By Sarah DeWolfe | Staff Writer

With another much-anticipated Thanksgiving break on the horizon we are reminded that there is so much to look forward to during this mini-vacation. Hanging out with hometown friends, being surrounded by family, reuniting with our dogs, and the inevitable post-turkey coma we fall into after one too many helpings of mashed potatoes. While the main focus of Thanksgiving for many is the cherished family time and interaction, families like mine channel this togetherness by sitting back, relaxing, and tuning in to some Thanksgiving Day football.

This year six teams will battle it out on turkey day hoping to add another W to their regular season resumes with the hopes of clinching a playoff spot and beginning their journeys to the Super Bowl in January. The first match-up of the day sees the Detroit Lions (5-4) hosting the Minnesota Vikings (7-2) at 12:30 (available to view on FOX). These rivals go all the way back to 1961 when Detroit took first blood in their now 111-game long feud, however the Vikings currently hold the all-time lead with 71 games to the Lions’ 39. This game can’t be overlooked for either team, as countless times the Thanksgiving Day game has determined who will take the coveted Wild Card pick. Last year the Lions beat the Vikings on Thanksgiving and as if that weren’t enough they ended up edging them out of the Wild Card spot by finishing 1 game ahead in the NFC.

It could be a close game, but Detroit fans can take a huge sigh of relief as star running back Adrian Peterson-who averaged over 100 yards a game against them-is now an Arizona Cardinal. The Vikings quickly acquired RB Dalvin Cook to replace the irreplaceable, but, like seemingly every Pro-Bowl-worthy player this year, he suffered a season-ending injury. In an effort to sustain their running game, Minnesota picked up RB Latavius Murray-previously breaking ground as an Oakland Raider-back in March to step up and get the job done. So far Murray hasn’t been putting up the numbers he’s capable of, but it’ll be interesting to see what he does on Thursday. The Lions also have their first-overall-pick golden boy QB Matt Stafford, who plays more efficiently on his home field and holds 17 NFL passing records, to lead the way.

Lions QB Matt Stratford will lead the Lions offense on Thursday. Stafford averages over 3,500 yards a season since his debut for the Lions in 2009.

The next game of the day pits the Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) against host team the Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at 4:30 on CBS. Usually a team like Dallas would be favored, especially since the Chargers haven’t made the playoffs since 2013. But Dallas has amassed some very big losses this season, including RB Ezekiel Elliot who recently withdrew his appeal to his 6-game suspension and will only be eligible to play on December 24th against Seattle. QB Dak Prescott could be without another crucial target WR Dez Bryant who hasn’t been practicing due to an ankle/knee injury. They’ll also likely struggle with secondary stats as cornerbacks Brandon Carr Lions QB Matt Stafford will lead the Lions’ offense on Thursday. Stafford averages over 3,500 yards a season since his debut for the Lions in 2009 and Morris Claiborne-both of whom played key parts in the Cowboys’ defense last year-had their contracts renewed with other teams this season.

Dallas has a lot to prove as they were rated 26th in the league in passing defense last year, which could be their fatal flaw as they defend the combination of WR Keenan Allen, RB Melvin Gordon, and (possible) QB Phillip Rivers. That isn’t to say it’ll be a breeze for the Chargers. Rivers (who hasn’t missed a game since 2006) has been missing practices on concussion protocol, however he is likely to play Sunday against the Bills. If he isn’t cleared in time for Thursday the responsibility may fall on backup QB Kellen Clemens, who hasn’t had a start in 4 years.

It’s possible that the recent change of city for the Chargers (San Diego to Los Angeles) could also have some negative effects as the team goes through a big transition, and judging from their season of so-close yet so-far losses it very well might. It seems like this game could go either way, but if last year’s Super Bowl taught us anything it’s to never count a team out.

The final Thanksgiving Day game that will have everyone struggling to fight off another turkey induced nap is the New York Giants (1-8) at the Washington Redskins (4-5) at 8:30 on NBC. Washington has played in 9 Thanksgiving games but now takes on the role of the host for the first time in history. In the 2016 regular season the two teams went at it on two occasions, each taking home a win and a loss making this game a sort of tie-breaker.

These teams are no exception to the injuries that have plagued athletes around the league, especially as the New York offensive threats are dropping like flies. The Giants’ biggest loss comes as Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season ending ankle injury against the Chargers during week 8, but he wasn’t the first to leave the game early. WR Brandon Marshall signed on to play opposite OBJ for a winning combination, however after an ankle injury himself both players are now awaiting surgery. Dwayne Harris is likely to miss the remainder of the season alongside them due to a foot injury. And if that wasn’t enough, WR Sterling Shepard left the same game with an ankle injury, but has since returned to the active roster to be QB Eli Manning’s main target.

Odell Beckham Jr. had a lot of promise for the upcoming year, but suffered an ankle injury that rendered him out for the remainder of the season. He averages a little over 1000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns a season since his start in 2014.

So all things considered, it doesn’t look great for the Giants, who have only won a single game this season. But we can’t forget about rookie Evan Engram. With the majority of New York’s star offensive players out, he’s been stepping up to play a diverse number of positions. He’s ranked as one of the top receiving tight ends right now, so we can expect to see him break down the Washington defense and making his own opportunities. The Giants are 4th in the league for passing defense efficiency, meaning the Redskins can’t rely too much on QB Kirk Cousins for yardage. That could be difficult, since TE Jordan Reed and WR Terrelle Pryor are both ruled out to play on Sunday against the Saints with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively. As for Thursday it is uncertain if either player will be cleared. Thanksgiving football is a tradition like no other, and this year will certainly be unlike any other, thanks to the long list of injuries that have taken the league’s top performers off the field. But there’s no doubt these games will be action packed and filled with holiday hype.

All times listed are Eastern Time.

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