According to a report, the Detroit Lions are likely to host the Minnesota Vikings for the 2016 edition of their annual Thanksgiving Day game.
One of the first things most Detroit Lions fans look for when the NFL schedule is released is for who the Thanksgiving Day opponent will be that season. The league won’t release the 2016 schedule until later this spring, but we may not have to wait that long to know who the Lions will host on Thanksgiving.
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A Sports Business Daily report cites a source saying the Minnesota Vikings are likely to be the Lions’ 2016 Thanksgiving Day opponent:
"Sources said that the league is likely to schedule a Cowboys-Redskins matchup for Fox’s Thanksgiving Day game. Look for the league to cross-flex an NFC North rival to play the Lions on CBS, most likely the Vikings. The Lions’ only two home games against AFC opponents are unattractive TV matchups (Jacksonville and Tennessee). The Bears have played the past two Thanksgivings, and the Packers have played two of the past three, creating an opening for the Vikings."
The Vikings haven’t played in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day since 1995 and their status as an up and coming team makes them an intriguing draw for one of the NFL’s showcase dates. Since the Vikings’ last Thanksgiving appearance in Detroit, the Chicago Bears have appeared three times and the Green Bay Packers six times.
The league’s ability to cross-flex games meant the Lions weren’t locked in to alternating AFC and NFC opponents as they were under previous agreements with the networks. This would have been an AFC year if the rotation was still in place, but that was broken in 2014 when the Lions hosted the Chicago Bears.
If the report of the Vikings being the likely opponent comes to be, or any other NFC team for that matter, that would make four-straight years the Lions face an NFC opponent on Thanksgiving Day.
A quirk in the Lions’ 2015 schedule saw them host two-straight Thursday games with the Green Bay Packers coming to town the week after Thanksgiving. That could be the case again, per the same SBD report:
"As in the past two years, expect two of the teams that play on Thanksgiving to play the following week on “Thursday Night Football.” Last season, the first “TNF” game after Thanksgiving was a Packers-Lions matchup; the season before, it was a Cowboys-Bears game. All four teams also played on Thanksgiving Day."
Consecutive Thursday games feels odd but it is a good solution to the problem of short weeks that the Thursday package brings. A Thursday game in back-to-back weeks is just another thing to look for when the schedule is released later in the offseason.