Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 12 Games To Watch: Thanksgiving Hors d'Oeuvres

Ok, let’s admit it.  Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful celebration of family, friends and good health.  However, it can also be a day of stress, coping with family (in-laws and own) and smoky kitchens.  For many of you, it may also have been a day to dread because starting at 1:00 PM ET, it was a day of wall-to-wall football.  Husbands mindlessly chomping on the pumpkin pie you made from scratch as they gazed at the screen, oblivious to the blood, sweat and tears you put into their dessert.

My hope, and my goal for starting this blog, is that by reading Naptime Huddle, any dread or resentment you may have felt for football—and the effect it has on your holidays—has been replaced with tolerance, understanding (intellectual and emotional) and, dare I say it, an appreciation for the game.  To further this evolution, I am pleased to announce that there are actually great games on the slate for the holiday!

Football on Thanksgiving is a long-lived American tradition, dating back to the 1920’s.  In addition to the so-called “Thanksgiving Classic” games in the NFL on Thursday, the weekend is traditionally reserved for the biggest rivalry games in college football (to name a few:  Michigan vs. Ohio State, Texas vs. Texas A&M, USC vs. UCLA, Alabama vs. Auburn). 

But, back to the pros… The Detroit Lions have played in the Thanksgiving Classic every year since 1945; the Dallas Cowboys began playing on Turkey Day in 1966, and ever since then both teams have played on the holiday each year (just never against each other).  The NFL Network began broadcasting a night game in 2006, and we’ve been getting a triple helping of football ever since.  So, loosen your belts and prepare to feast: 

1.  Green Bay Backers @ Detroit Lions (12:30 PM ET, FOX):  For the past few years, fans and media alike were asking whether another team should replace the Lions on Thanksgiving.  After all, the Lions haven’t won on Thanksgiving Day since 2003, and many of the recent games weren’t even competitive.  The Lions and the Packers have played each other in the Thanksgiving Classic numerous times, including every year in the span from 1951-1963 (as a matter of fact, that 2003 win was against the Packers).   This year is different.  This year, the Packers are undefeated and the Lions are in second place in the NFC North division with only three losses.  Will the 1972 Dolphins be popping the corks on Thanksgiving?

2.  Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys (4:15 PM ET, CBS):  With last place in the AFC East, no one is contemplating a late-season surge to carry the Dolphins into the playoffs.  However, QB Matt Moore, who replaced injured Chad Henne, has been on fire, leading the Fins to three straight wins.  Though they will be watching the playoffs from home, there is nothing a down-and-out team loves more than playing the role of spoiler.  The race in the NFC East is a dead heat between the Cowboys, who are riding their own three-game winning streak, and the New York Giants, who are in a two-game skid and play the always-tough New Orleans Saints Monday night.  Will the Cowboys continue their winning ways or will the Dolphins fin-slap them back down to earth?

3.  San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens (8:20 PM ET, NFL Network):  This is the game I’m looking forward to the most.  As chronicled previously on NH, the 49ers have quietly earned a 9-1 record, and have a firm grip on first place in the NFC West.  However, with only one opponent with a winning record left on their schedule after this week (the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15), if the Niners can beat the Ravens, they will give the Packers a run for their money for first place in the NFC, which would give them a first round bye in the playoffs.  The matchup to watch here will be the 49ers offense, which has been using a run-first formula, against the physical, in-the-trenches Ravens defense, which were hobbled last week without its heart and soul, star linebacker Ray Lewis (toe injury).  Both teams are known for their blue-collar, shut-up-and-get-to-work attitudes.  Both teams play to their own strengths instead of basing their game plans on their opponents’ strengths.  Both are successful.  Why are these two teams so similar?  This is the best part:  THEIR HEAD COACHES ARE BROTHERS!  That’s right… Jim (49ers) and John Harbaugh (Ravens) will each be taking an end of the wishbone for Thanksgiving dinner.  For the record, this is the first time in NFL history that head-coaching brothers will face each other.

What’s not to love?!? 

Naptime Huddle wishes you and yours a happy and blessed Thanksgiving, whether you’re sitting at the dining room table or in front of the television.

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