Thanksgiving football schedule 2020: NFL releases holiday games, opponents for Cowboys & Lions



Family, food and football is a Thanksgiving tradition like no other. 

The Lions are a great pairing with Thanksgiving lunch. The Cowboys go well when it’s time for leftovers, and the last game comes on just in time for the dessert. You probably don’t need it but definitely won’t be turning it down. (Applicable to both the dessert and the third game).

Here’s a complete guide to the NFL’s Thanksgiving games in 2020, including the matchups, times and TV channels for each game.

2020 NFL SCHEDULE RELEASE:
Strength of schedule rankings | Best “revenge” games

Thanksgiving football schedule 2020

The Lions will get football on Thanksgiving started, as usual, hosting the Texans at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Cowboys welcome the Redskins at 4:30 p.m. ET and the Ravens visiting the Steelers caps off the night at 8:20 p.m. ET.

Game Kickoff time TV channel
Texans at Lions 12:30 p.m. ET Fox
Redskins at Cowboys 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
Ravens at Steelers 8:20 p.m. ET NBC

Deshaun Watson

Texans at Lions

  • Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: Fox

The Lions and Texans will meet for the first time since they matched up on Thanksgiving eight years go. That loss might still sting for Lions fans. Detroit had a 24-14 lead in the third quarter when Houston running back Justin Forsett scored on an 81-yard touchdown.

The replay showed Forsett’s elbow and knee were down after a short gain, which Lions coach Jim Schwartz saw. He chucked his red challenge flag on to the field, which might have cost the Lions the game. The play was automatically reviewed since it was ruled a touchdown, and because Schwartz threw the flag anyway, the rules said the refs couldn’t review the play. The Texans went on to win 34-31 in overtime. 

J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Matthew Stafford are the only players from that game that are still on their team. Deshaun Watson is now the man for the Texans as they try for their fifth AFC South title in six years.

Both Bill O’Brien and Matt Patricia, two Bill Bellichick disciples, received some heavy criticism during the offseason. O’Brien made some head-scratching moves as both the Texans head coach and general manager. Patricia traded his best defensive player, Darius Slay, who aired some dirty laundry on his way out of town. 

Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott

Redskins at Cowboys

  • Kickoff time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS

The Redskins and Cowboys know each other well. When they get together in Dallas on Thanksgiving, it’ll be their 122nd matchup. But a lot of fresh faces will be around in the 2020 season, namely Ron Rivera and Mike McCarthy. 

Both teams brought in new head coaches in the offseason. Rivera spent nine years as the head coach of the Panthers before he was fired with four games left in the 2019 season. McCarthy spent 13 seasons as the head coach in Green Bay before taking a year off from coaching in 2019. 

Both coaches get a brand new start with their new franchises but have different expectations moving forward. The Cowboys moved on from Jason Garrett with hopes of McCarthy taking the team to the next level. Dallas led the NFL in total offense in 2019 thanks to Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekial Elliot and a strong offensive line. The pieces are in place for McCarthy to succeed.

It’s a different story in Washington. Rivera took over for the second-worst team in football in 2019. He is tasked with figuring out if Dwayne Haskins is the right guy at quarterback, and ultimately completely rebuilding the roster. 

Ben Roethlisberger

Ravens at Steelers

  • Kickoff time: 8:20 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: NBC

What a treat. Just in case there wasn’t enough to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, the football Gods blessed Thursday night with one of the league’s best rivalries. 

Mike Tomlin was brought in to coach the Steelers in 2007. John Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens the next year. In the 13 seasons since, the duo have combined to have one losing season. They are two of the absolute best coaches in football, and it was proven again in 2019.

Harbaugh and the Ravens completely redesigned their offense around Lamar Jackson. The Ravens won 14 games and Jackson was named the league MVP in his second season. 

In Week 1 of 2019, Tomlin and the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season due to injury. They only mustered the 30th ranked offense in the league, yet finished one game away from the playoffs. 

Big Ben has returned for 2020, but the end could be in sight. NFL teams had a lot of time to try and figure out Lamar Jackson in the offseason, but will defenses be able to slow him down?

Tune in on Thanksgiving night to find out.

NFL OFFSEASON 2020:
Draft grades | Power rankings | Best free agents available

What football teams always play on Thanksgiving?

Yes, the Cowboys have hosted a Thanksgiving game for 42 consecutive years, but Dallas is still far off from Detroit in terms of being a Thanksgiving mainstay. With the exception of a six-season gap from 1939 to 1944, the Lions this season are playing their 81st straight Thanksgiving game, a streak that began in 1934.

The Lions, who have a 37-41-2 record in Thanksgiving games, started the tradition during their first year in Detroit. George A. Richards, who had just purchased the team, figured a game on Thanksgiving would help his team steal attention from the more popular Detroit Tigers. Sure enough, tickets for the Lions game against the Bears in 1934 sold out two weeks ahead of time, and according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, another 25,000 tickets could have been sold had University of Detroit Stadium seated more than 26,000.

The successful turnout meant a Thanksgiving tradition was born. And another one joined some 30 years later.

The Cowboys, who have a 31-20-1 record in Thanksgiving games, started their Thanksgiving game tradition in 1966, when then-general manager Tex Schramm signed up for the holiday game in an effort to boost the franchise’s popularity. It worked. The Cowboys that Thanksgiving broke what was then their attendance record, as 80,259 fans watched the team beat the Browns at the Cotton Bowl.

The Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving every year since except two. In 1975 and 1977, the NFL awarded Thanksgiving games to the St. Louis Cardinals, instead, in an attempt to boost that franchise’s national exposure. The Cardinals lost both games, and the Cowboys reclaimed the tradition in 1978.

What teams have never played on Thanksgiving?

The Jaguars have to be looking at the Lions and their 79 appearances on Thanksgiving and thinking: Come on, can’t we just get one game?

Jacksonville, which along with Carolina entered the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1995, is the only one of the 32 current NFL teams that has never played a game on Thanksgiving. The Panthers joined the list of Thanksgiving participants when they beat the Cowboys in 2015.

The Buccaneers, Texans and Bengals also have just one Thanksgiving appearance apiece. The Arizona Cardinals technically have played on Thanksgiving just once, but the Cardinals franchise, which began in Chicago and spent many years in St. Louis before it moved to the desert, has appeared on Thanksgiving 23 times.

Below is a list of NFL teams in order by number of Thanksgiving game appearances.

Team Thanksgiving games
Detroit Lions 79
Dallas Cowboys 51
Green Bay Packers 36
Chicago Bears 33
Arizona Cardinals 23
New York Giants 15
Washington Redskins 12
Denver Broncos 11
Kansas City Chiefs 9
Pittsburgh Steelers 9
Minnesota Vikings 8
Buffalo Bills 8
Oakland Raiders 7
Philadelphia Eagles 7
Miami Dolphins 7
Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers 6
San Francisco 49ers 5
New England Patriots 5
New York Jets 5
Los Angeles Chargers 5
Seattle Seahawks 4
Los Angeles Rams 4
Indianapolis Colts 4
Cleveland Browns 3
Atlanta Falcons 3
Baltimore Ravens 3
New Orleans Saints 2
Houston Texans 2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1
Carolina Panthers 1
Cincinnati Bengals 1
Jacksonville Jaguars 0

Tadd Haislop contributed to this article.





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