Nine things to watch for in Thanksgiving Day games

Save some space next to your turkey for football Thursday, because there's going to be a whole lot of NFL this Thanksgiving.

The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions kick off the day's slate of games at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers have the mid-day game at 4:30 p.m. The Washington Redskins cap off the night with a game against the New York Giants at 8:30 p.m.

What are we watching for in the trio of Turkey Day games? Here are three things from each matchup:

  1. Matthew Stafford has a chance to make Thanksgiving history. With a four-touchdown game, the Lions quarterback would pass Tony Romo for most career passing TDs (18) on the holiday since 1970. With 120 yards, he would also surpass Romo (2,338) for most career Thanksgiving Day passing yards since 1970. Stafford also has the chance to move to 5-0 in his last five Thanksgiving starts, which would give the Lions their first five-game-or-better Turkey Day winning streak since they won six in a row from 1950-1955.
  1. Lions fans are used to seeing the best wide receiver in the NFC playing in this game, having watched Calvin Johnson tear up defenses on the holiday for years. Now, however, they'll be playing against the man with that distinction. Adam Thielen has had a monster, breakout year for the Vikings, leading the conference in receiving yards with 916. He's also tied for fifth in the league in catches with 62. Only Steelers great Antonio Brown (1,026) has more yards than the Vikings' wideout. Watching how the Lions contain Thielen, who's coming off three straight games with a touchdown, with Darius Slay and other cornerbacks will be some of the most fun matchups of the day.
  1. Case Keenum watch, as Teddy Bridgewater looms healthy on the sideline, won't take a day off regardless of the holiday and regardless of how well the fill-in QB has played this season. Keenum has been very good standing in for the injured Sam Bradford and the previously injured Bridgewater, throwing for 2,194 yards, 12 touchdowns to just five picks and posting a 93.7 passer rating for the NFC North-leading Vikings. Still, Keenum's leash doesn't appear to be a long one with the more explosive Bridgewater ready to take back the reins. If Keenum falters with early turnovers or bad play, all eyes will be on coach Mike Zimmer and how long it takes for him to go back to the QB the Vikings had planned to be their franchise quarterback before a devastating knee injury in 2016.
  1. Every single eye ball, at least from the Cowboys' perspective, will be on the pre-game warmups in this one. The Cowboys have been a disaster without their injured All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (back/groin), All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) and Pro Bowl kicker Dan Bailey (groin). Starting right tackle La'el Collins and starting linebacker Anthony Hitchens (groin) were also added to the injury report this week, giving Dallas even more reasons to have a keen eye on the pre-game. Owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism that Smith, Bailey and Hitchens can make it back for the game, while Lee will miss the contest. Hearing the official news that the Cowboys could have one or more of those injured players back would be a huge lift to a team that's been pummeled by the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles the past two weeks.
  1. The Los Angeles Chargers have the third-most sacks in the NFL with 30. Their two young pass rushers, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, are arguably the scariest edge-rushing duo in the league. With the Cowboys' tackles, Collins and Smith, banged up, and with Smith possibly sitting, the Chargers are hoping to do to Dak Prescott what the Eagles and Falcons' front did the past two weeks. Prescott was sacked 12 times in the last two games after only being sacked 10 times in the previous eight.
  1. Prescott, at least statistically, hasn't had many bad games in his young career. Last week, however, was not just a bad one, it was his career worst. The quarterback missed throws high and low, threw three picks and fumbled one that was returned for a score. How Prescott rebounds from the tough performance will be the biggest storyline, win or lose, for the Cowboys after the tilt.
  1. With Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson on injured reserve, this is suddenly Semaje Perine's backfield in Washington. In his first action as that lead tailback since early in the season, Perine flourished, running for 117 yards and a score on 23 carries in the loss to the Saints last weekend. The Giants have the third-worst rushing defense (giving up 132.7 yards per game) in the league, meaning the Redskins will probably lean on their rookie running back throughout the night once again.
  1. What Giants team will show up on this night? New York has been Jekyll and Hyde all season, with Hyde being the more popular of the two. One week they're smashing the Broncos in prime time, the next they're giving up 51 to the Rams. Then another week they're losing to the winless 49ers, but then beating the AFC West-leading Chiefs. It's been a tumultuous season in New York with suspensions, injuries and speculation of players quitting on coach Ben McAdoo. But a chance to beat the Redskins and essentially end their playoff hopes should be a game for which the more respectable Giants show up.
  1. The one bright spot of Terrelle Pryor's diminished play and foot injury? The Redskins have found out what they have in 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, and they have to like what they've seen so far. He had the catch that set up the game-winning points against the Seahawks in Week 9 and he followed that up with four catches in each of his last two games. Kirk Cousins targeted him repeatedly last week against the Saints, leading many to believe that this Thursday night could be the wideout's breakout game of the season.
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