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Here's why the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys play every Thanksgiving

Dak Prescott
Posted at 1:13 PM, Nov 25, 2021

Football is a Thanksgiving tradition rooted about as deeply as turkey and Charlie Brown.

Every year millions of families tune in to watch the Turkey Day games, which almost always feature the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys in some capacity. But why is it always those two teams?

According to ESPN, the Lions were first team to host games every year.

In 1934, Lions owner G.A. Richards scheduled a holiday matchup between the Lions and the Bears. The Bears, the defending back-to-back world champions, beat the Lions 19-16 in front of 26,000 fans on Nov. 29, 1934. More than 80 years later, Thanksgiving football has become a tradition in Detroit.

ESPN reports that 32 years later, the Cowboys joined as a Thanksgiving staple. 

The Cowboys first played on Thanksgiving in 1966, beating the Cleveland Browns 26-14 at the Cotton Bowl.

General manager Tex Schramm wanted more national publicity for the Cowboys -- this was before they were known as America's Team -- and thought the holiday game made perfect sense. Some 80,259 fans showed up and a tradition was born. The Cowboys have played on every Thanksgiving Day since -- except in 1975 and 1977.

This year both teams are back in action during the three-game Thanksgiving slate.

In a rematch of their first Thanksgiving matchup 87 years ago, the Lions will be hosting the Chicago Bears at 12:30 p.m. The Cowboys will follow when they host the Las Vegas Raiders at 4:30 p.m. The night ends with a primetime game between the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints at 8:20 p.m.

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are both frequent participants in the Thanksgiving tradition, though only the Bears are playing this year.

Here are each team's all-time Thanksgiving record:

Lions: 37-42-2
Cowboys: 31-21-1
Bears: 19-15-2
Packers: 14-14-2

Whether you're a fan of the Thanksgiving teams or not, nothing beats finishing up your plate, kicking back and getting to watch a decades-old Thanksgiving tradition. Now that's something to be thankful for!