This year’s NFL Thanksgiving game day caps off with the 6-4 New England Patriots visiting the 8-2 Minnesota Vikings at 8:20 pm. The Patriots go into the Week 12 matchup on a three-game winning streak after defeating the New York Jets 10-3 last Sunday on a late fourth-quarter 84-yard punt return by rookie Marcus Jones. However, the Vikings had their seven-game winning streak snapped after they were demolished 40-3 at home against the 7-3 Dallas Cowboys. Who will come out as winners to conclude an exciting NFL Thanksgiving game day?
New England’s Offense Needs To Step Up
During last week’s 10-3 victory against the Jets, it was clear New England’s defensive dominance was what won them the game. The Patriots held the Jets to only three points, 103 total yards on offense, and sacked QB Zach Wilson four times. The performance by New England’s defense was so exceptional that NBC Sports Michael David Smith reported that the second-year QB out of BYU “is no longer the starting QB,” for the New York Jets.
However, New England’s offensive struggles were just as apparent as their defensive excellence. QB Mac Jones and the rest of the offense only put up three points, with the other seven coming from the buzzer-beating 84-yard punt return by rookie Marcus Jones. Surprisingly, Mac Jones had his best performance of the year after completing 23 of his 27 pass attempts for 246 yards and posted a season-best 104.6 QB rating.
Jones was sacked six times throughout the contest and it became clear the absence of veteran center David Andrews made New England’s offensive line much less imposing. Andrews suffered a thigh injury late in the first quarter and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported it could be a season-ending setback.
Yet, Masslive’s Mark Daniels reported that Andrews will “attempt to play through,” his injury and was even present during Tuesday’s practice. If New England’s star center can play on Thursday against a Vikings defense that let up 40 points to the Cowboys last week, Mac Jones and the Patriots will be confident they can improve on their offensive woes.
Another Big Test For New England’s Defense
The New England Patriots will certainly know what they are coming up against as they face a star-studded Minnesota Vikings offense. Led by veteran QB Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have one of the most multi-faceted offenses in the NFL this season. Cousins has completed 239 of his 377 passing attempts (63.4% completion percentage) for 2,461 yards, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while posting a respectable 85.7 QB rating.
What makes Cousins and the Vikings such an offensive threat are the weapons at their disposal. WR Justin Jefferson is having an MVP-caliber season, tallying 72 receptions for 1,093 receiving yards and four touchdowns as well.
The Vikings recently traded for tight end TJ Hockenson from the Detroit Lions at the NFL trade deadline, who has 47 receptions for 544 receiving yards and three touchdowns so far this season. Lastly, running back Dalvin Cook is having another exceptional season. Cook has run the ball 156 times for 799 rushing yards (5.12 yards per carry) and six touchdowns while adding 22 receptions for 146 receiving yards and a touchdown through the air.
However, Kirk Cousins has an infamously poor record playing primetime games and his 10-18 record certainly shows that. Whether or not the New England Patriots can stop the Vikings talented offense remains to be seen, but throughout the season they have proved to be one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL and will look to continue that standard on Thanksgiving night.
An NFL Thanksgiving To Remember?
This year’s NFL Thanksgiving game day could have massive implications for the two most competitive divisions in the league this season, the AFC East and NFC East. Here is the NFL Thanksgiving schedule:
Buffalo Bills (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6) at 12:30 pm
New York Giants (7-3) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3) at 4:30 pm
New England Patriots (6-4) at Minnesota Vikings (8-3) at 8:20 pm
The competitiveness of the NFC East has been one of the biggest surprises of the year thus far. Every team sits above .500 (as does the AFC East) and the Giants and Cowboys are pushing to catch up to the first-place 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
The Patriots are only one game behind the Bills in the AFC East standings, and as Buffalo travels to Detroit many will assume the Bills will win comfortably and improve to 8-3. However, the Lions have won three straight games including a 31-18 upset at the New York Giants in Week 11. If the Patriots were to win and the Bills were to lose, both teams would have identical 7-4 records heading into their Week 13 matchup in Foxborough.