The Detroit Lions will host the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving Day. That comes as no surprise to NFL fans. The Lions on Thanksgiving is as much an American tradition as fireworks on the Fourth of July. This year the two other games featured are Washington at Dallas and Baltimore at Pittsburgh.


Football is a familiar backdrop as families across the country gather to give thanks for everything from life and health to family and football. However, the Detroit Lions would be a surprising choice if the holiday featured games were based on recent competitiveness.

So, how did all of this start?

The Early Days of Pro Football

In the thirties and forties as the NFL grew in popularity an increasing number of games were broadcast on the radio. George Richards, the owner of the Portsmouth (OH) Spartans, wanted to take advantage of the growing popularity of pro football.

He decided to move his team to Detroit and rename them the Lions.

To expand his new team’s popularity, Richards, who also owned a radio station, scheduled a game on Thanksgiving Day with the Chicago Bears in 1934. The result was a crowd of over 25,000 and a nationwide radio audience.

Thanksgiving Day football in Detroit was born and has been played there ever since (with the exception of a gap due to World War II).

America’s Team

In 1960, the American Football League (AFL) began play and also included a game on Thanksgiving Day. The same year, the Dallas Cowboys were established as an NFL franchise. Six years later in 1966, the Cowboys decided they would sign up for this Thanksgiving Day game.

The Dallas Cowboys have been hosting a Thanksgiving Day game since 1966

Another tradition was born.

With the exception of 1975 and 1977, when the St. Louis Cardinals stepped in, the Cowboys have hosted a Thanksgiving Day game.

In 1970, the AFL and NFL merged forming what we know today as the NFL. The league agreed to keep both the Lions and Cowboys as the anchors of NFL games on Thanksgiving Day.

These days both of the early games are broadcast nationally but by different networks.

A Third Game Added

The NFL is America’s No. 1 most-watched spectator sport. Because of this popularity, the NFL decided to add a third game to the Thanksgiving Day menu in 2006. So that year Kansas City hosted Denver in the prime time Thanksgiving game.

The third game is now part of the tradition.

With the Lions and Cowboys locked in for the earlier games, any of the remaining 30 NFL teams are eligible to play in the Thanksgiving prime time game.

Steelers Chase Unbeaten History

This year, fans have much to be thankful for as they get to watch the undefeated 10-0 Pittsburgh Steelers take on their biggest AFC North rival, Baltimore. The Ravens are led by last year’s league MVP Lamar Jackson.

Heinz Field will host the prime time game this Thanksgiving between the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens

Any time a team goes this far into the season without a loss the spotlight shines that bit brighter on them. Not many are able stand up to this increased pressure. In the last forty years, quite a few teams have threatened to match the unique season of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. But for the moment they remain alone in NFL perfection.

In the meantime, NFL on Thanksgiving is a tradition that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.


NFL Schedule for Thursday November 26th, 2020

Houston Texans at Detroit Lions (12:30 p.m. ET)

Washington at Dallas Cowboys (4:30 p.m. ET)

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (8:20 p.m. ET)