This year, the NFL is celebrating its 100th season and all of the traditions that come with it. One of these traditions as old as the league itself is the annual Thanksgiving Day game. The NFL has been playing football on Thanksgiving Day since its inception with two teams in particular becoming synonymous with the holiday.
Kicking off the three-game Thanksgiving slate today are the Detroit Lions, who take on the Chicago Bears for the second year in a row on the holiday (12.30pm ET Thursday).
A brief history of the NFL’s connection with Thanksgiving takes us back to 1920 when the league first began play. Continuing what had been a college football tradition of playing games on or around the time of the holiday, the NFL hosted its first Thanksgiving game just months into its existence. In its early years, the league used to play multiple Thanksgiving games, including six in the first year.
Beginning in 1934, the Lions started playing games on Thanksgiving and save for a period of about five years in the1940s, where Thanksgiving games were suspended due to the U.S. involvement in World War II, they’ve played every year since. In 1966, the Cowboys joined the tradition, at which point two games were played annually. Then, in 2006, due to the success of football’s TV ratings on Thanksgiving, the league added a primetime game to be given to its Sunday Night Football partner, NBC. Unlike the day games, which have permanent fixed hosts, the primetime game features different teams annually.
Unsurprisingly, the Lions hold pretty much all the records when it comes to Thanksgiving football. They have played more games than anyone, 79 in total, have more wins (37) and more losses (40). Also unsurprisingly is the fact that Detroit’s divisional rivals, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, rank third and fourth respectively in Thanksgiving games played (Dallas is second). The Bears rank third in total wins with 18, holding a record of 18-15-2 over the course of their Thanksgiving games. The most recent of which came just last year when the Bears defeated the Lions, 23-16. The Lions and Bears first played on Thanksgiving in 1934. It was the first time an NFL game was televised on a national broadcast.
Struggling Under Center
Moving on to this year’s game, we have the (5-6) Bears taking on the (3-7-1) Lions. There isn’t much fanfare here as neither team is competing for anything. Not to mention, Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford may or may not play. After missing the last three straight with a back injury, Detroit has discussed wanting to shut down Stafford for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, the veteran QB is adamant about playing again. No decision has been made official for this afternoon’s contest. That said, the expectation seems to be that Jeff Driskel will once again be under center, though his status too is a bit up in the air after he was a limited participant on Monday’s practice report. If Driskel can’t go, due to a sore hamstring, third-string QB David Blough will be tasked with leading the Lions. Perhaps Detroit is aware of this likelihood as it was Blough who took the first-team reps during practice earlier this week.
Detroit isn’t the only team with a bit of a quarterback controversy however. In Chicago, some are ready to throw in the towel on third year starter, Mitch Trubisky. The Bears gave up a lot to climb the draft board to select Trubisky, the guy they thought would be their franchise quarterback of the future. So far, that hasn’t exactly panned out. In fact, in 2019, while Trubisky has not exactly taken a step back, he hasn’t made one forward either. For Chicago, that’s a bit concerning, especially given the lofty expectations the team had and perhaps still has for Trubisky. It is worth noting however, that when the Bears and Lions met earlier this season, Trubisky had what was easily his best start of the year, throwing for 173 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 131. That’s the Trubisky the Bears traded up for in the 2017 NFL Draft. That’s the guy they want to see more of. Now, fortunately for Chicago, Trubisky bettered this performance last year against the Lions (a season-high 355 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions).
Trubisky will have a favorable matchup as he looks to right his season. The Lions offer the league’s third-worst passing defense and fifth-worst overall defense. The team has also forced the third fewest interceptions in the league with just four.
Our Betting Preview’s Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Predictions & Picks Conclusion
Neither the Bears nor the Lions are particularly good teams this year. Actually, that’s being a little generous. Both have definitely had their struggles in 2019 and the cause has been a variety of reasons. In Detroit, an injury to Stafford when he was in the midst of one of his best seasons in recent memory, derailed that could have been a playoff appearance for the Lions. But in a tough NFC, their sub-.500 record has put that almost out of the question.
The Bears, also with a sub-.500 record, are holding onto a slightly thicker thread of hope that they can still sneak in with a wildcard. Currently, Chicago is projected to get the final playoff spot, though their 5-6 record matches two other NFC teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the NFL’s easiest schedule to end the season.
Moral of the story is that while the Lions and Bears have both had tough seasons, neither team has been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention yet. After Thursday night, depending on the result, one of them very well could be. Here goes with USAbetting’s Chicago Bears vs Detroit Lions predictions:
- The Bears are strong 5.5 or 6 point favorites with the American bookies and our money is with Chicago to cover that spread. Bet the Bears -5.5pts @ -110 with Intertops or BetOnline.
- The total is set at 37 points, one of the lowest of the NFL season. The second of our picks for this NFL Thanksgiving Day game is to go over that mark of 37pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.