Even for a seen-it-all veteran like Eli Manning, playing football on Thanksgiving is a cool experience.
“Growing up we used to always watch football on Thanksgiving,” the Giants quarterback said. “Being around family and friends, eat a big meal and watch football. So it is special to be a part of that knowing that a lot of people will have eaten a big meal, maybe taken a little nap here and there, but watching the game. To be a part of that tradition is special.”
The Giants will play at Washington on Thursday night, and for many it will be their time playing an NFL game on the holiday.
“I remember when I was a kid watching football on Thanksgiving,” DE Olivier Vernon said. “I remember we used to always go outside, play football on the street, and then come inside and watch the games. Being able to be a part of it now, it’s funny how things end up turning out.”
Thanksgiving and the NFL are so linked that even up in Canada, where Thanksgiving is just another day in November and everyone just goes to school or work, center Brett Jones appreciated the relationship.
“I would sort of forget about it until it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, there are games all day today on a Thursday,’” he said.
Everything isn’t all gravy and pumpkin pie when it comes to the game of course. NFL players are never happy about playing on Thursdays.
“When it comes to player safety, playing the game once out of the week takes a toll on your body,” Vernon said. “So shortening that down, I mean, I don’t know.”
This particular Thursday, though, seems to bring out the festive side of almost everyone.
“It’s a great opportunity to play on Thanksgiving,” said Ben McAdoo, who played against the Lions several times when he was on the Packers coaching staff. “I think it’s a great tradition for the league. Thursday is obviously a quick turnaround. Some players like it, some players don’t. I’m sure they like the time that they get off after the game, but it’s a great opportunity.”
WASHINGTON WON’T MISS OBJ
Washington plays the Giants twice each season, so there is a sense of familiarity between the two division opponents. This time, though, there might be less contempt.
One of the nastiest personal rivalries in the NFL will be absent from the matchup as the Giants are without Odell Beckham Jr. That leaves Washington CB Josh Norman having to find someone else to cover. It may not even be Sterling Shepard, who is listed as questionable for the game.
Washington coach Jay Gruden said his team won’t alter their scheme much.
“We feel good about our corners right now,” he said. “We feel good about where [Bashaud] Breeland is lined up, where Kendall Fuller is lined up inside, and obviously Josh Norman, where he is. If we need to change it up, we will.”
They probably won’t. The Giants will again be without Sterling Shepard, ruled out with a continuing migraine. But that won’t be the biggest absence.
“Without Odell Beckham, it’s a huge difference,” Gruden said. “He’s the best receiver in the league.”
ACCOLADES FOR COLLINS
Last Wednesday Landon Collins’s play was recognized in a bad way. Some of the snaps from the 49ers game that Ben McAdoo showed the team as examples of not finishing and lacking desire included him.
This Wednesday, he was recognized again. Only in a more positive fashion.
Collins was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the 14-tackles and an interception that he recorded in the overtime win over the Chiefs on Sunday.
“Landon had one of his best outings of the year,” Ben McAdoo said of the more recent — and expected — performance.
It is Collins’ third Player of the Week honor of his career, having won it twice last season. That is the most for a defensive back in Giants history.
“We played defense more like we did last year,” Collins said after the win. “With instinct. We didn’t really have to think about anything . . . All the guys we on the same page, we were consistent. We trusted in every call that the coaches made. We played fast and that was the best feeling.”
Last year Washington QB Kirk Cousins threw for 449 yards in a Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys, the second-most passing yardage ever on the holiday. Here are the top four passing performances in Thanksgiving Day games:
Troy Aikman, 1998 Cowboys vs. Vikings, 445
Kirk Cousins, 2016 Redskins vs. Cowboys, 449
Tony Romo, 2012 Cowboys vs. Redskins, 441
Matthew Stafford, 2012 Lions vs. Texans, 441
14: Previous games played by the Giants on Thanksgiving Day. Eleven of those games were played before 1939, including their Thanksgiving debut in 1926 when they beat the Brooklyn Lions, 17-0, at Ebbets Field. The Giants’ all-time Thanksgiving record is 7-4-3.
3-0: Eli Manning’s record against Washington in Thursday Night games. He is 1-3 against all other teams.
65: Years since the Giants have had interceptions by a defensive lineman in back-to-back games. Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison have each had one in the past two games. In 1952, DE Jim Duncan had interceptions in consecutive weeks against the Chicago Cardinals and the 49ers.