NFL Thanksgiving: What the Lions, Bears, Cowboys, Redskins, Saints and Falcons can be thankful for
Watch our Thanksgiving Day NFL triple-header, live on Sky Sports Action from 5pm on Thursday
By James Simpson
Last Updated: 22/11/18 5:27pm
It is Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, which can only mean one thing.... Football!
Well, technically, it is also a day dedicated to giving thanks. So, with that in mind, we have picked out a few things that the six teams involved in our triple-header of live NFL action on Thursday night have to be thankful for...
Tune in from 5pm on Sky Sports Action on Thursday as we bring you three crucial NFC divisional matchups - Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions (kick-off, 5.30pm), Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys (KO, 9.30pm) and Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (KO, 1.20am).
Chicago Bears - Matt Nagy and Khalil Mack
Over the past few seasons, the Bears have been rebuilding. But they became ready to win now with the additions of linebacker Mack and head coach Nagy this offseason.
Firstly, Nagy - poached from under Andy Reid in Kansas City (look no further than Monday Night's record-breaker to see what they scheme up) - has installed a fantastic offense, surrounded second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky with a ton of weapons, and renewed the energy in the franchise.
And Mack - with his eight sacks, five forced fumbles, and general mayhem caused - has found himself the subject of overwhelming love and support from the city. Chicago appreciates Mack, and his ability to change a game will be crucial come crunch time.
Detroit Lions - Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson
When the Lions shipped wide receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia just before the trade deadline, it appeared they were throwing in the towel on the season.
Not so. They may have indeed been looking ahead, but propelling sophomore star Golladay into the starting lineup has yielded immediate results. In the last two weeks, he has seen a whopping 27 targets and turned that into 14 catches, 191 yards and two touchdowns.
Similarly, given the backfield to himself, rookie runner Johnson has thrived and has 641 yards so far, with a fantastic per-carry average of 5.4. He will miss Thursday's game with a knee injury, but has shown great promise and this duo should have Lions fans excited for the future.
Washington Redskins - Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is unbelievable! At 33 years old, and after two years of injuries and poor production for three different teams, he has come back with a bang in 2018 and sits seventh in the league in rushing (723) and eighth in rushing TDs (6).
Before Sunday's loss to Houston, 'All Day' was a huge part of the success that had put Washington firmly in the lead of the NFC East. However, after the devastating loss of quarterback Alex Smith for the season, he will be even more in focus.
Redskins fans should be glad they have an ageless wonder in the backfield, but can he propel them to the playoffs with Colt McCoy at the helm at QB?
Dallas Cowboys - Amari Cooper
Cooper's ability - and production - were under scrutiny in Oakland. He had over 1,000 yards in each of his first two years, but his weekly stat lines were erratic. For example, in the first five weeks of this season, he had two games with over 100 yards, but three with under 20.
That said, the talent was there and, at 24 years old, Dallas acquired one of the best young receivers in the league for a first-round pick. His impact has changed the team's offense.
He showed signs of his talent in his debut, with 58 yards and a score against Tennessee but, beyond the numbers, simply his ability to beat defenders one-on-one on the outside has added an element the Cowboys offense did not have.
Dallas's newest star could be in the spotlight down the stretch.
Atlanta Falcons - Julio Jones
Unlike the rest of the selections on this list, Jones is not by any means a 'new' gift, but I think we can all appreciate how special and consistent he is. For four straight seasons before this one, he had managed 1,400 receiving yards. He is on pace for that again, with 1,158 through 10 games.
For a lot of the year, a point of discussion was: "When will Jones find the endzone?" He did for the first time against Washington in Week Nine, and has done so again in the two games since. Question answered.
For all the injuries to the Falcons this season - Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Andy Levitre, Devonta Freeman are all on IR - Jones has continued his elite level of play and, believe it or not, the Falcons are still in the Wild Card hunt after consecutive losses to Cleveland and Dallas.
New Orleans Saints - Drew Brees’ supporting cast
Yes, Brees has been outstanding for years. And yes, he has had weapons before. But not like this.
It starts up front, with one of the best offensive line groups in football. Tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk have been fantastic, and the interior group is filled with big bodies. The team has averaged 131.4 rushing yards per game (sixth-best in the NFL) and Brees has only been sacked nine times all season! That is better than every other unit in the league.
Surrounding him, Michael Thomas has the second-most catches, third-most yards, and fifth-most touchdown receptions in 2018. Alvin Kamara has over 600 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards, and 14 total TDs. Mark Ingram has back-to-back 100-yard games on 16 carries or less. Not bad.
That is not even mentioned the contributions from elsewhere, including Tre'Quan Smith, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood, Dan Arnold, and more. Brees could be on his way to his first ever MVP season at the age of 39.