There are a few things that simply go hand-in-hand with the Thanksgiving holiday. Obviously, there’s turkey, eating until you need stretch pants, and football. To celebrate the many Thanksgiving football traditions across the country, we’ve ranked the five most common games you will find.

Before we start, let’s be clear: any football on Thanksgiving is acceptable. The game serves as the pre-meal event and the post-meal “I need to sit down and not move for a little bit” time period. However, even before Thursday, the holiday often kicks off with a football game. Whether you are in your hometown or watching a prime-time game on TV that is taking place across the country. On Thanksgiving week, one thing about the sport is for certain.

There’s Football For Everyone

For those who celebrate with friends or family, the Thanksgiving holiday often means a return to your hometown. Many regions have capitalized on this and scheduled their big market football game to take place either Wednesday or Friday night in order to make it available to all those in town.

On the collegiate level, it’s common to find a few major in-state rivalry games that take place as the Thanksgiving game. It’s one of the more intense battles of the year, given all the fans have such respect for their home state but despise the school there that they did not go to.

Then, there’s the NFL. You always know the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are playing on Thanksgiving Day. The Lions will get the day going with the early game, and the Cowboys always get that late afternoon game that is often accompanied by a power nap. Nowadays, we get also get a nightcap game that alternates teams each year.

Still, with all the football fun already mentioned here, there’s another Thanksgiving game that sits above the rest. So, let’s dig in. Here are the most common Thanksgiving football games ranked down from five to one.


  • 5. The Dallas Cowboys Game

    Bear with me here. The challenge with this game is that the Cowboys rarely have a great matchup on Thanksgiving. For example, last year they played a mediocre (at best) New York Giants team. This year, they play the Washington Commanders, who are currently 3-5. Leon Lett’s infamous snow fumble vs. the Miami Dolphins may still be the most memorable Cowboys Thanksgiving Day football moment. That was 1993.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys)

  • 4. The Local High School Game

    When you come home from college for the holiday the first public appearance you can’t wait to make is at your alma matter high school game. Often this matchup is against a local rival or bordering town. The game might even be one-sided but it signifies being home, roaming your old stomping grounds, and seeing people you haven’t connected with in long time. Maybe you don’t even pay attention to the game, but it is still the place to be in town.

    Quarterback Garrett Gilbert #7 of the black team watches the coin flip before the All America Under Armour Football Game at Florida Citrus Bowl

    Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

  • 3. The Egg Bowl - Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State

    In certain college markets, college football reigns king. Granted there is no NFL team in the state, but nonetheless, certain games mean more than others regardless of your record. Ole Miss vs. Mississippi is one of them. This has become one of college football’s great traditions where these two major programs face off on Thanksgiving Day. They switch each year who serves as the host. Bragging rights and massive amounts of pride are on the line. This year, the game takes place in Starkville (Miss. State) at David Wade Stadium. It has a lot to live up to, with last year’s battle being a 24-22 game, that saw the Bulldogs beat the Rebels (both with a 8-4 record).

    Jaxson Dart #2 of the Mississippi Rebels attempts a pass against Tyrus Wheat #2 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

    Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

  • #2. The Detroit Lions Game

    Because Barry Sanders. That’s why. For years, this game was the one opportunity for the world to see #20 do what only #20 could do. Spin, flip, and dance his way through tackles, causing defenders ankles to roll all over Ford Field. Sanders tapped out of football early. He rarely got the chance to be on national platform due to the team being so poor. However, on Thanksgiving, on a national broadcast, Sanders (sometimes at the call of John Madden) would wow us all. Now, another inspiring personality in coach Dan Campbell is the face of the Lions. Campbell represents hard work, grit, and the American Dream that all deserve to be inspired by on Thanksgiving Day.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by Detroit Lions (@detroitlionsnfl)

  • #1. The Backyard Game That You Play In

    Much of this feature focuses on high-profile games that include professional players. Nowadays, even some college players are branded as millionaire entertainers and influencers. However, that traditional pick-up game you play within your own community takes our number one spot. Whether you are returning to the town you grew up with to play an annual game of two-hand-touch, or forming a new game in town you just moved to, there’s something unspoken and special about neighborhood Thanksgiving football game. You hop a rusty fence wearing an oversized jersey down to your knees. Either your teams are set way in advance or they are spur-of-the-moment, decided by a quick game of rock, paper, scissors. Then, you’re either covered in dirt or sliding all over the grass because you wore sneakers. You never know who is going to win, but you do know, you will be laughing from start to finish.

    Men playing flag football together in a grass yard

Sign me up for the Kicks Country email newsletter!

Become a Kicks VIP today and get access to the latest news on your favorite country artists, plus insider info on upcoming concerts, events, giveaways and more!

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.