Giving thanks: Playoff spots on the line between true turkey day contenders

11/27/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak

It wasn't that long ago when football on Thanksgiving Day was the hapless Detroit Lions playing someone in a game that meant little or watching the Dallas Cowboys fumble through yet another season of being mediocre.
The NFL has taken "turkey day" and turned it from television filler to ratings gold with one marquee matchup after another, this year being no different. The Thanksgiving Day fare is filled with playoff implications and teams vying for the postseason.
And, don't forget about the college game as well, which is just as meaningful.

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Chicago at Detroit
These two teams are currently on different streaks coming into this NFC Central matchup. The 5 and 6 Bears have won their past two games, while the 7 and 4 Lions have lost two in row. Not only have the Lions lost their last two games, but they haven't scored a touchdown in the past 8 quarters, getting only field goals in losses to Arizona and New England. Detroit has won 4 of their 5 home games in 2014, while Chicago has been outscored 106 to 37 in their past 2 road games. Matt Forte has amassed over 1,400 yards in total offense this season and is actually tied for 4th in the NFL in receptions. He'll be challenged to add to that total against a Lions rush defense that gives up an average of 70.7 yards per game, which is tops in the league. Detroit will be playing in their 72nd game on Thanksgiving, and have won 33, lost 36, and tied 2 of those games. Chicago has won 16, lost 13, and tied 2 on Turkey Day and are making their first appearance on Thanksgiving since 2004. This will be the first meeting between these teams on Thanksgiving since 1999, a game the Lions won 21 to 17.
Philadelphia at Dallas
First place in the NFC East is on the line in this battle of 8 and 3 division rivals. This will be the first of two games between the two, with the Eagles having a slight edge in the division standings. Philly has won both of their division games, while the Cowboys are 2 and 1. Despite the loss of starting quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles still rank 4th in the NFL in passing yards per game, averaging 293 yards per contest. In three starts in place of Foles, Mark Sanchez has passed for over 300 yards in each game. DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing with 1.354 yards, and has rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 of the Cowboys 11 games this season. This is Dallas' 47th Thanksgiving Day game, winning 29, losing 16 and tying once. Philadelphia is 4 and 1 all time on Thanksgiving, with their last Turkey Day game in 2008. These teams split their two games last season, with the road team winning both times. The Eagles have won the past 4 games played in Dallas.
Seattle at San Francisco
One of these teams has won the NFC West division the past four seasons, and rivals have identical recordss coming into this first of two meetings between them. At 7 and 4, they both trail division leading Arizona by 2 games. San Francisco has won their past three games, and are 3 and 2 at home in 2014. Seattle has won 4 of their past 5 games and are 2 and 3 on the road this season. Two of the top defenses in the NFL will be on display in this game, as the Seahawks rank 3rd against the pass and 6th against the run. The 49ers are 2nd against the pass and 7th versus the rush. Seattle's offense goes from one extreme to another. The Seahawks lead the NFL in rush yards per game, but rank 30th in passing yards. These teams have split the past four regular season games between them, but the 49ers have won the last 5 games played in San Francisco. Seattle is 1 and 2 all time on Thanksgiving, with their last appearance in 2008. San Francisco has won 3 times, lost twice, and tied once, and are playing on Turkey Day for the first time since 2011.
College Football
TCU at Texas
Sitting at #5 in the college football playoff rankings, TCU remains on the outside looking in for the second week in a row. At 9 and 1, and with the Big 12 Conference not having a championship game, the Horned Frogs will need a big time performance in their final two games to impress the playoff committee. TCU ranks 2nd in the nation in points per game, averaging 45.9 points per contest. They'll take on a Texas team that has allowed just 36 points against in their past three games. After starting the season at 2 and 4, the Longhorns have won 4 of their past 5 games and come into Thanksgiving on a three game winning streak. TCU comes in as winners of their past 5 games as well. TCU has won 3 of 4 on the road this year, while Texas is 3 and 3 at home, but have won their past two on home turf. These schools have split the last two games between them, with the visiting team winning each time.

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