The quarterback combination for the Thanksgiving’s early game may have some already losing their appetite. We now know it will be Andy Dalton under center for Chicago and likely Jared Goff for Detroit. It’s the matchup you didn’t even know you needed.
Hear me out.
Detroit has kicked off the NFL slate on Thanksgiving for as long as most can remember. While it isn’t always pretty, it’s exactly how to ease into the holiday, even for Lions fans.
Nobody needs to see the Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers on Thanksgiving. Who gives a rip about having juggernauts face off? That’s not what the tradition of the first Thanksgiving game is about. It’s about the Lions getting the grand stage, regardless of their record and who is on the roster. For three hours, all eyes are on them. Everyone may not appreciate the brand, but it’s beautiful in its own right. Ten people can look at the same painting and have ten different opinions. Ten NFL fans can watch Detroit and Chicago this Thanksgiving and come up with ten different ways to describe what they’re watching. But if they say it isn’t pure and majestic in its own way, to hell with them. It’s the only way to start the Thanksgiving festivities.
Kids don’t want to open up the best present first on Christmas. It’s the one they’ll be itching for, but if they open that one up to start, it makes the other ones seem less important or not as cool. You have to build up to that moment, to that big present. Many take for granted the Lions’ games on Turkey Day because it isn’t always glamorous, and Detroit isn’t always a team in the playoff hunt around this time of the year.
Those pessimistic, arrogant jerks should be thanking the Lions for what they bring to the table. This year, it’s Jared Goff. Most would rather ease into the day to get the ball rolling than to wake up and go 100 miles per hour. Getting Detroit to start Thanksgiving Thursday year after year is the perfect opening act for the day. This year, there’s even a little dessert with the quarterback matchup.
Andy Dalton filled in for an injured Justin Fields on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. He went 11 for 23 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. If you didn’t see his performance and based your assumptions off of Bears Twitter, you’d have thought he’d just won a playoff game. Then you’d remember he’s 0-4 all time in the playoffs with a grand total of one touchdown and six interceptions in those four postseason starts, so it couldn’t possibly be that. Instead, it was just Dalton making a couple of nice throws and Chicago fans getting caught drooling over it in what ended up being a loss to the Tyler Huntley-led Ravens.
In many ways, Dalton is the perfect type of quarterback to start on Thanksgiving. It’s an often overlooked holiday — many clamor towards New Year’s Eve or Christmas. There is even a select pocket of ignorance in those who claim their own birthday to be a holiday. Like Thanksgiving, Dalton isn’t the shiniest toy in the closet, but he’s always there. It’s hard to make a case for Thanksgiving being the best holiday, just like it’s hard to justify Dalton still starting NFL games. But alas, here we are. It’s a match made in heaven for Thursday.
Goff will likely start opposing Dalton. Head coach Dan Campbell had the following answer when asked if Goff will start against Chicago after suffering an oblique injury and missing last week.
“I thought he was better today,” Campbell said. “I think it’s leaning that way, Goff. We’ll see.”
“He’s tough. And honestly, that’s part of my concern, is because I know how tough he is,” Campbell said. “And he tells you he’s being truthful, but I know how bad he wants to play. He’s been through a lot, played through a lot. And I appreciate that about him. But I do want to make sure he’s definitely ready to go. And I do think it’s trending that way.”
Unlike Dalton, Goff was supposed to be the expensive and flashy new car after the Los Angeles Rams selected him No. 1 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started on a team that went to the Super Bowl in 2018; it all fell off from there. Goff has since been tremendously underwhelming with his second lease on life in the league with Detroit. However, the talent pool around him isn’t exactly filled with blossoming stars.
Tim Boyle got a crack at things with Goff being too injured to play last week. Boyle threw for 77 total yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions in his first-ever NFL start. After witnessing that, many Lions fans are stuck in purgatory. Do they really want more Tim Boyle?
All of these ingredients mixed together now have two paths set to intersect on Thursday morning with Dalton waddling out of one tunnel for the Bears, and Goff coming off an oblique injury exiting the other.
Not all NFL games are painted with the same brush. Not all are meant to be masterpieces.
The Bears-Lions game won’t be anywhere close to some of the star-studded games that we have witnessed this year. Quite frankly, it’s not meant to be. Those who mask as fraudulent fans of the NFL will bicker and complain when turning on their TV’s to watch Detroit and Chicago kick things off, but they’ll still watch. Those who appreciate the beauty in every NFL game will watch with joy and the spirit of a kid sprinting downstairs on Christmas morning to open up gifts.
Lions fans will hope there’s some higher power in play that could see a result in winning their first game of the year. Hopefully, Matt Nagy keeps his job so he sticks around in the NFC North a while longer. To do so, they’ll need the Cali kid to out-duel the Red Rifle. That is how Thanksgiving football should be kicked off.