The NFL Flops on Thanksgiving, Again

By Jonathan Adler

What exactly has the NFL been feeding us? (Photo: Baltimore Sun Sports Blog)

Is the NFL taking its Thanksgiving fans for granted? It seems that year after year, the Thanksgiving Day schedule features lousy matchups and even lousier outcomes. This year, America was treated to three supremely boring football games. Detroit was beaten into submission by the Packers, Dallas hammered Oakland, and the only stirring moment in the Broncos win over the Giants was when Josh McDaniels’s f-bomb was caught by NFL Network mics.

Is it our imagination, or are we watching inferior football games on Thanksgiving? Looking at the numbers, it’s not a turkey-induced error in memory, it’s the truth: In the past five seasons, Thanksgiving Day games have been significantly less competitive than other regular season games. If we compare the average margin of victory in a regular season game to that of a Thanksgiving Day game, the difference is remarkable.

Avg. Margin of Victory 05-09: 11.96 points (1196 games, excludes Thanksgiving games)

Avg. Margin of Victory on Thanksgiving 05-09: 20.42 points (14 games)

In the past five seasons, we’ve sat through significantly worse football games on Thanksgiving. We’re seeing games that are two scores apart from the average regular season matchup. Not surprisingly, we’ve got the Lions’ futility to thank for our viewership woes. In the past five seasons, they’ve lost all of five of their games on Thanksgiving by an average of 21.4 points.

The NFL tried to offer a competitive game this year, with the Broncos v. Giants matchup. But somebody forgot to tell Eli Manning and the Giants offense not to eat a huge Thanksgiving dinner before the game.

If these games get any worse, I might have to spend time with my family.

About the author


View all posts


  • Great post. I wonder if the NFL has somewhat of a fixed audience size for these games and so it doesn’t care about the matchup size.

    It also might be worth looking at Brian Burke’s excitement index over at Advanced NFL stats for these games and see if it corroborates your margin findings.

  • This schedule is created at least before the season started and to think the Broncos were not predicted to win many games this year also. A better matchup would have been switching Dallas to play Green Bay and having Denver play Oakland (AFC West Rivals) that way at least two of the games would have had a much greater opportunity to be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *