NFL Thanksgiving football schedule 2022: NFL releases holiday games, opponents for Cowboys & Lions

The NFL’s Thanksgiving tradition continues. For yet another year, NFL fans will be treated to a trio of games during the holiday, and we now know which teams will play in those contests.

The NFL released its schedule for 2022 on Thursday, and that revealed the three Thanksgiving matchups. We knew that the Lions and Cowboys would both be playing, as they both have since 1978, but we now know who they are playing and which two teams get the marquee Thanksgiving night contest.

Below is all the information you need to know about the NFL’s Thanksgiving schedule for 2022. That includes the history of the NFL playing on the holiday, which dates all the way back to 1934.

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Thanksgiving football schedule 2022

The NFL is treating fans to a few good matchups on Thanksgiving in 2022. The Lions will host the Bills to kickstart the holiday while the Cowboys will take on one of their divisional rivals, the Giants, in the afternoon.

Thanksgiving 2022 will then culminate with a battle between Mac Jones’ Patriots and Kirk Cousins’ Vikings. Below are the TV details and times for all three games.

Game Kickoff time TV channel
Bills at Lions 12:30 p.m. ET CBS
Giants at Cowboys 4:30 p.m. ET Fox
Patriots at Vikings 8:20 p.m. ET NBC

Bills at Lions

  • Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS 

The Bills and Lions will play in the first game on Thanksgiving Day. Buffalo is the big draw here, as they may be the best team in the NFL. They have a high-powered offense led by Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs while also sporting a deep, tough defense that added Von Miller during the 2022 NFL offseason.

As for the Lions, they are entering Year 2 of the Dan Campbell era. The team is still building its core and while Detroit lacks talent as a whole, Campbell managed to get his team to play hard each week in 2021. That was despite starting the season with an 0-10-1 record, so his team should continue to compete week in and week out with a better roster in 2022.

This marks the third time in the last four years that the Bills are playing on Thanksgiving. They won the other two games thanks to strong efforts from Allen and their defense. Meanwhile, the Lions are currently on a five-game Thanksgiving losing streak. It may be hard to snap that against Buffalo.

FULL 2022 SCHEDULES: Bills | Lions

Giants at Cowboys

  • Kickoff time: 4:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: Fox

The Giants and the Cowboys are set to square off in a division rivalry clash. Surprisingly, this is just the second time that the Giants and Cowboys are playing against one another on Thanksgiving despite this being New York’s 16th appearance.

The Giants are undergoing a rebuild, and 2022 will be their first season under the tag team of coach Brian Daboll and GM Joe Schoen. Daniel Jones is still the team’s quarterback, but the Giants are hoping that a strengthened offensive line and a better defense will give him a chance to improve upon his poor performance during his first three seasons as a starter.

As for the Cowboys, their offense suffered some losses in 2022, as Amari Cooper was traded, Cedrick Wilson left in free agency and two offensive linemen — Connor Williams and La’el Collins — departed the team as well. Still, they look like the better team in this game as Dak Prescott has been better than Jones during his NFL career to date.

FULL 2022 SCHEDULES: Giants | Cowboys

Patriots at Vikings

  • Kickoff time: 8:20 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: NBC

The Thanksgiving nightcap should be an interesting contest. The Patriots are playing on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2012 while the Vikings are hosting a game on the holiday for the first time in their franchise’s history.

Both the Patriots and Vikings have solid offensive attacks that tend to be ground-oriented. The Vikings rely on Dalvin Cook while the Patriots use a stable of backs including Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and James White to supplement their passing game.

The Vikings have the better receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, but Mac Jones proved to be an efficient quarterback for the Patriots as a rookie. He should be able to go toe-to-toe with Kirk Cousins, especially considering that the Vikings’ secondary is still a work-in-progress.

This contest will also be a revenge game of sorts for Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. He was a third-round pick by the Patriots in 2008 but was hardly given a chance to prove himself with the team. Now, he will look to beat Bill Belichick and earn what could be one of the first signature wins as an NFL coach.

FULL 2022 SCHEDULES: Patriots | Vikings

What football teams always play on Thanksgiving?

The Lions and the Cowboys have both played on Thanksgiving for 44 consecutive years, but the Lions’ tradition dates back much further than that of the Cowboys.

Detroit began playing on Thanksgiving Day in 1934. The Lions have played on every Thanksgiving since that date, save for a six-season span from 1939-44. The Thanksgiving game was started by then-Lions owner George A. Richards, who used it as a stunt to draw attention away from MLB’s Tigers, who were the more popular Detroit team in the 1930s. 

The Lions will play on Thanksgiving Day for the 83rd time in 2022; they have put up a 37-43-2 record in their previous 82 games, including a 16-14 loss to the Bears last season. Detroit has lost five consecutive games on the holiday. Their last victory was a 16-13 win over the Vikings in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game tradition began in 1966 and was designed to help improve the team’s popularity. That year, the Cowboys broke their attendance record at the time by drawing 80,259 fans to the Cotton Bowl, where they earned a win over the Browns. 

Dallas has played on all but two Thanksgivings since 1966. The only times they didn’t play came as a result of the NFL awarding two Thanksgiving games to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975 and 1977. Those games were designed to boost the national profile of the Cardinals, but ultimately, the Cowboys permanently returned to the Thanksgiving slot in 1978.

The Cowboys are 31-22-1 on Thanksgiving. They are coming off a loss on the holiday in 2021, as they were defeated by the Raiders in overtime 36-33 last season.

Which teams have never played on Thanksgiving?

There is only one NFL team that has never played on Thanksgiving. That would be the Jaguars.

Jacksonville entered the league in 1995 but hasn’t yet been tapped to play a Thanksgiving game. They have an away game against the Lions on their schedule for 2022, but they still weren’t chosen as one of the Thanksgiving game participants. That said, it stands to reason that at some point during the Trevor Lawrence era, the Jaguars will play on Turkey Day.

There are a few other teams that have logged just one Thanksgiving appearance. They are the Panthers, Buccaneers and Bengals. The Panthers, an expansion franchise in ’95 with the Jaguars, made their lone appearance in 2015. They beat the Cowboys 33-14.

Here is the all-time leaderboard for Thanksgiving games, with the Lions, Cowboys and a couple of members of the NFC North unsurprisingly topping the list.

Team Appearances
Detroit Lions 82
Dallas Cowboys 54
Chicago Bears 37
Green Bay Packers 36
Arizona Cardinals 21
New York Giants 15
Washington Commanders 12
Denver Broncos 11
Kansas City Chiefs 10
Buffalo Bills 10
Minnesota Vikings 8
New York Jets 8
Pittsburgh Steelers 8
Las Vegas Raiders 8
Miami Dolphins 7
Philadelphia Eagles 7
Tennessee Titans 7
Los Angeles Chargers 5
Los Angeles Rams 5
New England Patriots 5
San Francisco 49ers 5
Atlanta Falcons 4
Indianapolis Colts 4
Seattle Seahawks 4
New Orleans Saints 4
Cleveland Browns 3
Baltimore Ravens 2
Houston Texans 2
Carolina Panthers 1
Cincinnati Bengals 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1
Jacksonville Jaguars 0