Three-and-out: NFL Thanksgiving matchups

With three NFL games spread out for your Thanksgiving football feast, there are plenty of matchups to digest among six teams without a losing record (yet).

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-4) 
AT DETROIT LIONS (6-4)

In a game for the outright lead in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions are the slight favorites after beating the Minnesota Vikings in overtime of their first meeting this year, less than three weeks ago. This time, all Thanksgiving viewing eyes will be on these two teams as the turkeys are carved across the nation.

However, viewers intent on offense might be disappointed. The Vikings have the last-ranked offense and last-ranked rushing offense. The Lions have the 25th-ranked offense and 30th-ranked rushing offense. Yet, both teams won their games last week, thanks to big plays. The Vikings had a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 30-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 26-19, with the help of a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown.

While the offenses haven’t been prolific, or even average, for that matter, don’t blame the quarterbacks. Sam Bradford has a 99.8 passer rating and in the past four games has five touchdowns and one interception for the Vikings. Matthew Stafford has 18 touchdowns and five interceptions for a 101.2 rating this year and has eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four home games.

In some ways, the teams are similar, both with efficient quarterback play, no running game to speak of and a balanced receiving corps. The biggest advantage would appear to be in defense, where the Vikings rank third, including third against the pass, and the Lions are 19th overall. Don’t expect either offense to carve up the other’s defense.

  VIKINGS LIONS
SERIES LEADER 71-37-2  
STREAKS 2 of past 3  
COACHES VS. OPP. Mike Zimmer: 2-3 Jim Caldwell: 3-2
LAST WEEK W 30-24 vs. Arizona W 26-19 vs. Jacksonville
LAST GAME 11/6/16: Lions 22 at Vikings 16 (OT). Detroit K Matt Prater converts game-tying 58-yard FG as time expires in regulation. Lions WR Golden Tate has GW 28-yard TD catch in OT.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/25/15: Vikings 28, Lions 19. Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater passes for 316 yards & 2 TDs for 118.3 rating. Vikings WR Stefon Diggs has 6 catches for 108 yards & TD.
REFEREE Carl Cheffers
BROADCAST CBS (12:30 PM ET): Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter). Westwood One: Tom McCarthy, Ross Tucker, Hub Arkush (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 83 (Min), 82 (Det). XM: 83 (Min), 82 (Det).
STATS
PASSING Sam Bradford: 217-311-2191-12-2-99.8 Matthew Stafford: 238-351-2651-18-5-101.2
RUSHING Jerick McKinnon: 97-285-2.9-1 Theo Riddick: 79-310-3.9-1
RECEIVING Stefon Diggs: 67 (3L)-747-11.1-2 Golden Tate: 52-540-10.4-2
OFFENSE 293.8 331.7
TAKE/GIVE +13 (T1L) +2
DEFENSE 306.9 (3L) 358.2
SACKS Danielle Hunter: 7 Kerry Hyder: 7
INTs Xavier Rhodes: 4 Rafael Bush: 2
PUNTING Jeff Locke: 44.2 Sam Martin: 49.6 (2L)
KICKING Kai Forbath: 6 (3/4 PAT; 1/1 FG) Matt Prater: 75 (21/23 PAT; 18/21 FG)

VIKINGS

QB SAM BRADFORD passed for 273 yards & TD for 103.4 rating in last meeting. Has 5 TDs vs. 1 INT for 99.1 rating in past 4…RB MATT ASIATA aims for 3rd in row with rush TD. Had career-high 115 rush yards in 12/29/13 meeting…WR STEFON DIGGS has 40 receptions (10 per game) in past 4. Ranks 2nd in NFC with 67 receptions. WR-KR CORDARRELLE PATTERSON had 104-yard KR-TD in Week 11. Has 4 career 100+ yard TDs, most in NFL history. WR ADAM THIELEN aims for 3rd in row with TD catch. TE KYLE RUDOLPH aims for 4th in row vs. Det. with TD catch. Ties for lead among NFL TEs with 5 rec. TDs…DE EVERSON GRIFFEN has 8.5 sacks in past 8 vs. Det. DE DANIELLE HUNTERhas 3 sacks in past 2. CB XAVIER RHODES had 2 INTs, incl. 100-yard INT-TD in Week 11. S HARRISON SMITH had 10 tackles & sack last week. Since 2012, leads NFL safeties with 7.5 sacks.

LIONS

QB MATTHEW STAFFORD has 2,238 pass yards (279.8 per game) & 18 TDs with 6 INTs for 101 rating in past 8 vs. division. Has 8 TDs & 0 INTs for 119.1 rating in past 4 at home…RB THEO RIDDICK had 8 receptions for 70 yards in Week 11. Since 2015, leads NFL RBs with 123 receptions…WR ANQUAN BOLDIN has 4 TD catches in past 5 vs. Min. WR GOLDEN TATE had 11 receptions for 79 yards, including GW 28-yard TD catch in OT in last meeting. Has 285 rec. yards (95 per game) & TD in past 3 at home. TE ERIC EBRON had 1st career rush TD last week…DE EZEKIEL ANSAH has 4.5 sacks & 2 FFs in past 5 vs. Min. DE KERRY HYDER had 2 sacks in last meeting. LB TAHIR WHITEHEAD aims for 3rd in row vs. NFC North with 11+ tackles. S RAFAEL BUSH has 2 INTs & sack in past 3 at home. S TAVON WILSON had INT last week.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (6-3-1)
AT DALLAS COWBOYS (9-1)

The second game of the Thanksgiving triple-header is another divisional game, this one coming in the NFC East with the Washington Redskins trying to stay within striking distance of the Dallas Cowboys, who have the best record in the NFL.

Unlike the first game, this one features two strong offenses, each getting it done differently. The Redskins have the second-ranked offense and third-ranked passing offense. The Cowboys have the fourth-ranked offense and second-ranked ground attack.

Kirk Cousins is already over 3,000 yards passing for the Redskins, with 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 98.8 rating. That is pretty reflective of his games against the Cowboys, when he has thrown six touchdowns, two interceptions and has a 96.4 rating in four career games vs. Dallas. However, Washington’s rushing attack is nothing to dismiss, either. Robert Kelley had 137 yards and three touchdowns last week and is above 300 yards over the last three weeks, since he took over the lead-back roll.

The Cowboys have been getting most of the attention, however, because of their dynamic dual of rookies. Dak Prescott leads NFL rookies with 2,640 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and a 108.6 rating. He also has two or more touchdowns in each of his last five games. Rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL with 1,102 yards rushing and is second in the NFC with 10 touchdowns.

Cousins and Kelly vs. Prescott and Elliott. That should keep be a good counterpunch to the mid-afternoon myth of tryptophan.

 

  REDSKINS COWBOYS
SERIES LEADER   67-42-2
STREAKS   3 of past 4
COACHES VS. OPP. Jay Gruden: 2-3 Jason Garrett: 8-5
LAST WEEK W 42-24 vs. Green Bay W 27-17 vs. Baltimore
LAST GAME 9/18/16: Cowboys 27 at Redskins 23. Dallas rookie QB Dak Prescott passes for 292 yards & rushes for TD. Cowboys rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott rushes for 83 yards & TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 1/3/16: Redskins 34, Cowboys 23. Washington QB Kirk Cousins passes for 176 yards & 3 TDs for 155.1 rating. Redskins WR Jamison Crowder has 5 catches for 109 yards & TD.
REFEREE Craig Wrolstad
BROADCAST FOX (4:30 PM ET): Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter). Westwood One: John Sadak, James Lofton, Scott Kaplan (Field reporter). SIRIUS:83 (Was), 82 (Dal). XM: 83 (Was), 82 (Dal).
STATS
PASSING Kirk Cousins: 258-384-3091 (3L)-17-7-98.8 Dak Prescott (R): 214-316-2640-17-2-108.6 (3L)
RUSHING Robert Kelley (R): 84-424-5.0-4 Ezekiel Elliott (R): 223-1102 (1L)-4.9-9 (T3L)
RECEIVING Jordan Reed (TE): 49-535-10.9-3 Cole Beasley: 53-591-11.2-5
OFFENSE 418.5 (2L) 413.1
TAKE/GIVE 2 4
DEFENSE 371.3 347.9
SACKS Ryan Kerrigan: 8 Tyrone Crawford: 3.5
INTs 7 tied: 1 Brandon Carr: 1
PUNTING Tress Way: 43.7 Chris Jones: 46.6
KICKING Dustin Hopkins: 92 (T2L) (23/25 PAT; 23/27 FG) Dan Bailey: 87 (30/30 PAT; 19/21 FG)

REDSKINS

QB KIRK COUSINS completed 21 of 30 (70 pct.) for 375 yards & 3 TDs for 145.8 rating last week. Has 956 pass yards, 6 TDs & 2 INTs for 96.4 rating in 4 career meetings. Aims for 4th in row on road vs. NFC East with 100+ rating…Rookie RB ROBERT KELLEY rushed for career-high 137 yards & 3 TDs in Week 11. Has 321 rush yards (107 per game) & 4 TDs in past 3…WR JAMISON CROWDER aims for 5th in row vs. NFC East with TD. Has 23 receptions for 354 yards (88.5 per game) & 3 TDs in past 4. WR PIERRE GARÇON had 6 receptions for 116 yards & TD last week. In 6 career meetings at Dal., WR DE SEAN JACKSON is averaging 101.7 yards per game. Since 2015, TE JORDAN REED ties for NFL lead among TEs with 14 TD catches…LB RYAN KERRIGAN has 6.5 sacks in past 6. Aims for 3rd in row at Dal. with sack. CB JOSH NORMAN had FF last week. Had FF & 3 PD in last meeting. S DONTE WHITNER has 35 tackles (8.8 per game) in past 4.

COWBOYS

QB DAK PRESCOTT leads NFL rookies in pass yards (2,640), TDs (17) & rating (108.6). Has 2+ TD passes in 5 games in row, 4th rookie in NFL history with 5 consecutive multi-TD games… Rookie RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT leads NFL with 1,102 rush yards, 3rd-most in player’s 1st 10 career games. Ranks 2nd in NFC with 10 TDs (9 rush, 1 rec.)…WR DEZ BRYANT has 11 receptions for 215 yards (107.5 per game) & TD in past 2 vs. NFC East. Has 4 rec. TDs in past 3 at home. TE JASON WITTEN ranks 2nd all-time among NFL TEs with 1,069 receptions & 11,735 rec. yards…DT TYRONE CRAWFORD aims for 3rd in row vs. NFC East with sack. LB SEAN LEE has 43 tackles (10.8 per game) in past 4 meetings. CB ORLANDO SCANDRICK has 3 sacks & 2 FFs in past 4 at home.   

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-5)
AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-5)

The big question in the nightcap Thanksgiving game is whether or not Andrew Luck will be able to play. All signs point to no, as the Indianapolis Colts’ star quarterback is still in the concussion protocol and a short week isn’t going to help his odds. Instead, viewers are likely to see QB Scott Tolzien making his third NFL start and his first in three years. That could put the Colts offense that has been average with Luck in dire straits, even if the Pittsburgh Steelers pass defense is ranked 26th. At least Tolzien will have T.Y. Hilton, who has 57 catches for 888 yards.

Still, without Luck, the Steelers will hold a distinct advantage, like when they blew out the Colts last December, 45-10. QB Ben Roethlisberger already has 20 touchdowns, 2,524 yards and a 96.3 rating with Antonio Brown leading the NFL with 77 catches for 907 yards. Le'Veon Bell has been a staple of late, too, now pushing his rushing total up to 579 yards after posting 201 scrimmage yards last week.

With all the offensive weapons the Steelers possess going against a 30th-ranked Colts defense, it could be an evening filled with humble pie in Indianapolis.

  STEELERS COLTS
SERIES LEADER 16-6  
STREAKS 3 of past 4  
COACHES VS. OPP. Mike Tomlin: 3-1 Chuck Pagano: 0-2
LAST WEEK W 24-9 at Cleveland W 24-17 vs. Tennessee
LAST GAME 12/6/15: Colts 10 at Steelers 45. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger passes for 364 yards & 4 TDs for 126.4 rating. Steelers WR Antonio Brown has 3 total TDs, incl. 71-yard PR-TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 9/25/11: Steelers 23, Colts 20. Pittsburgh S Troy Polamalu has 16-yard FR-TD. Steelers K Shaun Suisham converts GW 38-yard FG with 4 seconds remaining.
REFEREE Walt Coleman
BROADCAST NBC (8:30 PM ET): Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, Tony Boselli. SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 83 (Pit), 82 (Ind). XM: 88 (WW1), 83 (Pit), 82 (Ind).
STATS
PASSING Ben Roethlisberger: 228-353-2524-20-7-96.3 Andrew Luck: 236-375-2827-19-8-93.9 OR
Scott Tolzien (Pre.): 41-62-390-2-1-87.4
RUSHING Le’Veon Bell: 128-579-4.5-2 Frank Gore: 163-642-3.9-4
RECEIVING Antonio Brown: 77 (1L)-907-11.8-7 (3L) T.Y. Hilton: 57-888-15.6-5
OFFENSE 364.4 356.6
TAKE/GIVE 2 -3
DEFENSE 363.6 397.6
SACKS Stephon Tuitt: 3.5 Erik Walden: 8
INTs Artie Burns (R): 2 Darius Butler: 2
PUNTING Jordan Berry: 46.3 Pat McAfee: 50.3 (1L)
KICKING Chris Boswell: 58 (22/22 PAT; 12/16 FG) Adam Vinatieri: 87 (27/27 PAT; 20/21 FG)

 

STEELERS

Play 6th Thanksgiving game (1st since 1991)...QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER has 1,250 pass yards (416.7 per game) & 11 TDs vs. 1 INT for 129.1 rating in past 3 vs. Ind…RB LE’VEON BELL had 201 scrimmage yards (146 rush, 55 rec.) & TD last week. Has 4 career games with 200+ scrimmage yards, most in Pit. history. RB DE ANGELO WILLIAMShas 203 rush yards (101.5 per game) & 2 rush TDs in past 2 meetings…In past 2 vs. Ind., WR ANTONIO BROWN has 18 catches for 251 yards (125.5 per game) & 4 TDs. Fastest in NFL history to 600 catches (96 games)… LB JAMES HARRISON is franchise leader with 77.5 sacks. Has 7 sacks in past 5 meetings. DE STEPHON TUITT had 2.5 sacks last week. Rookie DT JAVON HARGRAVE had sack & FR-TD last week.

COLTS

Play 4th Thanksgiving game (1st at home)...In past 6 at home, QB ANDREW LUCK has 1,762 pass yards (293.7 per game) & 13 TDs vs. 3 INTs for 100.8 rating. QB SCOTT TOLZIEN has 2 career NFL starts (last on 11/24/13 vs. Min.)…RB FRANK GORE had 121 scrimmage yards (50 rush, 71 rec.) last week. Has 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in past 2 vs. Pit. RB ROBERT TURBIN had rush TD last week…WR T.Y. HILTON had 97 rec. yards & TD last week. In past 2 vs. Pit., has 191 rec. yards (95.5 per game) & TD. WR DONTE MONCRIEF aims for 4th in row with rec. TD…LB ERIK WALDEN aims for 5th in row with sack. Is 1 of 4 NFL LBs with 8+ sacks (8) & 2+ FFs (2). LB D’QWELL JACKSON had sack in last meeting. Had sack last week.

 

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