NFL Thanksgiving and Black Friday Preview: Detroit and Dallas Host, 49ers Clash with Seattle
A Turkey Day tradition resumes in Detroit and Dallas, and is topped off by a key divisional tilt in Seattle. Meanwhile, what the NFL hopes becomes a new tradition starts the day after in the league’s first-ever Black Friday game.
Detroit looks to end a more recent tradition of Thanksgiving Day losses — it stands at six straight years. One of the most memorable games of the longstanding Packers-Lions rivalry happened on Thanksgiving 1962, when Detroit sacked quarterback Bart Starr 11 times and the Lions handed Green Bay its only loss of what would be a championship season. Some insist it is the greatest Thanksgiving win in Detroit’s history.
Dallas and Washington also rekindle a longtime divisional rivalry, the most famous finish of which occurred on a Thanksgiving back when the teams’ mutual animosity was at its richest.
The newer 49ers and Seahawks rivalry is not as saturated with history as the two mentioned above, but this game is for first place in the NFC West. Do not be surprised if Thursday’s clash provides moments that fans of the two teams will be talking about years down the road.
The first Black Friday game ever in the NFL features the Dolphins visiting the Jets. We are not sure whether the league is calling it a “Black Friday” game because it occurs the day after Thanksgivinng…or because the Jets’ offense is on the field.
So enjoy a second helping, put your feet up and make sure the remote is within reach. Here is a closer look at the four holiday games.
Green Bay (4-6) at Detroit (8-2), 12:30 p.m., ET, Fox
This game showcases two teams who came off inspiring wins on Sunday. The Bears stormed back from a 12-point deficit to beat Chicago and Green Bay overtook the Chargers late at Lambeau.
No matter the sport, great teams find ways to win games they shouldn’t. And the Lions had no business winning Sunday against the Bears.
QB Jared Goff redeemed himself in rallying the Lions late and looks to rebound with a better effort against Green Bay. His counterpart Jordan Love played his best football over the last three weeks, and oudueled LA’s Justin Herbert at Lambeau. Love and his young wideouts Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed are finding a groove — probably too late to make a serious postseason run, but perhaps enough to convince the Packers’ organization that the young QB needs another look next season.
RB Aaron Jones is unlikely to play on Thanksgiving because of a sprained MCL that forced him from the Chargers game. He’s one of 16 Packers listed on their injury report heading into this contest (including the rookie WR Reed, who has a chest injury). Green Bay will lean on running back AJ Dillon (405 yards) to establish the run game. Tough to do behind an underperforming OL going up against the Lions’ strong run defense. Though Love showed earlier this year the ability play from behind, a big deficit against Aidan Hutchinson in a frenzied road environment will not work to the quarterback’s favor.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers' defense needs to stop Detroit’s physical yet explosive running attack. If Goff’s reckless performance against Chicago foreshadows a pattern, Green Bay’s pass defense (No. 7 in the league) is good enough to turn him over. The Packers also boast a top-10 red-zone defense, while the Lions red-zone offense is middle of the pack. So, at the very least, Green Bay hopes to hold Detroit to field goals. If that happens, the Packers will likely be hanging around in the second half.
Perhaps we need more evidence before calling the Lions a “great” team. Still, a Thanksgiving game featuring a playoffs-bound Detroit team makes this tradition something other than passing time until visiting relatives cave in your holiday. Detroit 31, Green Bay 20.
Washington (4-7) at Dallas (7-3), 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Cowboys overcame a minor inconvenience in Charlotte with a fourth-quarter scoring burst that turned a one-possession game into a rout. The Commanders came up with maybe their biggest dud of the season, turning the ball over six times in a crucial home loss to a terrible Giants team.
Washington’s hope for an upset depends on dynamic, error-free Sam Howell to show up. For a three-week stretch, the Washington QB was mostly both, but against New York, his mistakes were costly.
Against Dallas, such mistakes will be devastating.
Howell tries to operate behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The Commanders have allowed a whopping 51 sacks in 11 games (second to the Giants and their ridiculous 63). So, of course, Howell is looking forward to facing Micah Parsons (10 sacks) and a Dallas pass rush coming in with 33 sacks on the year. It will help Howell and the passing game if running back Brian Robinson finds some holes to run through, but, as with the Packers above, the score could likely dictate how quickly Washington says to hell with the run. That, and the Commanders running game is anemic to begin with.
Against Carolina, the Dallas QB-WR combo of Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb cooled a bit, following weeks of searing production. Against the Commanders, the Cowboys may look to give the ball more to RB Tony Pollard, who had one of best games in weeks on Sunday. The Cowboys’ red-zone offense improved in recent games after being at the bottom of the league in September. The Cowboys are also one of the top offenses in the league at converting third downs.
If both those trends hold, the home team should win handily. Dallas 34, Washington 17.
San Francisco (7-3) at Seattle (6-4), 8:20 ET, NBC
The 49ers prepared for this matchup Sunday by putting together their second dominating win in as many weeks. The Seahawks got caught looking into the backfield against the Rams and took a disappointing road loss.
A decade ago, this was perhaps the fiercest and most physically punishing rivalry in the NFL. Right now, the 49ers are the more physical of the two teams, and they will look to combat the ear-splitting environs of Lumen Field by setting loose their running attack, which has improved mightily since the return of All-Pro Trent Smith to the lineup.
The other key to running the crowd noise aground is RB Christian McCaffrey, the league’s leading rusher, whose ability to control a game by carrying and catching the ball makes him the NFL’s most complete offensive force.
If the running game excels, so too does the play-action passing of Brock Purdy. In the two games since San Francisco returned from its bye, Purdy played nearly flawless football. The Seahawks’ secondary is young, talented, but also one of the league’s most vulnerable and will have to contend with the surging tandem of tight end George Kittle and wideout Brandon Aiyuk.
On offense, Seattle will need a big game from quarterback Geno Smith and his developing corps of young receivers, led by D.K. Metcalf. And that is not a far-fetched possibility. The Niners defensive front, fortified by newcomer Chase Young, looked formidable against Jacksonville, but reverted to form against Tampa Bay. True, it managed four sacks, but the line, for the most part, gave Bucs QB Baker Mayfield time to throw.
One key matchup to watch is Metcalf squaring off against Charvarius Ward. Seattle’s big wideout has "charred" the 49ers corner at “various” times, most notably in last January’s Wild Card-round game, in which Metcalf caught 10 passes for 136 yards and two TDs.
This is the first of two key games within three weeks between these two teams. What gives us pause is the location of this game and a history of San Francisco doing face plants in the great Pacific Northwest. Still, the 49ers seemed to right themselves after their three-game skid before the bye. San Francisco 28, Seattle 16.