Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, and although Canadians may not be sitting down to a table packed-full of turkey, stuffing, gravy and canned cranberry sauce, we can still take part in one American Thanksgiving tradition:
Here’s a look at this year’s Turkey Day slate of NFL games.
Texans tough on the road
The Texans aim for the first 10-1 start in franchise history and the odds are in their favour. Houston is 4-0 on the road this season, winning those games by an average of 10 points.
All fear Megatron
In his past three Thanksgiving Day games wide receiver Calvin Johnson has 24 catches for 479 yards (159.7 per game) and two touchdowns.
Schaub is on fire
In his past 14 starts, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is 13-1 with 23 touchdown passes with a 99.7 passer rating and only nine interceptions. In his only career start against the Lions, Schaub had two passing scores and a 124.1 quarterback rating.
The proud Houston Texans defence will be in a foul mood when they walk onto Ford Field after getting torched for 37 points by the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.
In their three previous games the Texans had only allowed a combined 28 points, so you can only imagine how many times they have been reminded by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips about their uncharacteristic performance against the NFL’s worst offensive team.
Through no fault of his own, Calvin Johnson and his Detroit Lions have lost two straight. In his last three games, Megatron has 24 catches for 479 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately for head coach Jim Schwartz, his defence has allowed 28 fourth quarter points in their last two games, both losses to divisional foes. If that wasn’t enough, the Lions told wide receiver Titus Young he wasn’t going to play this week because of “behaviour issues.”
With only an average running game to rely on, quarterback Matthew Stafford has the burden of trying to win the game with his arm. Only this time he’s being asked to do it against linebacker J.J. Watt and Houston’s fourth-ranked defence. The Texans have caused 19 turnovers this year, good for seventh in the NFL, while the Lions have turned the ball over 18 times.
Unlike the Lions, the Texans are just as happy to pound the ball on the ground with Arian Foster as they are throwing with Schaub.
While the Lions are a long-time mainstay on the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day schedule, they haven’t won a Turkey Bowl since 2003 when they beat the Packers 22-14.
Watch Washington’s rookies
Robert Griffin III and rookie running back Alfred Morris are quite the duo. Morris is second among rookies with 869 rushing yards while Griffin has rushed for 613 yards. RG3 and Morris are the first rookie QB-RB duo in NFL history to each rush for at least 500 yards.
Cowboys thankful for Romo
The Cowboys should be thankful for quarterback Tony Romo as the Eastern Illinois product is 5-0 on Thanksgiving and 6-0 on Thursday games, completing 67.4 per cent of his passes for 1,676 yards with 18 scores and a 117.5 rating.
Ware on a tear
Defensive phenom DeMarcus Ware has been on his game recently against the Redskins, recording five sacks in past four games versus Washington. Ware has 35.5 sacks in his past 29 games and has racked up 101.5 sacks since 2006, most in the NFL.
Winners of two straight games, the Cowboys don’t need to be reminded how important this game is in their quest for the post-season. They also don’t need to be reminded that they are only one win behind the New York Giants in the NFC East. And for all of his faults, Tony Romo has a remarkable 21-3 record in November.
It’s not going to be easy for the Redskins on Thursday, as they haven’t won a game in Dallas since 2008. But this time they have a new weapon they can unleash on the Cowboys — quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Not only does RG3 have a better touchdown-to-interception ratio than Romo (12:3 to 13:13), but his 613 yards rushing is better than any Cowboys running back.
And while Romo hasn’t thrown an interception in his past three games, he has been hampered by the lack of an effective running game. To make matters worse, neither Felix Jones (knee) or DeMarco Murray (foot) practised Wednesday, putting their availability in serious doubt. If neither back can go, third-stringer Lance Dunbar (67 yards and zero touchdowns) will get the start.
Along with RG3, Alfred Morris provides the Redskins a very productive running game. While the Redskins don’t boast receivers as talented as Dallas’ Miles Austin, Jason Witten or Dez Bryant, they do have some receivers that are capable of big plays. Santana Moss caught a 61-yard touchdown in last week’s win over the Eagles and Pierre Garcon opened the season with an 88-yard touchdown in New Orleans.
DeMarcus Ware, who has 10 sacks on the season, has helped solidify the Cowboys defence (fourth in the NFC) over the last month, and they should pose all sorts of problems for Washington’s rookie sensation on Thursday.
Brady’s just being Brady
In his past four games, all of which have been wins, Tom Brady has thrown 11 touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 111.3. In his last game on Thanksgiving, Brady passed for 341 yards with four scores and a perfect 158.3 rating.
Give the ball to Greene
Jets fans should forget about Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, and hope Rex Ryan gives the ball to Shonn Greene. For his career, the Jets running back averages 103.3 rush yards per game when he runs the ball 20 times or more. The Jets are 5-0 when Greene rushes for more than 100 yards. Moral of the story: give the ball to Greene.
The loss of Rob Gronkowski is a big one for the Patriots, there’s no doubt. But Aaron Hernandez can do some damage too. Hernandez, returning from injury this week, has 10 receptions for 142 yards in his two games at MetLife Stadium against the Jets.
Since being pushed to the limit in their overtime win against the Jets in Week 7, the Patriots have scored 141 points in their last three games. At the same time the Jets have scored a grand total of 43 points in their last three.
But the Patriots will have to make due without one of their biggest weapons on Thursday, as tight end and No. 1 red zone target Rob Gronkowski is expected to be sidelined for at least the next three weeks with a broken forearm. Even with Aaron Hernandez’s return to the lineup, the loss of Gronk makes the Patriots a little easier to defend.
Ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing, Stevan Ridley and the Patriots’ running game is often overlooked because of Brady and the passing game. The Jets know all about the Patriots’ rush attack and New York’s 30th-ranked run defence must find a way to stop it if they want to have a shot at keeping this game close.
Mark Sanchez is coming off a very effective game against the Rams on Sunday and the last time these two teams met he passed for 328 yards and one touchdown. Of course Sanchez also threw an interception and his fumble in overtime cost the Jets a win.
The big difference in the build-up to this game is that Rex Ryan has done nothing but heap praise on Brady and the Patriots. Maybe Ryan realizes that without Darrelle Revis, an inconsistent offence and less talent than the Patriots the last thing he wants to do is provide any extra motivation for Brady and Bill Belichick.