Every year, thousands of Americans park themselves on their couches and watch top-tier NFL squads duke it out on the biggest stage of the regular season. However, the thing with the Thanksgiving matchups is that we don’t always get to see top-tier matchups. Usually, the matchups are boring with little nuance, and little creativity on the NFL’s part. As of late, it seems that the NFL is merely letting the game’s coast by because the tradition has embedded itself into families thanksgiving routine.
Firstly, the NFL prioritizes rivalry games over interesting matchups. Every year the Cowboys and Lions play on Thanksgiving and they will usually be accompanied by another team from their division. However, the Cowboys and Lions do not command the best divisional matchups. The Cowboys rivals include the Redskins, Giants, and Eagles. The NFC East is notorious for its weak teams and this season the Redskins and Giants both have losing records while the Eagles are one game shy of a .500 record. Instead of booking the 6-5 Cowboys a matchup with the 5-6 Eagles for NFC East supremacy, the Cowboys will be playing the Buffalo Bills. A redundant rivalry that has lost its fervor in recent years after their 1990s super bowl clashes. The matchup itself looks to be an uninteresting low scoring affair with both defenses looking solid and both offenses looked underwhelming.
The Detroit Lions will be playing the division-rival Bears in another uninteresting matchup. While it is a tradition that the Lions will always play on Thanksgiving picking the Bears to play them. This matchup is coasting by on a faint feeling of a rivalry but the matchup itself looks to be another low scoring game because of a lethargic Lions offense that has lost Running Back Kerryon Johnson and QuarterBack Matt Stafford and a Bears offense that has not come together under below average QuarterBack Mitch Trubisky. If The NFL picked more interesting matchups to accommodate the below-average standards of the teams that always play on turkey day then, viewership would be up.
Second, the NFL gives too much power to the Lions and Cowboys on Thanksgiving. While the tradition is sacred and should not be tinkered with, the NFL gives too much agency to these two teams. Instead of adding nuance these teams continue to play the same matchups against uninteresting teams. An interesting spin the NFL could put on this premise is too have the Lions and Cowboys play each other on years where they are both weak teams to make room for other, better contests. This matchup could push the narrative of thanksgiving supremacy between two teams whose cultures are embedded in the game. This would make room for teams that have only played two or fewer games on thanksgiving, of which there are six. Of these teams, the Saints and Ravens have played less than two games and are successful as of late. Wouldn’t the Drew Brees lead Saints versus the Lamar Jackson led Ravens to be a matchup everyone in America would enjoy watching while in the middle of their turkey dinner?
While it is true the NFL will not budge on these reforms. Their rationale would be that people will still watch the games. Still, It would make the games more interesting and it would satisfy the football fans hungry for a change.