The NFL will hold three regular-season games on Thanksgiving Day this year, as it has each season since 2006. One week from today, Chicago plays in Detroit, Philadelphia heads to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, and Seattle will travel to San Francisco. I think the NFL should be praised for creating a schedule this year that honors tradition and focuses on rivalries.
It was November 29, 1934, when the Lions hosted the Chicago Bears and began a long-running tradition of playing home contests on Turkey Day. The Dallas Cowboys joined the fun in 1966, when they defeated the Cleveland Browns by the final score of 26-14. To the NFL's (and the teams' ?) credit, both Detroit and Dallas continue play on the fourth Thursday in November. The Lions' have played nearly half of their 74 Thanksgiving Day contests against one of their two long-time rivals, the Bears and the Green Bay Packers.
Not as many of Dallas's Thanksgiving Day games have been against current division rivals. This season's game against Philadelphia will be just the tenth Turkey Day game for the Cowboys against either the Eagles, Redskins, or Giants since Dallas began playing on the holiday. You have to credit the schedule-makers, though, for adding a game between NFC East franchises to this year's docket, since the division itself is full of fierce and traditional rivalries.
The Seahawks and 49ers games are "new" rivals: The two teams have shared a division only since the last realignment, which took affect starting in 2002.* But they've played some close games over the last few seasons, with four of their seven meetings since the start of the 2011 being decided by seven points or less. It's good to have two combatants who've had some tightly-contested tilts in recent years scheduled to play Thanksgiving night.
So hats off again to whomever created this year's NFL Thanksgiving Day schedule. You've put together a fantastic set of games that appeal to the tradition of NFL Thanksgiving football while also providing fans with great rivalries.
*Note-Actually, this sentence is not entirely correct. San Francisco and Seattle actually played in the NFC West during the Seahawks' inaugural NFL season, in 1976. Yeah, I was surprised too. The Seahawks then moved to the AFC West for 1977 and didn't return to the NFC until 2002.
**Note 2-Sources for this post were nfl.com, pro-football-reference.com, and the following two pages on Thanksgiving Day football from www.profootballhof.com: Page 1 and page 2.