NFL Thanksgiving Games 2012: Analyzing Importance of Each Showdown

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 21:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots has words with Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets after a game at Gillette Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The National Football League's Thanksgiving Day games are now underway, and each game will have ramifications on the playoff race.

This year's slate of games features a pair of intra-divisonal contests and an inter-conference matchup. Each game has a chance to be exciting, so be sure to be watching all day for great football. Two of the best teams in the NFL will be on display today, but they will have tough competition.

Of course, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are both hosting games today. Today's games could determine the fates of their seasons.

So which game will have the most impact on the NFL playoff picture?  


Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

This inter-conference matchup could be the highest-scoring game of the day. It is also the early game, which is a great way to Thanksgiving.

Two of the best receivers in the league, Andre Johnson and Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, will be on display with their Pro Bowl quarterbacks slinging the ball. The Texans have put up a lot of points so far this season, and the Lions have the ability to explode.

Houston is sitting at 9-1 and has a three-game lead in the AFC South. The Texans will go on to win the division in a few weeks, but they are also battling the Baltimore Ravens (8-2) for home-field advantage.

Detroit, on the other hand, is 4-6 after making the playoffs last season. Megatron has not been himself this season, but he has started to come on the last few weeks. The Lions are in last place in the NFC North and sit two games out of the final wild-card spot.

If the Lions have any chance to make the playoffs, they have to upset the Texans on Thursday.


Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys 

Robert Griffin III will finally get to show off his skills on the big stage. This intra-divisional game features an exciting rookie against a team fighting for its playoff life.

RGIII could be on his way to winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, but his team is sitting at 4-6 and in third place in the NFC East. It will take a great team performance down the stretch for Washington to sneak into the postseason. A loss in this game would all but eliminate the Redskins from contention.

Dallas sits in second place in the division at 5-5 and is only one game behind the New York Giants for the NFC East lead. The Giants have a brutal schedule down the stretch, but the Cowboys need to win every game they can. A win in this game by the Cowboys will put serious pressure on the Giants to keep pace.

This game probably won't see as many points as the first game, but it will still be exciting. RGIII has the talent to put points up on the board, and Tony Romo has shown that he can move the ball.


New England Patriots at New York Jets

Anytime these two AFC East rivals meet, it will be an entertaining game. Whether that means a great game or seeing Rex Ryan have to watch his team get blown out, it is always entertaining. 

New England has a comfortable lead in the division at 7-3, so this game will be about keeping pace with the Texans and Ravens for the first-round bye. Tom Brady will look to lead the league's top offense to a fifth straight win.

The Jets are in a three-way tie for second place in the division, so they have some work to do. A loss here puts them three games out in the loss column for the final wild-card spot. New York has some winnable games after this one, but the Jets need a victory here to take some of the pressure off.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez needs a strong showing to help silence some of his critics. Ryan needs a win to cool the hot seat. 

When these two teams met five weeks ago in Foxboro, the Patriots won 29-26 in overtime after blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. If this game is anything like that one, it will be a great way to end Thanksgiving.

It's Brady versus Ryan. If that's not enough to get your attention, I don't know what will.

Maybe some Tim Tebow?

A win by the Jets would definitely help quiet the talk of switching to Tebow, so shouldn't everyone be rooting for New York?