos 2009 4 7   .364
Seattle Seahawks 2008 1 2   .333
Pittsburgh Steelers 1998 2 4   .333
Arizona Cardinals 2008 6 15 2 .304 Chicago Cardinals (1920–59), St. Louis Cardinals (1960–87), Phoenix Cardinals (1988–93)
Washington Redskins 2002 1 6   .143
Cincinnati Bengals 2010 0 1   .000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2006 0 1   .000

Notable appearance droughts

The current active franchises that have never played on Thanksgiving through 2010 include:

An idiosyncracy in the NFL's current scheduling formula, which has been in effect since 2002 and revised in 2010, effectively prohibits any member of the AFC North from playing the Lions or Cowboys on Thanksgiving, which partially explains why the Ravens have yet to play on that day and also partially explains why the Cincinnati Bengals had not played on Thanksgiving in their history until 2010. Conversely, the AFC East appears in back-to-back Thanksgiving games-- the first against the Lions, the next against the Cowboys. As far as it is known, this idiosyncrasy is unintentional. The East appears in years where the mod4 of the current year is a 2 (vs. Lions) or 3 (vs. Cowboys); the AFC South appears (always against the Lions) when that number is 0, and the AFC West appears (always against the Cowboys) when that number is 1. Any AFC North Thanksgiving appearances would then have to come in the night game, which is how the Bengals received their first ever Thanksgiving appearance.

San Diego has not played in a Thanksgiving game at all during their time in the NFL (all of their appearances came in the American Football League). This is partially because, from 2002 to 2009, they have been in the same subdivisional pairing as the Oakland Raiders (meaning they always play at Dallas in the same year), and the league's scheduling policy requires that the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers get priority on nationally televised games because they share the San Francisco Bay market. Due to a change implemented in 2010, the Chargers will no longer face this problem, but San Diego will not travel to Dallas again until 2017[verification needed]. (Somewhat surprisingly, even with this special accommodation, the 49ers have the second-longest Thanksgiving playing drought, having not played since 1972, though there is a high school football championship in the city of San Francisco that day.) Neither Baltimore nor the Cleveland Browns have appeared since the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy (due in part to both being in the AFC North) and the Rams have not played since relocating to St. Louis (see "Dallas was replaced by the St. Louis Cardinals..." above).

Baltimore, Houston and St. Louis, however, have had previous franchises based in the city play the Thanksgiving game (Colts, Oilers and Cardinals respectively).

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 (1920–23), 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 0 1   .000 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 Defunct (1949)

*All-America Football Conference team.

Game MVPs

In 1989, John Madden of CBS awarded the first "Turkey Leg Award," for the game's most valuable player. It was an actual turkey. Reggie White of the Philadelphia 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 Irving, TX restaurant owner Joe Pat Fieseler of Harvey's Barbecue (located less than a mile from Texas Stadium), served on Thanksgiving, which as of 2008 he has given up. Since then, however, the award has gained subtle notoriety, and currently, each year at least one MVP has been chosen for both the CBS and Fox games. Madden brought the award to Fox in 1994, but it was abandoned and replaced with the "Galloping Gobbler" -- a running silver turkey wearing a football helmet—when Madden left for ABC in 2002. When CBS returned to the NFL 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. (Simms actually began calling commentary for NBC in 1996, but did not introduce the All-Iron Award until he moved to CBS.) The NFL Network has given out the Pudding Pie Award for MVPs of the night game since 2007; the award is an actual pie. In 2009, the NFL Network gave Brandon Marshall a pumpkin pie rather than the chocolate pudding pie of the previous two years.

Because of the informal nature of the award, the awards can be given to multiple players. John Madden has done this five times (all on Fox), to as many as four players (in fact, for Fox's first Thanksgiving broadcast in 1994, Madden actually issued the Turkey Leg Award to players on both teams, the only time this has ever happened). Since Madden left Fox, the network's "Galloping Gobbler" has only been awarded to one player. Until 2007, CBS never issued the award to more than one player, but does occasionally issue a "group award" in addition to a single player award (the network has done so three times, Madden did it in 1992 and Simms did it in 2004 and 2007). In 2008, Simms stated it was "too close to call" and gave four players the award, and Simms would follow by selecting three players for the All-Iron Award in 2009.

NBC did not issue an MVP award for Thanksgiving games they aired prior to 1998, and does not hold rights to Thanksgiving games at this time.

Year MVP Team
MVP Team
MVP Team
NFC vs. Cowboys/Lions
Turkey Leg Award 1989–2001 (CBS/Fox)
Galloping Gobbler 2002–present (Fox)
AFC vs. Cowboys/Lions
All-Iron Award
1998–present (CBS)

Thanksgiving night game
Pudding Pie Award
2007-present (NFL Network)
1989 Reggie White Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
NBC did not issue a game MVP
on Thanksgiving games they aired.
Night games were not played until 2006.
1990 Troy Aikman
Emmitt Smith
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
1991 Barry Sanders Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears
1992 Emmitt Smith
Cowboys Offensive Line
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
1993 Richard Dent Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
1994 Emmitt Smith
Jason Garrett
Sterling Sharpe
Brett Favre
Dallas Cowboys
Green Bay Packers
1995 Herman Moore
Brett Perriman
Johnnie Morton
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings
1996 Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
1997 Luther Ellis Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears
1998 Randy Moss Minnesota Vikings
Dallas Cowboys
Stephen Boyd Detroit Lions
Pittsburgh Steelers
1999 Gus Frerotte
Greg Hill
Johnnie Morton
Robert Porcher
Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears
Dexter Coakley Dallas Cowboys
Miami Dolphins
2000 Robert Smith
Randy Moss
Daunte Culpepper
Cris Carter
Minnesota Vikings
Dallas Cowboys
Charlie Batch Detroit Lions
New England Patriots
2001 Ahman Green
Brett Favre
Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Mike Anderson Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys
2002 Emmitt Smith Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
Troy Brown New England Patriots
Detroit Lions
2003 Dré Bly Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Jay Fiedler Miami Dolphins
Dallas Cowboys
2004 Julius Jones Dallas Cowboys
Chicago Bears
Peyton Manning
Colts Offensive Line
Indianapolis Colts
Detroit Lions
2005 Michael Vick Atlanta Falcons
Detroit Lions
Ron Dayne Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys
2006 Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Joey Harrington Miami Dolphins
Detroit Lions
2007 Brett Favre Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Tony Romo
Cowboys defense*
Dallas Cowboys
New York Jets
Reggie Wayne Indianapolis Colts
Atlanta Falcons
2008 DeMarcus Ware Dallas Cowboys
Seattle Seahawks
Albert Haynesworth
Chris Johnson
Kevin Mawae
LenDale White
Tennessee Titans
Detroit Lions
Donovan McNabb
Brian Westbrook
Philadelphia Eagles
Arizona Cardinals
2009 Donald Driver Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Miles Austin
Tony Romo
Jason Witten
Dallas Cowboys
Oakland Raiders
Brandon Marshall Denver Broncos
New York Giants
2010 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints
Dallas Cowboys
Tom Brady New England Patriots
Detroit Lions
Brad Smith
Darrelle Revis
New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals

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

See also


  1. "The Origins of the Thanksgiving Day Tradition". Detroit Lions. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kulfan, Ted. Annual Lions game is roasted. The Detroit News. 25 November 2008
  4. Bakay, Nick (12 November 2008). "Manly House of Football: Another helping of Lions football for the holiday? No, thanks!".
  5. 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.
  6. Lage, Larry (November 28, 2008). "Once-beaten Titans dominate winless Lions 47-10". Associated Press.
  7. Niyo, John (31 January 2009). "Turkey game safe ... for now". Detroit Free Press: p. C6.
  8. Kowalski, Tom (22 March 2009). "Lions president says NFL will not take away team's Thanksgiving Day game".
  9. Horn, Barry (10 March 2009). "Networks vie for Dallas Cowboys' home opener". Dallas Morning News.
  10. King, Peter (1 December 2008). "The best football writer of our time".
  11. "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football Schedule for 2010". Midwest Sports Fans. November 8, 2010.

External links