What’s on the NFL Thanksgiving Plate?

The Carolina Panthers are undefeated, but oddsmakers believe the Cowboys will give them a run for their money on Thanksgiving. We preview the Thanksgiving games, along with pointing out the leaders in numerous statistical categories through 11 weeks.

The NFL page turns quickly for many teams this week, as the triple-header Thanksgiving feast arrives Thursday. Give thanks for more football as Week 12 kicks off early.

If you and yours are a noon-time turkey crowd, you can ease your way into the day. No need to rush the matchups with a winning team on national television, right? The Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) travel to the long-held Thanksgiving host in the Detroit Lions (3-7). Sure, neither team has a winning record, but the Eagles are still hoping for a playoff run that eases the turkey insults on Chip Kelly.

For Philadelphia, it’s their first Thanksgiving game at Detroit since 1968, when the Eagles won 12-0. Although Detroit is only 3-7, they have won their last three Thanksgiving games and this will be their 76th Thanksgiving outing. Lions QB Matthew Stafford is averaging 387 yards passing in his last three Turkey Day trots.

Next up is the Carolina Panthers (10-0) traveling to the Dallas Cowboys (3-7) in the 4:30 p.m. ET matchup. The Panthers are only the second 10-0 team to play on Thanksgiving, and QB Cam Newton is coming off a career game last week in which he threw five touchdowns. The Cowboys are regular Thanksgiving participants and have a 29-17-1 record on the holiday. Despite the Cowboys’ record, at least one gambling site had them open as favorites against the Panthers (most now have the Panthers favored by one point), as QB Tony Romo is 4-0 against Carolina and 6-2 as a Thanksgiving starter.

The late game (8:30 p.m. ET) pits an old-school NFC North matchup, with the Chicago Bears (4-6) traveling to the Green Bay Packers (7-3). It’s the first time the Packers have hosted a Thanksgiving Day game since 1923 (that’s even before Brett Favre’s time). In his past three games against Chicago, Aaron Rodgers has 13 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 146.7 passer rating. Last year, Bears QB Jay Cutler threw two touchdowns to Alshon Jeffery on Thanksgiving, and now the Bears have RB Jeremy Langford on a roll with five touchdowns in his last five games.

We’ll preview the top games of the weekend on our Friday feast, but for now enjoy the calories and quarterbacks that Thursday will provide.


  • Carson Palmer is the new leader in NFL passer rating, overtaking Tom Brady with a 108.6 rating. Palmer leads the league with 27 touchdown passes, but among the top 15 in passer rating, Palmer’s nine interceptions are the most. Brady still easily holds the lead with a 125.7 passer rating with three receivers in the game.
  • Drew Brees has the highest completion percentage among qualifiers at 69.5, and he is the best in red zone completion percentage at 75. Marcus Mariota is second in the red zone with a 65.6 completion percentage.
  • Despite not playing on Sunday, Peyton Manning still easily leads the league with 17 interceptions, five more than anyone else.
  • Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 27 pass plays longer than 25 yards.
  • Nobody has been sacked more than Russell Wilson, who has 35.
  • Brady is second in fourth-quarter completion percentage (71.4). So who is first? It’s actually Brandon Weeden at 74.4 on 39 fourth-quarter attempts.
  • Adrian Peterson still holds the top spot for rushing yards with 1,006, but Doug Martin made a significant rise. Peterson had 45 yards on Sunday, but Martin had 235, pushing him into second place with 941 yards on the season.
  • Peterson easily leads the league with 31 runs greater than 10 yards (next closest is Martin at 24), but Peterson also continues to lead the league with 32 “stuffs” for negative yardage (next closest is LeSean McCoy at 25).
  • Peterson also leads the NFL in average per carry in the fourth quarter at a staggering 8.1 yards. Todd Gurley and Karlos Williams are also in rare air at 7.7 yards per carry in the fourth quarter.
  • Thomas Rawls is the new leader in overall yards per carry at 5.98 with Williams second at 5.80. Rawls also is best on first-down carries, averaging 6.9 yards then.
  • DeMarco Murray remains perfect in third-down carries, converting all 12 of his third-down attempts into first downs.
  • Julio Jones has overtaken Antonio Brown for the receiving lead with 1,189 yards, averaging 118.9 yards per game. He is also the leading wide receiver with 439 yards after contact.
  • Brown and Rob Gronkowski have 12 catches of more than 25 yards each, best in the NFL.
  • DeAndre Hopkins still has the lead with 135 targets, but Jones is right behind him at 134. Nobody else has more than 114 targets.
  • Tyler Eifert is averaging only 48.2 receiving yards per game, but he leads the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions and most red zone receptions (12).
  • The sackmaster is back in the top spot. J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 11½ sacks.
  •  D'Qwell Jackson is the tackles leader in the NFL with an even 100.
  • Cameron Wake has played in only seven games, but he still has the lead with four forced fumbles.
  • The Buffalo Bills cornerback tandem of Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore continues to impress. Darby leads the NFL with 18 passes knocked down and Gilmore is tied for second with Davon House with 17 each.

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