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NFL games on Thanksgiving Day

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The Week 12 NFL schedule begins with some great Thanksgiving Day football. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded day of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Thanksgiving Day slate, including a huge AFC North showdown.

Jump to a matchup:

12:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
24.2 | Spread: HOU -3 (51.5)

What to watch for: Is this Matt Patricia’s final stand as Detroit’s coach? After three double-digit losses in the Lions’ past four games (and losing a 21-point lead in the team’s one victory during that stretch), things are pretty dire for the third-year coach. How Detroit responds, knowing how hot its coach’s seat is — in its only nationally televised game of the season — is the biggest storyline for either team in an otherwise forgettable matchup. — Michael Rothstein

Bold prediction: Texans running back Duke Johnson will rush for a season-high 75 yards. The Texans’ run game has struggled all season, and in his two games starting for the injured David Johnson, Duke Johnson has combined for 69 yards on 24 carries. But this week, the Texans face the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL, with the Lions allowing an average of 139 rushing yards per game. — Sarah Barshop

Stat to know: Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson already has five games with at least 300 passing yards this season, tied for the most in a single season in his career (2018). Only Matt Schaub has had more such games in a single season in Texans history (nine in 2009 and seven in 2010).

Injuries: Texans | Lions

What to know for fantasy: Duke Johnson’s Week 11 production was underwhelming, but the fact that he got 76.9% of Houston’s running back carries holds weight as the Texans face the league’s worst defense against fantasy RBs this season. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Detroit is 6-2 against the spread (ATS) in its past eight Thanksgiving games (covered last season). Read more.

Barshop’s pick: Texans 24, Lions 17
Rothstein’s pick: Texans 31, Lions 17
FPI prediction: HOU, 56.1% (by an average of 2.1 points)

Thanksgiving Day throwback: The Texans and Lions met on Thanksgiving in 2012 in a game remembered for some controversy. Texans running back Justin Forsett scored an 81-yard rushing touchdown despite replays showing multiple Lions players tackling him and his knee and elbow both touching the ground near midfield. But a challenge flag from Detroit coach Jim Schwartz negated the automatic booth review of the scoring play, and the Texans went on to win 34-31 on an overtime field goal from Shayne Graham.

Matchup must-reads: Texans’ defense has “great all-around game” against PatriotsWhere are the Lions under Patricia? No improvement, no progress, no answers either“Bassfield Boys” have reunion in Detroit on ThanksgivingAnalyzing Detroit’s man defense vs. zone

4:30 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
12.9 | Spread: DAL -2.5 (46.5)

What to watch for: With first place in the NFC East on the line — at least until Sunday — which team will make fewer mistakes? The Cowboys have had at least one turnover in every game since the season opener and have 21 on the season, second most in the league. Washington has 17 giveaways, which is tied for fifth most. While the teams’ 3-7 records indicate how poorly the season has gone, there is still a chance to make the playoffs by winning the division. Taking care of the ball matters even more when the margin for error is so small. — Todd Archer

Bold prediction: In three home games against Washington, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has averaged 113.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. So naturally, he will rush for 113 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. Washington’s run defense has been inconsistent at best, partly because some of its linemen continue to use two-gap techniques in a one-gap system and then the linebackers don’t attack often enough. Quarterback Alex Smith will keep Washington in this game, but when Elliott cracks 100 yards, Dallas is 23-4. — John Keim

Stat to know: Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin has 120 receptions in 24 career games. McLaurin needs 11 against Dallas to have the most through 25 games in Washington franchise history. The Ohio State product is currently third on the list behind Jordan Reed (130) and Gary Clark (122).

Injuries: Washington | Cowboys

What to know for fantasy: Over the past three weeks, Washington’s Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic are both top-10 running backs. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Dallas is 1-8 ATS in its past nine Thanksgiving games. Read more.

Keim’s pick: Cowboys 27, Washington 24
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 27, Washington 17
FPI prediction: WSH, 54.8% (by an average of 1.7 points)

Thanksgiving Day throwback: In 1974, backup quarterback Clint Longley entered for an injured Roger Staubach with the Cowboys trailing Washington 16-3. Longley rallied Dallas to a victory, completing 11 passes for 203 yards. He capped off the comeback with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left, and the extra point kick gave the Cowboys a 24-23 victory.

Matchup must-reads: Smith’s calming influence gives Washington hopeMcCarthy inspired Cowboys by smashing watermelons

8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
90.1 | Spread: PIT -4.5 (45)

What to watch for: The Steelers insist they don’t have Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s number, but they forced him to turn the ball over four times in the previous meeting and to throw three interceptions in their lone 2019 matchup (Jackson was held out of the Week 17 game). The Ravens were still able to run all over Pittsburgh earlier this month, but the Steelers’ pressure and ability to make Jackson uncomfortable are very effective. Look for them to dial it up again. — Brooke Pryor

Bold prediction: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will throw four touchdown passes. Since 2013, he is 4-1 against the Ravens at Heinz Field, throwing 13 touchdowns and three interceptions (104.0 passer rating). And in Baltimore’s four losses this season, the defense has given up 10 touchdown passes and recorded one interception. — Jamison Hensley

Stat to know: The Steelers are the 14th team since the 16-game schedule was introduced (1978) to start with a 10-0 record, and only one of those teams finished with fewer than 13 wins (the 2015 Patriots went 12-4). Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff spot in Week 12 with a victory Thursday and losses by the Raiders and Dolphins on Sunday. It would match the earliest clinching since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990 (now 14 teams), but only one of the six teams that clinched a spot in Week 12 has gone on to win the Super Bowl (Washington in 1991).

Injuries: Ravens | Steelers

What to know for fantasy: Baltimore wide receiver Marquise Brown has seen his fantasy point total decline in each of his past five games. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Pittsburgh is 8-2 ATS this season, the best mark in the NFL. Read more.

Hensley’s pick: Steelers 31, Ravens 23
Pryor’s pick: Steelers 34, Ravens 31
FPI prediction: PIT, 53.8% (by an average of 1.3 points)

Thanksgiving Day throwback: A 2013 matchup — the only other such meeting between these teams on Thanksgiving — ended with a failed game-tying 2-point conversion attempt for Pittsburgh, resulting in a 22-20 Ravens win. But the game is remembered for a 73-yard kickoff return. Baltimore returner Jacoby Jones sprinted up the left side and appeared destined to take it to the house, but he nearly ran into Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who was very close to the field of play. Jones didn’t score, and the drive ended with a field goal. Tomlin was fined $100,000 for the incident.

Matchup must-reads: Ravens reeling after another painful and embarrassing collapse to TitansComeback player of year? Steelers’ Roethlisberger also making push for first MVPFrom scary to simple: Jackson and the Ravens’ offense’s free fallHow good are the Steelers? Ranking Pittsburgh against other 10-0 teams


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