By Tony McClean
Updated: November 22, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Thanksgiving and football. It’s a combo that seems to have been married to each other for years and years. This NFL season is no different. But there is a bit of a twist this year.
Instead of having the traditional Turkey Day games at Detroit and Dallas this season, an old tradition from pro football’s AFL roots will be resurrected and a new broadcast tradition will give football fans a third game on Thanksgiving Night.
Back in the 1960′s, the Kansas City Chiefs stood as one of the AFL’s signature franchises. So much so that the Chiefs were perennial hosts of the league’s lone Turkey Day contest for several years.
This Thursday night, the Chiefs will host their first Thanksgiving Day contest since 1970 when they meet the Denver Broncos in a key AFC West battle. The game will be seen nationally on the NFL Network, marking the channel’s first ever live regular season broadcast.
Former host of “The Today Show” and former NBC Sports announcer Bryant Gumbel will handle the play-by-play with Cris Collinsworth of Fox Sports and HBO providing the color commentary.
The contest is the first of an eight-game schedule of Thursday night games on the league’s three-year old network.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
In the first professional football game ever played on Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 1920), Hall of Famer Fritz Pollard, the NFL’s first black quarterback and first black head coach, led his Akron Pros to a 7-0 win over fellow Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe’s Canton Bulldogs. This game began the long Thanksgiving tradition of pro football in America.
On Thanksgiving Day 1997, Barry Sanders ran for 167 yards and moved into second place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. Which Hall of Famer did Sanders pass to move into second overall?
A. Eric Dickerson
B. O.J. Simpson
C. Tony Dorsett
D. Jim Brown
(The answer comes at the end of the column)
LAST WEEK: 10-6 (92-64 overall)
Finally back in double digits after a couple of mediocre weeks. While we lost on the Saints and Seahawks, we told you that we liked the Tuna Helpers’ chances against the Colts. And as usual, we picked the Boys from Motown to win and of course they laid an egg against the Cardinals. I think I’m still trying to figure out Roy Williams’ new math.
DOLPHINS at LIONS If it’s November, then Nick Saban’s Dolphins must be on a winning streak. In fact since Saban took over the Fish, they’ve gone 8-0 after November 1. Look (or should we say listen) for Detroit fans to begin booing Joey Harrington just as they get their morning tailgate started that morning. The ex-Oregon star returns “home” just in time to see the Boys from Motown in the middle of their annual free fall. We all know that the Lions are usually competitive on Turkey Day (33-31-2 all-time since 1934), but on the surface this looks like another win for Miami.
BUCS at COWBOYS Knocking off the previously unbeaten Colts just adds even more oomph to the growing resume of Dallas’ new golden boy, Tony Romo. With the Tuna Helpers now tied for the top spot in the NFC East, this Turkey Day showdown with Tampa will be even more of a key. While the Bucs knocked off the reeling Skins last week, the Tampa D will have to deal with a little bit more this week than a rookie making his first career start. Chucky will have his boys fired up, but I don’t get the feeling they’ll have enough for the upset.
BRONCOS at CHIEFS Attention!! Attention!! Be on the lookout for the Denver defense! They were last seen trying to hold a 24-7 third quarter lead. Suspects should be approached with extreme caution due to deflated egos and several missed tackles. Suspects were headed straight to the Missouri state line seeking an offense and a chance to tackle Larry Johnson, Trent Green, or anyone in a red jersey. It appears that the suspects are headed for trouble and a severe tongue lashing from a small man in a winter jacket with a white horse head on it. That is all.
TRIVIA ANSWER: A. Sanders passed Eric Dickerson, who ended his career with 13,259 career yards in 1993. At the time, the SMU standout was second overall to Walter Payton at the end of his career.
NOTE: The rest of BASN’s NFL Picks for Week 12 will appear tommorrow.