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. 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.
Starting in 2012, all three broadcast networks with NFL rights will carry a game each. The first two games are split between CBS and FOX; these games are traditionally rotated each year, with CBS getting the 12:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) game (starting 30 minutes earlier than a Sunday game, always hosted by the Lions) and Fox getting the 4:25 p.m. game (always hosted by the Cowboys) in even-numbered years, while Fox likewise gets the early game and CBS the late afternoon game in odd-numbered years. To accommodate the longstanding television contracts, any game that airs on CBS features an AFC team as the visitor, and any game on Fox features an NFC team as the visitor. The third game, in primetime with a 8:30 p.m. start, can feature any team as host or visitor, and it is seen on NBC. (Beginning in 2014, the Lions and Cowboys may be selected for the night game instead of their traditional afternoon slots; should the Cowboys be selected, any other team can host the late afternoon game, but if the Lions are selected, the host team for the early game must be in the Eastern Time Zone because the NFL does not allow games to start before noon local time.)
The NFL on Dial Global holds national radio broadcast rights to all three games.
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. The University of Michigan also made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games, holding 19 such games from 1885 to 1905. The Thanksgiving Day games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890s have been cited as "The Beginning of Thanksgiving Day Football."
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.
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.) 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.
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 will carry this game beginning 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.
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, NFL.com 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.
Because of failing attendance for the 1952 Dallas Texans, the team abandoned its home city of Dallas and moved its lone remaining home game to the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio. Their opponent for that game, the Chicago Bears, sent their second string team to the game, believing the then-winless Dallas was a tomato can. In front of a sparse crowd (a high school football game on that day was said to have drawn more fans), the Texans scored a 27–23 upset over the Bears scrubs for their only win of their existence. Following the season, the Texans were dissolved and its remnants given to the expansion team in Baltimore, MD, which replaced an All-American Football Conference team in the same city (and same nickname) that had played three seasons previously..
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. NFL Network's "Top 10 Thanksgiving Day Moments" incorrectly recognized the 1965 Dallas-Washington game as being a Thanksgiving Day game, it was played Sunday November 28.
Some memorable Thanksgiving Day games include the 1962 Lions handing the 10-0 Green Bay Packers their lone defeat of the season and 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).
The 1980 game between the Lions and Chicago Bears went to overtime, the first Thanksgiving contest to do so (as well as the first overtime game played at the Pontiac Silverdome). Bears running back Dave Williams returned the opening kickoff in overtime 95 yards for a touchdown, ending what was at the time the shortest overtime period in NFL history with a 23-17 Chicago victory.
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 (with the game seemingly over, the NBC broadcast actually missed the end of the play, first showing owner Jerry Jones, then Aikman and wide receiver Michael Irvin, celebrating on the Dallas sideline), and then kick a much shorter field goal to take a 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 2008 season saw the 10-1 Titans (who finished with the league's best record that season at 13-3) on the road at the 0-11 Lions (who finished without a single win that season). Perhaps as expected, the game was a ridiculous blowout, as the Titans scored 35 points in the first half. The Titans finished the game winning 47-10, with two 100 yard rushers. It was one of the all time most lopsided results in Thanksgiving Day football history.
The 2010 Thanksgiving game between the Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints saw only the second attempted drop kick since the 1940s. Punter Mat McBriar (who, having played Australian rules football in his youth, was familiar with the maneuver) attempted a maneuver similar to a drop kick after a botched punt attempt, but the ball bounced several times before the kick and the sequence of events is officially recorded as a fumble, followed by an illegal kick, with the fumble being recovered by the New Orleans Saints 29 yards downfield from the spot of the kick. The Saints declined the illegal kick penalty.
The 2011 trio of games is being lauded as perhaps the best Thanksgiving slate of games in NFL history and "appealing, for once." The Detroit Lions hosted the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys the Miami Dolphins, and the Baltimore Ravens the San Francisco 49ers. The final game of the 2011 Thanksgiving schedule pitted brother against brother as John Harbaugh, the coach of the Baltimore Ravens faced off against his younger brother, Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, a matchup that would occur again a little over a year later in Super Bowl XLVII.
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. (Lamar Hunt, in particular, was a staunch advocate of expanding the Thanksgiving games to beyond the Cowboys and Lions, and lobbied heavily in favor of his Kansas City Chiefs getting a regular Thanksgiving slot up until his death.) 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 Chiefs were the host team for the first game in the series, which appeased Hunt's demands long enough; Hunt died shortly thereafter.)
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 NFL.com columnist Nick Bakay and ESPN personalities Mike Ditka, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic) 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. Heading into that game, the Lions had lost their last five consecutive Thanksgiving contests; that streak has since continued, and the Lions (as of the 2012 contest) have lost nine straight Thanksgiving games. 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. 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.
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. 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." 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 new television contracts with CBS, Fox, and NBC, 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; Buffalo's annual game in Toronto is also highly unlikely 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, there have been far fewer public calls to remove them. SI.com 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. This never materialized, and the 2010 NFL season featured no changes to the permanent hosting. This advantage was reduced when just before the 2012 season, the NFL expanded its Thursday Night Football package so that each team plays a Thursday game following a Sunday game, although this package allows the Lions and Cowboys to host their Thursday game every season while all other teams are not guaranteed to play their Thursday game at home.
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.
2011 featured the defending Super Bowl champions playing on Thanksgiving - the Green Bay Packers visited the Lions. The nightcap featured the Baltimore Ravens as they hosted the San Francisco 49ers, who ended a long Thanksgiving drought, having last appeared in 1972.
With the 2012-22 television contract by the NFL giving all three broadcast networks a game and with it, the rights to air games from outside their traditional conferences in extreme situations (each team must appear on CBS and Fox; if, because of scheduling, an NFC team's two home games against AFC teams are ESPN, NFL Network, or NBC games, one of the two road games against an AFC team must be placed on CBS), it is unknown if the two teams will be permitted to have their schedule flexed annually where both Dallas and Detroit could host NFC opponents, and the third game would be an AFC matchup. In that case, CBS would carry the AFC matchup (in the early time slot), Fox would carry either Dallas or Detroit, and the NFL can assign times based on the AFC matchup (12:30 for Eastern and Central time zones, 4 PM for Mountain and Pacific time zones), so Fox would have the other game. NBC would choose the last of the three for an 8 PM game.
Game results 
(Winning teams are denoted by boldface type; tie games are italicized.)
- This is a partial listing of professional football games played on Thanksgiving Day between 1892 (the year the first known professional player debuted) and 1919 (the last season before the NFL's formation), featuring various teams from the Ohio League (1903–19), New York Pro Football League (early 1900s-1919), National Football League (1902), the western Pennsylvania professional circuit (1892–1903), the eastern Pennsylvania pro-am circuit (1897–1919), the New Jersey circuit, and various other independent teams active at the time. Please note that during this era it was not unusual for professional football teams to play against college football teams or amateur local teams, touchdowns were worth only four points until 1896 and five points from 1897 to 1912, and that Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday in November at the time.
- The first American Football League (AFL I) also played Thanksgiving Day games in 1926, while the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) did so between 1946 and 1949.
- Thanksgiving fell on the final Thursday in November until 1938. Thanksgiving games were played on the fourth Thursday in November from 1945 onward.
* 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.
- The American Football League (AFL) also played Thanksgiving Day games during this decade, and the Dallas Cowboys started playing their series in 1966.
- 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 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 (which broadcasts games where the visiting team is from the AFC) and Fox (which broadcasts games where the visiting team is from the NFC).
- 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 (2006–11) or NBC (beginning 2012). 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 (now Arizona) as a host team in 1975 and 1977; Dallas and St. Louis faced each other in Dallas in 1976. Because of the long-established Kirkwood–Webster 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 began its current alignment in 2002, no team from the AFC North can play a Thanksgiving Day game against the traditional hosts. This is because under the current rotation, the Cowboys and the Lions each play AFC North teams in years that FOX is scheduled to broadcast its Thanksgiving Day game, requiring an NFC opponent. 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. AFC North teams can play in the prime time game, as the Cincinnati Bengals did in 2010.
- Rule changes in the 2012-22 television contracts will permit the Detroit/Dallas rotation to be flexed out, allowing two AFC teams to play each other on CBS, Detroit and Dallas to host NFC teams, provided one game is on NBC and the other is on Fox.
Thanksgiving Day standings 
|Team||Last Game||Wins||Losses||Ties||Win Pct.||Other names appeared under|
|New Orleans Saints||2010||1||0||1.000|
|Indianapolis Colts||2007||2||0||1||.833||Baltimore Colts (1953–83)|
|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||2011||3||1||1||.700|
|San Diego Chargers||1969||2||1||1||.625|
|New York Giants||2009||7||4||3||.607|
|New York Jets||2012||4||3||.571||New York Titans (1960–62)|
|Chicago Bears||2004||16||13||2||.548||Decatur Staleys (1920), Chicago Staleys (1921)|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2006||5||5||.500||Dallas Texans (1960–62), does not include 1-0 record of unrelated NFL Dallas Texans.|
|New England Patriots||2012||2||2||.500|
|Green Bay Packers||2011||14||18||2||.441|
|Buffalo Bills||1994||3||5||1||.389||Does not include 1-0 record of unrelated AAFC team of same name.|
|Arizona Cardinals||2008||6||15||2||.304||Chicago Cardinals (1920–59), St. Louis Cardinals (1960–87), Phoenix Cardinals (1988–93)|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2006||0||1||.000|
Notable appearance droughts 
An idiosyncrasy 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 Cincinnati Bengals had not played on Thanksgiving until 2010 and the Baltimore Ravens did not play until 2011. 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 (the last of these is a helpful coincidence, since the league tries to schedule its teams in the two western time zones, three of which are in the AFC West, into as many late games as possible). Any AFC North Thanksgiving appearances would then have to come in the night game, which is how both the Bengals and the Ravens received their first ever Thanksgiving appearances.
San Diego, who has the longest active appearance drought as of 2013, 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 the Denver Broncos will), and San Diego will not travel to Dallas again until 2017. Furthermore, with the recent expansion of the Thursday Night Football package for which every team plays a Thursday game, this is no longer an issue since the NFL prefers to schedule 49ers and Raiders games that cannot be played on a Sunday in the early time slot for prime time to alleviate conflicts and it is possible to play in Dallas on a Sunday in the early time slot. The Cleveland Browns have not appeared since the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy (due in part to 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).
Since the 2010 season, the NFL has made efforts to end the longest of the appearance droughts. The New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals had never played on Thanksgiving prior to 2010, but both played a Thanksgiving game in 2010. Similarly, the San Francisco 49ers had the second-longest appearance drought of any active team, while the Baltimore Ravens had never played on Thanksgiving, before the two teams were chosen to play in the 2011 Thanksgiving game. The Houston Texans were scheduled for their first ever Thanksgiving game in 2012. As of 2011, there are only three teams left with Thanksgiving appearance droughts of longer than twenty years: San Diego, St. Louis, and Cleveland. The next-longest after them, the Buffalo Bills, last appeared in 1994.
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)|
Game MVPs 
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) 
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 was awarded to multiple players. On one occasion (1994), it was given to players of both teams.
Galloping Gobbler (FOX) 
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) 
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) 
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.
See also 
Works cited 
- Defunct NFL franchises (for defunct years)
- 2003 NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 0-7611-3148-5) (for game results through 2002)
- Detroit Lions 2003, 2004 and 2005 game schedules (for game results 2003 to 2005)
- Dallas Cowboys 2003, 2004 and 2005 game schedules (for game results 2003 to 2005)
- Thanksgiving Day 2007 Games
- "Yale vs Princeton (NJ)". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- "1885 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
- "1887 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
- "1888 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
- "1889 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
- "1891 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
- "Football on Thanksgiving: A Brief But Comprehensive History". Midwest Sports Fans. November 23, 2011.
- "The Origins of the Thanksgiving Day Tradition". Detroit Lions. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
- See also: Pennsylvania Keystoners
- "New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys - Play By Play - November 25, 2010 - ESPN". Scores.espn.go.com. 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- "Watch New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys [11/25/2010". NFL.com. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- November 21, 2011 (2011-11-21). "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football Preview: Games, TV Schedule, Point Spreads, Picks and Predictions". Midwestsportsfans.com. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
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- Bakay, Nick (12 November 2008). "Manly House of Football: Another helping of Lions football for the holiday? No, thanks!". NFL.com.
- Kulfan, Ted. Annual Lions game is roasted. The Detroit News. 25 November 2008
- "Graham's FG lifts Texans over Lions in OT". Fox News. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- 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.
- Lage, Larry (November 28, 2008). "Once-beaten Titans dominate winless Lions 47-10". Associated Press.
- Niyo, John (31 January 2009). "Turkey game safe ... for now". Detroit Free Press. p. C6.
- Kowalski, Tom (22 March 2009). "Lions president says NFL will not take away team's Thanksgiving Day game". mlive.com.
- Horn, Barry (10 March 2009). "Networks vie for Dallas Cowboys' home opener". Dallas Morning News.
- King, Peter (1 December 2008). "The best football writer of our time". si.com.
- "NFL Thanksgiving Day Football Schedule for 2010". Midwest Sports Fans. November 8, 2010.
- "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"
- "Thanksgiving Night Game on NBC New England Patriots vs. New York Jets" (Press release). NBCUniversal. November 20, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.