How To Talk About The NFL And Super Bowl On Thanksgiving Day
If your family is anything like mine then the topic of who’s going to play in the Super Bowl will come up in conversation before, during, or after turkey dinner. You’ll likely discuss the super matchup for no other reason than you should never talk politics with the family and everyone is tired of chatting about that one uncle and his “situation.”
When the subject finally comes up whom are you going put in the big game?
Right now, the likely candidates are the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots.
The Cards are 9-1. They have quality wins over the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys.
The Patriots have won six straight and during that streak they’ve scored 40 or more points four times.
Of course, no one wins anything in November. With an injury to Carson Palmer, the Cards are forced to use the untested Drew Stanton under center. The team ranks in the middle of the pack, or worse, in total offense and defense. And on top of all that, does anyone really believe the NFL will let the Cardinals win the Lombardi Trophy the year after it was won by the Seattle Seahawks?
During the “Tom Brady era” the Patriots have frequently looked like the best team in the league during the month of November but failed to be the best team on the first Sunday in February. Injuries, old age, or the New York Giants have spoiled the Patriots’ championship quests.
Broncos and Seahawks
Perhaps you’re going with one of last year’s Super Bowl contestants? The Broncos have dropped two out of their last three but are still one of the most complete teams in the National Football League. Peyton Manning is an MVP candidate (again).
The Seahawks have struggled this year but they’re getting healthy and playing better. They also have four games against the Cardinals and 49ers—they can make up a lot of room real fast.
A team hasn’t repeated as Super Bowl Champions since the 2003-2004 Patriots. The NFL has never gone this long without a back-to-back Super Bowl winner.
Green Bay Packers
One of the best “don’t count them out” teams in recent memory are the Green Bay Packers. Since Aaron Rodgers told fans to “relax” the Packers have gone 6-1. That includes scoring 108 points in consecutive ball games.
“Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be OK.” — Aaron Rodgers
The San Francisco 49ers are getting “healthy” and by “healthy” I mean their convicts are coming off of suspension.
The Kansas City Chiefs are definite possibilities even though Alex Smith is their quarterback and Andy Reid their head coach.
The Dallas Cowboys could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl if Tony Romo stays healthy and they continue to avoid shooting themselves in the foot.
If you trust Mark Sanchez there’s always the Philadelphia Eagles.
And the Detroit Lions can’t run the ball but they do have the league’s best defense.
For a long shot you might pick any team from the AFC North. The division is so competitive that whoever wins the race will be battle tested and ready for the playoffs. The Steelers get a bye before Thanksgiving and then they get five defensive starters back. Pittsburgh could be a factor down the stretch.
Much to the chagrin of an NFC team that will win ten games and not qualify for the postseason, a franchise from the NFC South will host a playoff game. Right now, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints lead that division with 4-6 records.
Watching and talking football will be on the menu for many households come the final Thursday of November. But Thanksgiving is more than just a day when football is played. It’s the unofficial start of the push to the playoffs.
Ultimately, it’s not how well you’re playing during the holiday weekend but how well you play afterwards. Still, there will likely be at least one armchair quarterback at your gathering that’s convinced the Patriots and/or Cardinals are unstoppable.
Thanksgiving and The Super Bowl
Make sure you tell the armchair quarterback in your clan that since 2001 only five teams have had their conference’s best record at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend and won the Super Bowl. The last team to do it was the 2013 Seahawks.
Super Bowl Winning Teams With Best Record At The Conclusion Of Thanksgiving Weekend
>>Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 9-3 and won Super Bowl XXXVII (end of 2002 season)
>>New England Patriots were 10-1 and won Super Bowl XXXIX (end of 2004 season)
>>Indianapolis Colts were 10-1 and won Super Bowl XLI (end of 2006 season)
>>New Orleans Saints were 11-0 and won Super Bowl XLIV (end of 2009 season)
>>Seattle Seahawks were 11-1 and won Super Bowl XLVIII (end of 2013 season)
Teams with the best records at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend win the Super Bowl just over 35 percent of the time. Those are pretty decent odds but it’s not a sure thing that the Pats and Cards are going to Super Bowl XLIX (to be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona which just so happens to be the home of the Cardinals).
Having the best record at the conclusion of the Thanksgiving weekend does increase your odds of at least making it to the big game. On seven occasions, the team with the best record at the conclusion of the long T-giving weekend has reached the Super Bowl. So there’s a little bit better chance that we’ll see either the Pats or the Cards compete on Super Sunday.
The next question you’re probably asking is how many times since 2001 have teams with the best records at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend met one another in the Super Bowl? The answer is five times—three teams had the best record outright while two were tied for the top mark (in our 14-year time span two or more teams have been tied for the best record in their respective conference at the end of the four-day turkey feast nine times).
Amazingly, Peyton Manning has been involved in the previously mentioned feat thrice—twice with the Colts and once with the Broncos.
While I’m on quarterbacks, Tom Brady has led the Patriots to the best record at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday on four separate occasions.
Five teams began to eat leftover turkey while undefeated. Only one of those teams has gone on to win the Super Bowl. That’s because the 2009 Colts and the 2009 Saints were both 11-0 after Turkey Day and played each other in Super Bowl XLIV—so one of them had to win (the Saints emerged victorious, 31-17).
Since 2001, most Super Bowl teams are sitting at, or near, the top of the standings when the holiday season begins. Only eight times has an eventual Super Bowl participant had four or more losses at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. The Patriots of 2001 and the Giants of 2011 were both 6-5. In 2008, the Cardinals were 7-5.
So there’s hope for just about every team… minus the Oakland Raiders.
At the very least, having the best record at the conclusion of the Thanksgiving break means you’re going to the playoffs. Only once has a team had the best record at the aforementioned point in the NFL season and not reached the postseason. In 2002, the Chargers were 8-4, tied with the Colts and the Raiders for the best record in the AFC, but failed to secure a playoff berth (they went 0-4 in December).
Only four times has a team with the best record, or tied for the best record, not won a playoff game. The last time it happened was 2011. The Steelers found themselves tied for the best mark in their conference, but came up short against Tim Tebow and the Broncos in the AFC Wildcard game
Just so you know, since 2001 only one team has played on Thanksgiving Day and in the Super Bowl. That team was the 2008 Cardinals. That’s bad news for fans of the Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks, and Bears (although the Bears are out of it for other reasons). Those six teams play on Thanksgiving Day.
Now, if talking about Super Bowl XLIX is too much drama for your family you can always talk about which four teams should be in the College Football Playoff.
By David B.