Sports

Why do Cowboys, Lions always play on Thanksgiving?



Watching football on Thanksgiving has become a tradition for millions of families across the country. If your family is one of them, you may have noticed that two teams always seem to play on Thanksgiving: The Lions and the Cowboys.

While there’s no formal contract under which these two teams must play each Thanksgiving, it’s been an ongoing tradition for decades. The Lions started playing on Thanksgiving in 1934, while the Cowboys started their Thanksgiving games in 1966. So it’s certainly not a new tradition.

So, how did these traditions begin? Here’s the history behind the Lions and Cowboys who always play on Thanksgiving.

Which NFL team always plays on Thanksgiving?

Detriot lion

This year marks the 82nd time the Lions have competed on Thanksgiving, the most played by any team during the holiday season. Their game against the Bears this year will be the 19th time these division’s opponents compete on Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving game tradition began at Detriot in 1934. Team owner then George A. Richards bought the Lions earlier that year and he wanted to build a fan base. So he decided to host the world champions behind, the Chicago Bears. The Bears won the first game of Thanksgiving 19-16 with 26,000 fans in attendance. Since then, Detriot has hosted a Thanksgiving game every year, except from 1939-1944 due to the Second World War.

THAN: Why the Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving

Dallas Cowboys

In 1966, the Cowboys joined the Lions’ Thanksgiving tradition by hosting their own Thanksgiving game. The Cowboys general manager at the time, Tex Schramm, wanted the team to get more national attention, so he decided to have the Cowboys host a game over the holiday. They played against the Browns and won 26-14 in front of about 80,000 fans.

Since this first game, the Cowboys have played every Thanksgiving except 1975 and 1977. The reason behind this is because St. Louis Cardinals (the NFL team, at the time) took up the tradition to see if they could gain traction. Both games failed, so tradition returns to the Cowboys.

THAN: Why do Lions always play on Thanksgiving?

NFL Teams Appear in Thanksgiving Game

Here are the appearances for all NFL teams on Thanksgiving, including games in 2021.

Note: The only team that hasn’t played on Thanksgiving is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Team Thanksgiving Game
Detroit Lion 82 (82 in a row)
Dallas Cowboys 53 (43 in a row)
Green Bay Packers 36
Chicago Bears 35
The Arizona Cardinals 23
Giants in New York 15
Washington football team twelfth
Dancer broncos 11
Buffalo Bills ten
Pittsburgh Steelers 9
Chief of Kansas City 9
Minnesota Vikings 8
Las Vegas 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 charger 5
Seattle Seahawks Football Team 4
Los Angeles Rams 4
Indianapolis Colts 4
New Orleans Saints 4
Atlanta Falcons 4
Cleveland Browns 3
Baltimore Raven 3
Houston Texas 2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers first
Carolina Panthers first
Cincinnati Bengals first
Jacksonville Jaguars 0

What will NFL teams play on Thanksgiving 2021?

In 2006, the NFL decided to add a third slot game to Thanksgiving. The teams that play in third and last place on the day rotate every year, giving almost all NFL teams the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving.

This year, the Lions will play their first Thanksgiving game again by hosting the Bears. Then the Cowboys will host the Raiders. Game night will take place in New Orleans when the Saints host the Bills. Here is the broadcast schedule of the three matches.

Game Start time Channel
Bears at Lions 12:30 p.m. ET fox, fuboTV
Raiders at Cowboys 4:30 p.m. ET fox, fuboTV
Bills at Saints 8:20 p.m. ET NBC, fuboTV

The Bears and Lions have been playing this season, and the Bears won 24-14 in Week 4. Currently, the Bears (3-7) are in third place while the Lions ( 0-9-1) is in fourth place in the NFC North Leaderboard.

The last time the Raiders competed on Thanksgiving was in 2013 when they lost to the Cowboys 31-24. The Cowboys (7-3) are tied for the best record in the NFL so far this season, and they’re leading the NFC East leaderboard. The Raiders (5-5) are in third place in the AFC West.

The Bills defeated the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day 26-15 2019. The Saints also last played in 2019, beating the Falcons by 26-18. The Bills (6-4) have just dropped to second place in the AFC East standings after the Patriots won Week 11. The Saints (5-5) remain in second place in the NFC South standings behind. Buccaneers.

Here is the all-time Thanksgiving game record for the six teams playing this holiday.

  • Detriot Lion: 37-42-2
  • Chicago Bears: 19-15-2
  • Dallas Cowboys: 28-15-1
  • Las Vegas Raiders: 3-4
  • New Orleans Saints: 3-0
  • Buffalo Bills: 4-4-1





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