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NFL Thanksgiving football: Two good matchups and one dud

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Fox
Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET

It has been rare through the years that a Lions Thanksgiving game impacts the playoff race. This one could end up deciding the NFC North title.

Assuming the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers aren’t going to make a “run the table” move like they did late last season, one of these two teams will win the division. And this game will be a big swing: Either the Vikings will lead the Lions by three games with five to go, or Detroit will be a game back and own the tiebreaker over Minnesota due to a season sweep.

The 8-2 Vikings are on a roll, and coming off a big win over the Los Angeles Rams. The 6-4 Lions are staying within range of the Vikings, and won a close game at the Chicago Bears last week to set up an important Thanksgiving showdown. One story line to keep an eye on is at quarterback for the Vikings. Case Keenum has played well but Teddy Bridgewater has returned from a knee injury that wiped out his 2016 season, and Bridgewater looms if Keenum struggles.

Last season these two teams played a tense Thanksgiving game, with the Lions winning at the end thanks to an interception by Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford. It’s rare for teams to play on consecutive years on Thanksgiving. The last time the Lions had the same Thanksgiving opponent in back-to-back years was 1979-80, against the Bears.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will try to keep his team’s division title hopes alive against the Vikings. (AP)

Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys
CBS
Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Although the second Thanksgiving game doesn’t directly impact a division race like the first one does, it’s a good matchup between two talented teams battling for a playoff spot.

The Chargers are 4-6, but just a game back of the final playoff spot in the AFC. They’re also playing well after an 0-4 start, with a talented defense and an offense that can put up points. Los Angeles won 54-24 last week against the Buffalo Bills.

The Cowboys are going the other way, having lost two in a row to fall to 5-5. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is still suspended, but the Cowboys hope to get left tackle Tyron Smith back. Smith’s absence has been a rough blow to the offense as a whole. The Cowboys are coming off a 37-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and a third straight loss would be a big blow to their wild-card hopes.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins
NBC
Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET

When the NFL scheduled this game for its Thanksgiving triple-header, it seemed like a good choice. The Giants were coming off a playoff season. The Redskins would have made the playoffs last season too, but the Giants beat them in Week 17 to keep them out.

The 2-8 Giants won’t be going to the playoffs this season, and the 4-6 Redskins probably won’t either.

The Giants’ season has been a mess, with key injuries, a floundering offense and coach Ben McAdoo firmly on the hot seat. The Giants weren’t great even before receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season-ending broken ankle, but they’re really bad without him. Still, the Giants upset the Kansas City Chiefs 12-9 in overtime last week.

The Redskins have had injury issues too, and some hard-luck losses. No loss was worse than last week’s 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. Washington blew a 15-point lead with less than six minutes to play.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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