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Strong NFL matchups should produce Thanksgiving Day TV viewership record

The NFL's Thanksgiving Day game schedule sets the league up to topple recent TV ratings highs.

(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)
(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

The ratings for the NFL Thanksgiving Day games of the last five years underscore how attached the Dallas Cowboys are to this American holiday. Of the 15 Thanksgiving games played since 2009, four of the top five largest TV viewerships have featured the Cowboys in their traditional 4:15 – 4:30 p.m. ET time slot.

Last year’s Cowboys game versus the lowly Oakland Raiders was the highest-rated Thanksgiving Day broadcast in five years, drawing a 14.8 rating and 31.7 million viewers, just shy of the five-year record of 31.9 million. The three-game average of 27.2 million viewers in 2013 was the highest Thanksgiving Day average since 1998.

The way this year’s Thanksgiving Day game schedule is set, both ratings marks may be primed to fall.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Things finally broke right for the league’s schedule makers, as this is the first time since 2005 that the Cowboys and their Thanksgiving Day opponent both have winning records. The Cowboys are 8-3 and coming off of a down-to-the-wire Sunday night win against the New York Giants. Facing the 8-3 Philadelphia Eagles with the NFC East divisional title and home-field advantage in the playoffs at stake brings added buzz to the already interesting big-market matchup.

The Detroit Lions’ 12:30 p.m. ET game against a historic big-market franchise in the Chicago Bears has enough appeal to combat nap time for viewers at home. The Lions, usually a Thanksgiving Day punchline, are contenders in the NFC this season. The prime time matchup features the San Francisco 49ers versus the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game. Given its bearing on this year’s postseason, this game is every bit as compelling as the league could have anticipated when the schedule was drawn up in the spring.

While you wait for the games to begin, check out the Thanksgiving Day NFL TV ratings for the last five years:

NFL Thanksgiving Day ratings since '09
(Ghazzal Rezvan/The Fields of Green)

TV Ratings graph sources:

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