A loaded holiday slate of NFL games features one team with the second-best record in the NFL, three teams in first place in their respective divisions and one battle that will determine which squad sits atop its division by the end of the day.
Here are three keys for each Thanksgiving game:
Bears (7-3) at Lions (4-6)
12:30 p.m. ET, CBS
1. Daniel's turn to take over
Just two weeks ago, these two teams played in Chicago, with the Bears dominating, 34-22. But quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is doubtful for the Bears with a shoulder injury, leaving Chase Daniel likely to take over the starting role. A 10th-year veteran, Daniel has only two starts and 78 pass attempts in his career. If he can find his rhythm within the offense (he's familiar with Matt Nagy's attack after serving as a backup in Kansas City), Daniel could have a favorable setup against Detroit. Receiver Allen Robinson II (six catches 133 yards, two TDs) had his best outing of the season in the earlier meeting with the Lions.
2. Detroit's ground game
Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (641 yards and three touchdowns on 118 carries) has been a bright spot for the Lions. But he suffered a knee injury and coach Matt Patricia said has been ruled out for Thursday's game. Detroit’s options for replacing him aren’t great, with LeGarrette Blount – the next leading rusher – having just 183 yards this year.
3. Slow the Chicago pass rush
The Bears are tied for fifth in the NFL with 32 sacks this season (with linebacker Khalil Mack accounting for a quarter of them). The pass rush sets the tone for the entire defense and allows the secondary to clamp down on targets. The Lions' offense has given up 30 sacks so far this season. Limiting pressure and disruption will be essential for Detroit.
Redskins (6-4) at Cowboys (5-5)
4:30 p.m. ET, FOX
1. McCoy needs to manage the game
With Alex Smith out for the season, Washington’s playoff hopes rest on the right arm of Colt McCoy, who hasn’t started a game since Week 15 of 2014. The coaching staff has expressed confidence in the ninth-year veteran. He’s mobile, knows coach Jay Gruden’s system, and is fairly accurate, but above all else he needs to protect the ball.
2. Quicker Prescott passes
In large part due to injuries, Dallas' offensive line hasn’t played to the level that it had in previous seasons. The Cowboys are tied for 29th in the NFL with 34 sacks allowed, though they gave up just two last week against the Falcons. Still, quarterback Dak Prescott has the NFL’s third-highest time to throw, taking an average of 2.97 seconds for him to release the ball. To mitigate the O-line’s struggles, quicker passes would help.
3. Strength on strength
Dallas owns the NFL’s fourth-best rushing offense (133.3 yards a game). Washington ranks sixth (95.7) in stopping the run. And because the Cowboys offense flows through the legs of running back Ezekiel Elliott, if Washington can stifle what Dallas does on the ground (after holding the former to a season-low 33 yards on 15 carries in the first meeting this season), it could prompt Prescott to force throws down the field. Receiver Amari Cooper has opened up the offense, but it’s the Cowboys rushing attack that likely determines the outcome in the battle for first in the NFC East.
Falcons (4-6) at Saints (9-1)
8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
1. Hands up
Saints quarterback Drew Brees has the quickest release (an average of 2.57 seconds) in the NFL. He has thrown 25 touchdowns and just one interception. The Saints have allowed a league-low nine sacks. Atlanta’s best shot to disrupt the passing game is to knock passes down at the line of scrimmage.
2. Slow it down
The Falcons have a solid offense, but they'll struggle to keep up with New Orleans (NFL-best 37.8 points a game) in a track meet. The problem is that the Saints also lead the league in time of possession (33:34) and rank sixth in rushing (131.4 yards a game). Atlanta's ground game hasn't fared well (29th with 88.8 yards per game) and the Saints rank second in stopping the run (77.9), so a quick passing game could help move the chains and keep the ball out of Brees’ hands.
3. Special teams and turnovers
The Falcons have to protect the football. But if they can force New Orleans into committing some turnovers, it will be imperative to turn those opportunities into points. Atlanta also will need try to create scoring opportunities in the kicking and punt return game – that is – if the Saints punt at all. Thomas Morstead has a league-low 21 punts and had two games this season in which New Orleans never punted.