Parades, Black Friday Sales, inlaws grousing about the food and picky eaters.

There’s always football on Thanksgiving. This year, NFL fans will get a chance to shove food in their faces and watch football. The schedule makers have once again given football fans a pigskin buffet with not one, not two but three games on the tube.

How did all of this get started, you ask?

Glad you asked.

We’re about to explain it to you.

In 1920, there were a total of six games that were played on Turkey Day. While we will never know who liked dark meat or light, we can tell you that the home teams that day did quite well, going four for six.

The idea of professonal football on Thanksgiving Day? It came as a way to make money and for the new league we know now as the National Football League a chance to get some recognition. The NFL Historians and the good folks at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio tell us that the Chicago Bears introduced their newest star, Illinois RB Red Grange – “the Galloping Ghost” to a standing room-only crowd at Wrigley Field of 36,000 fans in a contest against their cross-town rivals the Chicago Cardinals. Even though the two teams fought to a 0-0 tie, they had their star, the league got its much-needed recogniition and the rest, they say is history. Even though he got a black eye for his effort (probably from either being tackled or reaching for the mashed potatoes before the prayer was said), Grange tallied 92 yards rushing, 56 yards on punt returns, throwing six passes and had an interception to stop a Cardinals drive. Newspapers reported that he took home a whopping $12,000 for his day of work, most of which went to his manager C.C. “Cash and Carry” Pyle.

Grange would travel the nation over the next several months on a barnstorming tour. More than 400,000 spectators – from coast to coast – saw the fabled All-America from the University of Illinois display his athletic talents on the football field.

With Grange as his star attraction, Pyle organized a rival league called the American Football League in 1926. Grange starred for the New York Yankees. While the Yankees had moderate success, the league failed. Grange rejoined the Bears in 1927 but suffered a serious knee injury that sidelined him through the entire 1928 season. He came back in 1929 and played with Chicago through 1934. While known as a runner, Grange was better as a defensive back. More importantly for the NFL, the name recognition of Red Grange was instrumental in attracting large crowds for the professional game. His signing with the Bears helped the league succeed and grow to a new level in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

As for the two major teams that play at home on Thanksgiving Day… Detroit and Dallas?

The Lions began playing on Turkey Day in 1934 when they played the Chicago Bears and lost to Da Bears by a final of 19-16. We’re still not sure who got the drumstick or if the Lions liked dark or white meat and we’re not even sure if the Bears liked gravy on their dressing. Detroit did find the win column the next year, as they would beat Chicago and gain some revenge, taking a 14-2 win.

The Lions and Bears (sorry, no tigers… oh my!) would play Chicago three more times from 1936 to 1938, when that Hitler guy ruined the party and would eventually force America and the rest of the world into the Second World War. While America was out saving the world from a madman that was bent on killing 6 million people because of their religion, Thanksgiving Day football went into hibernation, plus it was kind of hard to throw a football when you’re trying to throw a grenade.

The war ended, Hilter’s dead (probably from overeating, if the Russians didn’t get him first) and things did get back to normal in 1945 when the Lions once again took the stage, losing to the Cleveland Rams (yes, the Rams were in Cleveland before they loaded up the truck and moved to Los Angeles and then to St. Louis before coming back to Tinseltown) by a 28-21 final. Things didn’t go well for Detroit for four more seasons (probably due to over-eating before, during and after the game) before beating up on the New York Yanks 49-14 in 1950.

Detroit with their game against Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day will have played a grand total of 75 games on Thanksgiving Day and even when the team was bad, fans still come to the game. Why? Probably because their fathers brought their kids to the games and they in turn brought their kids. A whopping total of 4,233,461 have seen the Lions at home in the 75 games played, either at Tiger Stadium, the Pontiac SilverDome or Ford Field, averaging a little over 56 thousand a contest. Even when the team was bad, fans still came out and to watch their team. Some came before they sat down to eat and some leaving early to get home to eat.

While the Lions have been the home team on Thanksgiving, their opponents have changed from year to year. 27 teams have played the Lions and the most common opponent is Green Bay. The second most common opponent? Da Bears.

There have been blowouts and there have been some really good games in the series. Have there been shutouts, you ask? Yes, just as sure as your aunt Grace is going to serve that orange and rum cheesecake for dessert. (Pack the Pepto, it’s gonna be a long day). Seven contests have been shutouts but the Lions only have won one contest where they did the deed, a 24-0 win over Chicago in 1979 and three games have gone into overtime (think of it as going for seconds of your sister’s mashed potatoes). The first overtime contest took place in 1980, when Chicago beat Detroit 23-17 on a 95-yard kickoff return by David Williams. The last overtime game in the series was last year against Houston, as the Texans would win it on a 32-yard field goal by kicker Shanyne Graham.

As for the Cowboys… America’s Team didn’t make it onto the Thanksgiving Day Stage until 1966, when their first contest took place in the Cotton Bowl against the St. Louis Cardinals. They won that contest 46-21 in the Lone Star STate that day. The Cowboys have always played their games later in the afternoon. Think of it as dessert after you’ve cleaned your plate while being forced to sit at the kids’ table with your ugly cousin Terri (although she’s gotten a lot better looking lately). They started out winning their first six contests before finally losing to San Francisco in 1972. The only year America’s Team did not grace the nation’s TV screens was in 1975 but they came back the following year before skipping the 1977 season but returned the following year and they’ve been with us ever since… think of that really bad gravy your cousin Marge made three years ago. It’s that bad (we’re speaking of the gravy, not the football). The Cowboys have played 45 games on Thanksgiving, winning 30 of them with 15 losses.

Is this the end of football on Turkey Day? Far from it. In 2006, the NFL decided that if two games on Thanksgiving Day were good, then three must be great and that was the case when they when prime time for football fans. It’s like going back and making a turkey and ham sandwich with cranberry sauce as a snack.

2016 will give football fans three chances to watch as much football and shove as much food in their faces as they can do so (use your common sense when eating, no elbows on the table and watch out for your cousin Connie. She’s the one that turned 57, dates a 42-year old football coach and once wiped out your Super Bowl party last year by eating an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?” The girl’s a bottomless pit!).

Minnesota and Detroit get things underway on the Turkey Day gridiron at 12:30 p.m. on CBS. After you’ve had the first plate, Washington and Dallas square off at AT&T Stadium (aka JerryWorld) at 4:30 p.m. on FOX and be sure to make room on the football plate, because at 8:30, Pittsburgh travels to the Hoosier State for a meeting with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on NBC.

Minnesota at Detroit: The Lions have won their last three games on Turkey Day, taking a 45-14 win over Philadelphia last year and overall, the Lions are 36-38-2. Minnesota on Turkey Day? 5-2, with their last win coming in 2000 when they beat Dallas 27-15 in Irving. The Vikings have played Detroit three times on Thanksgiving Day, all in the Motor City and they come away winners in two of those contests (Minnesota’s last meeting with Detroit came in 1995 and the Lions were 44-38 winners, while the Vikings’ last win came in 1998, when they shut out the Lions 23-0).

Washington at Dallas: Dallas and Washington have met on Thanksgiving Day seven times and the Cowboys have won five of those meetings (the Cowboys were 27-20 winners in 2002, while Washington’s last victory over their NFC East foes came in 2012 by a final of 30-27). Despite losing Romo and being blown out of the gravy by Cam Newton and the Panthers last year (they have lost their last two contests), the Cowboys are 29-18-1 in games played in Dallas, Irving and Arlington on Thanksgiving Day. Dallas’ last win on Thanksgiving Day came in 2013, when they beat Oakland 31-24. The Redskins’ record on Turkey Day? 2-6.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis: Pittsburgh has never played at home on Thanksgiving and has not done well on Turkey Day, going 1-6, with their last win coming in 1950, when they beat the Chicago Cardinals 28-17 in Chicago. Their last contest was in Baltimore in 2013 and the Ravens were 22-20 winners. Indy’s last Turkey Day win came in 2007, when a young man named Peyton Manning, went into Atlanta with his team and took the Falcons to task 31-13 in the Georgia Dome. Indy’s record on Thanksgiving Day is 2-0-1.

In case you’re wondering how your team has done on games on Thanksgiving Day, here are the standings for the current NFL franchises. The records do include games that were played in the AFL (American Football League) but it doesn’t include games that were played in the All-America Football Conference, the precursor to the National Football League.

Team (Record, Last Game)
Baltimore (2-0, 2013)
Carolina (1-0, 2015)
Houston (1-0, 2012)
New Orleans (1-0, 2010)
Philadelphia (6-1, 2015)
Indianapolis (2-0-1, 2007)
Minnesota (5-1, 2000)
Los Angeles (3-1, 1975)
Miami (5-2, 2011)
Tennessee (5-2, 2008)(including games when the Titans were known as the Tennessee Oilers)
San Diego (2-1-1, 1969)
Dallas (29-18-1, 2015)
New York Giants (7-4-3, 2009)
New England (3-2, 2012)
Chicago (17-15-2, 2015)
Kansas City (5-5, 2006)
New York Jets (4-4, 2012)(which includes games that took place when the Jets were the Titans from 1960 to 1962)
San Francisco (2-2-1, 2014)
Seattle (2-2, 2014)
Atlanta (1-1, 2007)
Detroit (36-38-2, 2015)
Buffalo (3-4-1, 1994)
Oakland (3-4, 2013)
Green Bay (14-20-2, 2015)
Denver (4-7, 2009)
Arizona (6-15-2, 2008)
Washington (2-6, 2012)
Pittsburgh (1-6, 2013)
Cincinnati (0-1, 2010)
Tampa Bay (0-1, 2006)
Cleveland (0-3, 1989)

Who hasn’t played on Thanksgiving Day? Just two teams have yet to join the Turkey Pigskin Party. Jacksonville, who became a card-carrying member of the NFL in 1995 and the Cleveland Browns, who came back to the NFL in 1999, are the only two teams to NOT be on the field on Thanksgiving Day. The longest drought? San Diego. Their last appearance took place in 1969 and that is one year before the AFL and NFL merged.

Since 2010, the league has made efforts to end the longest droughts. New Orleans, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Houston, and Carolina all played their first Thanksgiving games during this time frame. San Francisco likewise played their first Thanksgiving game since 1972 in 2011.

Food and football. The NFL and Thanksgiving. The only other holiday that joins food and football? Super Bowl Sunday (which technically is not a holiday but some think it should be). It seems that the powers that run the National Football League knows what they’re doing. Mind your manners, no belching at the table and try not to cheer with your mouth full, k?

Here’s a history of football on Thanksgiving (source: the National Football League)

November 25, 1920
AKRON PROS 7, Canton Bulldogs 0
Decatur Staleys 6, CHICAGO TIGERS 0
ELYRIA (OH) ATHLETICS* 0, Columbus Panhandles 0
DAYTON TRIANGLES 28, Detroit Heralds 0
CHICAGO BOOSTERS* 27, Hammond Pros 0
All-Tonawanda (New York) 14, ROCHESTER JEFFERSONS 3

November 24, 1921
Canton Bulldogs 14, AKRON PROS 0
Buffalo All-Americans 7, CHICAGO STALEYS 6

November 30, 1922
Buffalo All-Americans 21, ROCHESTER JEFFERSONS 0
CHICAGO CARDINALS 6, Chicago Bears 0
RACINE LEGION 3, Milwaukee Badgers 0
Oorang Indians 18, COLUMBUS PANHANDLES 6
CANTON BULLDOGS 14, Akron Pros 0

November 29, 1923
CANTON BULLDOGS 28, Toledo Maroons 0
CHICAGO BEARS 3, Chicago Cardinals 0
GREEN BAY PACKERS 19, Hammond Pros 0
Milwaukee Badgers 16, RACINE LEGION 0
AKRON PROS 2, Buffalo All-Americans 0

November 27, 1924
AKRON PROS 22, Buffalo Bisons 0
Chicago Bears 21, CHICAGO CARDINALS 0
FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 32, Dayton Triangles 7
CLEVELAND BULLDOGS 53, Milwaukee Badgers 10 at Canton, Ohio
Green Bay Packers 17, KANSAS CITY BLUES 6

November 26, 1925
CHICAGO BEARS 0, Chicago Cardinals 0
Kansas City Cowboys 17, CLEVELAND BULLDOGS 0 at Hartford, Connecticut
Rock Island Independents 6, DETROIT PANTHERS 3
POTTSVILLE MAROONS 31, Green Bay Packers 0

November 25, 1926
New York Giants 17, BROOKLYN LIONS 0
Los Angeles Buccaneers 9, DETROIT PANTHERS 6
CHICAGO BEARS 0, Chicago Cardinals 0
FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 20, Green Bay Packers 14
POTTSVILLE MAROONS 8, Providence Steam Roller 0
CANTON BULLDOGS 0, Akron Pros 0

November 24, 1927
Chicago Cardinals 3, CHICAGO BEARS 0
POTTSVILLE MAROONS 6, Providence Steam Roller 0
Green Bay Packers 17, FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 9
Cleveland Bulldogs 30, NEW YORK YANKEES 19

November 29, 1928
Providence Steam Roller 7, POTTSVILLE MAROONS 0
DETROIT WOLVERINES 33, Dayton Triangles 0
FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 2, Green Bay Packers 0
CHICAGO BEARS 34, Chicago Cardinals 0

November 28, 1929
New York Giants 21, STATEN ISLAND STAPLETONS 7
FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 0, Green Bay Packers 0
Chicago Cardinals 40, CHICAGO BEARS 6

November 27, 1930
STATEN ISLAND STAPLETONS 7, New York Giants 6
BROOKLYN DODGERS 33, Providence Steam Roller 12
Green Bay Packers 25, FRANKFORD YELLOWJACKETS 7
CHICAGO BEARS 6, Chicago Cardinals 0

November 26, 1931
Green Bay Packers 38, PROVIDENCE STEAM ROLLER 7
STATEN ISLAND STAPLETONS 9, New York Giants 6
CHICAGO BEARS 18, Chicago Cardinals 7

November 24, 1932
CHICAGO BEARS 34, Chicago Cardinals 0
Green Bay Packers 7, BROOKLYN DODGERS 0
STATEN ISLAND STAPLETONS 13, New York Giants 13

November 30, 1933
Chicago Bears 22, CHICAGO CARDINALS 6
New York Giants 10, BROOKLYN DODGERS 0

November 29, 1934
CHICAGO CARDINALS 6, Green Bay Packers 0
Chicago Bears 19, DETROIT LIONS 16
New York Giants 27, BROOKLYN DODGERS 0

November 28, 1935
New York Giants 21, BROOKLYN DODGERS 0
CHICAGO CARDINALS 9, Green Bay Packers 7
DETROIT LIONS 14, Chicago Bears 2

November 26, 1936
DETROIT LIONS 13, Chicago Bears 7
New York Giants 14, BROOKLYN DODGERS 0

November 25, 1937
Chicago Bears 13, DETROIT LIONS 0
BROOKLYN DODGERS 13, New York Giants 13

November 24, 1938
DETROIT LIONS 14, Chicago Bears 7
BROOKLYN DODGERS 7, New York Giants 7

November 23, 1939
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 14#

November 28, 1940
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 7, Pittsburgh Steelers 0#

November 22, 1945
Cleveland Rams 28, DETROIT LIONS 21

November 28, 1946
Boston Yanks 34, DETROIT LIONS 10

November 27, 1947
Chicago Bears 34, DETROIT LIONS 14

November 25, 1948
Chicago Cardinals 28, DETROIT LIONS 14

November 24, 1949
Chicago Bears 28, DETROIT LIONS 7

November 23, 1950
DETROIT LIONS 49, New York Yanks 14
Pittsburgh Steelers 28, CHICAGO CARDINALS 17

November 22, 1951
DETROIT LIONS 52, Green Bay Packers 35

November 27, 1952
DETROIT LIONS 48, Green Bay Packers 24
DALLAS TEXANS 27, Chicago Bears 23 at Akron, Ohio

November 26, 1953
DETROIT LIONS 34, Green Bay Packers 15

November 25, 1954
DETROIT LIONS 28, Green Bay Packers 24

November 24, 1955
DETROIT LIONS 24, Green Bay Packers 10

November 22, 1956
Green Bay Packers 24, DETROIT LIONS 20

November 28, 1957
DETROIT LIONS 18, Green Bay Packers 6

November 27, 1958
DETROIT LIONS 24, Green Bay Packers 14

November 26, 1959
Green Bay Packers 24, DETROIT LIONS 17

November 24, 1960
DETROIT LIONS 23, Green Bay Packers 10
(AFL) – NEW YORK TITANS 41, Dallas Texans 35

November 23, 1961
Green Bay Packers 17, DETROIT LIONS 9
(AFL) – NEW YORK TITANS 21, Buffalo Bills 14

November 22, 1962
DETROIT LIONS 26, Green Bay Packers 14
(AFL) – New York Titans 46, DENVER BRONCOS 45

November 28, 1963
DETROIT LIONS 13, Green Bay Packers 13
(AFL) – Oakland Raiders 26, DENVER BRONCOS 10

November 26, 1964
Chicago Bears 27, DETROIT LIONS 24
(AFL) – Buffalo Bills 27, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 24

November 25, 1965
DETROIT LIONS 24, Baltimore Colts 24
(AFL) – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20, Buffalo Bills 20

November 24, 1966
San Francisco 49ers 41, DETROIT LIONS 14
DALLAS COWBOYS 26, Cleveland Browns 14
(AFL) – Buffalo Bills 31, OAKLAND RAIDERS 10

November 23, 1967
Los Angeles Rams 31, DETROIT LIONS 7
DALLAS COWBOYS 46, St. Louis Cardinals 21
(AFL) – Oakland Raiders 44, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 22
(AFL) – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 24, Denver Broncos 20

November 28, 1968
Philadelphia Eagles 12, DETROIT LIONS 0
DALLAS COWBOYS 29, Washington Redskins 20
(AFL) – OAKLAND RAIDERS 13, Buffalo Bills 10
(AFL) – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 24, Houston Oilers 10

November 27, 1969
Minnesota Vikings 27, DETROIT LIONS 0
DALLAS COWBOYS 24, San Francisco 49ers 24
(AFL) – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31, Denver Broncos 17
(AFL) – San Diego Chargers 21, HOUSTON OILERS 17

November 26, 1970
DETROIT 28, Oakland 14
DALLAS 16, Green Bay 3

November 25, 1971
DETROIT 32, Kansas City 21
DALLAS 28, Los Angeles Rams 21

November 23, 1972
DETROIT 37, New York Jets 20
San Francisco 31, DALLAS 10

November 22, 1973
Washington 20, DETROIT 0
Miami 14, DALLAS 7

November 28, 1974
Denver 31, DETROIT 27
DALLAS 24, Washington 23

November 27, 1975
Los Angeles Rams 20, DETROIT 0
Buffalo 32, ST. LOUIS 14

November 25, 1976
DETROIT 27, Buffalo 14
DALLAS 19, St. Louis Cardinals 14

November 24, 1977
Chicago 31, DETROIT 14
Miami 55, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 14

November 23, 1978
DETROIT 17, Denver 14
DALLAS 37, Washington 10

November 22, 1979
DETROIT 20, Chicago 0
Houston 30, DALLAS 24

November 27, 1980
Chicago 23, DETROIT 17 (OT)
DALLAS 51, Seattle 7

November 26, 1981
DETROIT 27, Kansas City 10
DALLAS 10, Chicago Bears 9

November 25, 1982
New York Giants 13, DETROIT 6
DALLAS 31, Cleveland 14

November 24, 1983
DETROIT LIONS 45, Pittsburgh 3
DALLAS 35, St. Louis Cardinals 17

November 22, 1984
DETROIT 31, Green Bay 28
DALLAS 20, New England 17

November 28, 1985
DETROIT 31, New York Jets 20
DALLAS  35, St. Louis Cardinals 17

November 27, 1986
Green Bay 44, DETROIT 40
Seattle 31, DALLAS 14

November 26, 1987
Kansas City 27, DETROIT 20
Minnesota 44, DALLAS 38 (OT)

November 24, 1988
Minnesota 23, DETROIT 0
Houston Oilers 25, DALLAS 17

November 23, 1989
DETROIT 13, Cleveland 10
Philadelphia 27, DALLAS 0

November 22, 1990
DETROIT 40, Denver 27
DALLAS 27, Washington 17

November 28, 1991
DETROIT 16, Chicago 6
DALLAS 20, Pittsburgh  10

November 26, 1992
Houston 24, DETROIT 21
DALLAS 30, New York Giants 3

November 25, 1993
Chicago 10, 6
Miami 16, DALLAS 14

November 24, 1994
DETROIT 35, Buffalo 21
DALLAS 42, Green Bay 31

November 23, 1995
DETROIT 44, Minnesota 38
DALLAS 24, Kansas City 12

November 28, 1996
Kansas City 28, DETROIT 24
DALLAS 21, Washington 10

November 27, 1997
DETROIT 55, Chicago 20
Tennessee 27, DALLAS 14

November 26, 1998
DETROIT 19, Pittsburgh 16 (OT)
Minnesota Vikings 46, DALLAS 36

November 25, 1999
DETROIT 21, Chicago 17
DALLAS 20, Miami 0

November 23, 2000
DETROIT 34, New England 9
Minnesota 27, DALLAS 15

November 22, 2001
Green Bay 29, DETROIT 27
Denver Broncos 26, DALLAS 24

November 28, 2002
New England 20, DETROIT 12
DALLAS 27, Washington 20

November 27, 2003
DETROIT 22, Green Bay 14
Miami 40, DALLAS 21

November 25, 2004
Indianapolis 41, DETROIT 9
DALLAS 21, Chicago 7

November 24, 2005
Atlanta 27, DETROIT 7
Denver 24, DALLAS 21 (OT)

November 23, 2006
Miami 27, DETROIT LIONS 10
DALLAS 38, Tampa Bay 10
KANSAS CITY 19, Denver 10

November 22, 2007
Green Bay 37, DETROIT 26
DALLAS 34, New York Jets 3
Indianapolis 31, ATLANTA 13

November 27, 2008
Tennessee 47, DETROIT 10
DALLAS 34, Seattle 9
PHILADELPHIA 48, Arizona 20

November 26, 2009
Green Bay 34, DETROIT 12
DALLAS 24, Oakland 7
DENVER 26, New York Giants 6

November 25, 2010
New England 45, DETROIT 24
New Orleans 30, DALLAS 27
NEW YORK JETS 26, Cincinnati 10

November 24, 2011
Green Bay 27, DETROIT 15
DALLAS 20, Miami 19
BALTIMORE 16, San Francisco 6

November 22, 2012
Houston 34, DETROIT 31 (OT)
Washington 38, DALLAS 31
New England 49, NEW YORK JETS 19

November 28, 2013
DETROIT 40, Green Bay 10
DALLAS 31, Oakland 24
BALTIMORE 22, Pittsburgh 20

November 27, 2014
DETROIT 34, Chicago 17
Philadelphia 33, DALLAS 10
Seattle 19, SAN FRANCISCO 3

November 26, 2015
DETROIT 45, Philadelphia 14
Carolina 33, DALLAS 14
Chicago 17, GREEN BAY 13

November 24, 2016
Minnesota at Detroit, 12:30 on CBS
Washington at Dallas, 4:30 p.m. on FOX
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis, 8:30 on NBC

* Non league team. Games between league teams and non league teams counted in standings in 1920.

# In 1939 and 1940, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving one week earlier. Various states celebrated on the date declared by the President, while other states recognized the traditional fourth Thursday of the month. In 1941, Thanksgiving was sanctioned by Congress to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, which it has been ever since.

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