Fans of the Miami Dolphins won't know till Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24, when their team takes on the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, whether they truly have something to be thankful for. However, as AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich writes in his latest piece, the slate of games on that day is going to be one of the best in quite a while. Not only will the South Florida squad be taking on their traditional Turkey Day nemesis in the 'Boys, but the day will also feature two other exciting matchups.
First on the menu will be the 7-3 Detroit Lions hosting the 10-0 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. The Wisconsin team is looking as if it's seriously bent on surpassing Miami's longstanding undefeated record, which would thereby prevent old Dolphins stalwarts such as Nick Buoniconti and former Miami head coach Don Shula from celebrating the fact no one's yet equaled that magical 1972 season.
Of course, the Lions won't make it easy for them, and while they may have three losses so far this year, they've also proven many times over they're one of the most dominant teams in the league. Their 49-35 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 20 was the third time this season they've scored 45 points or more.
The only other team in the NFL to do that? The Packers, of course.
"From what it's been in the past to now, it's different," said Lions defensive lineman Corey Williams, a former member of the Packers. "For us to be doing as good as we're doing right now, it's real exciting. It's going to be fun. It's going to be like a mini-Super Bowl--I think--atmosphere-wise."
Still, Detroit will have to overcome the fact it has lost seven-consecutive Thanksgiving Day matchups--by more than 20 points each--and that won't be an easy task against arguably the best team in the NFL; hands down. The Lions will have their work cut out trying to stop Aaron Rodgers, who seems to be channeling Dan Marino as he leads his squad on its historic run.
Lions fans will be hoping and praying the entire Detroit team channels a previous squad from the Motor City, who beat a Packers club led by Bart Starr that was undefeated up to that point in a 26-14 drubbing on Nov. 22, 1962; the score of which didn't even fully tell the story. According to reports, the Lions sacked Starr almost a dozen times.
"We had a vendetta. We had a game to make up for," former Detroit defensive tackle Roger Brown said about that contest, referring to a 9-7 road loss by the Lions to the Packers earlier that season. "We gave them a gift up in Green Bay, and we wanted to set the record straight."
The final contest of the day this Thursday will feature two more teams with intriguing storylines running throughout it as the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers, led by new head coach Jim Harbaugh, face off against the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens, led by John Harbaugh, at M&T Bank Stadium. Beyond the fact it pits brother against brother as head coaches for the first time in NFL history, it also pits two of the best defenses in the league against each other.
The very successful 49ers are a surprise to many this year (although I wrote earlier in the year I felt they would do well). However, no one (not even myself) figured they'd have just one loss through their first 10 games. Nevertheless, that's just what they've done, and they'll be looking to push their win total into double-digits on Thursday, and if Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, and the rest of the Bay Area squad's defense has anything to say about it, that's just what they'll do.
Sandwiched in between those two fantastic games will be the second matchup of the day, which promises to provide plenty of intrigue, even if the Dolphins have been a laughingstock for much of the year.
First, these two teams have played each other numerous times over the years on Thanksgiving Day--including the now-famous 1993 Turkey Day blunder by Leon Lett in the ice and snow that gave Miami a 16-14 victory--and have provided some of the best games in the day's history.
Second, there's a real history even beyond the Thanksgiving Day matchup between these two franchises. Both teams played in their first championship game against each other, with Dallas coming away with a 24-3 rout of Miami in Super Bowl VI following the 1971 season. That defeat propelled the Dolphins to two titles over the following years, but forever made both teams mortal enemies of each other.
Third, there aren't two franchises in the NFL whose fan bases are even close to being as arrogant as the Cowboys' and the Dolphins'. Dallas has long dubbed itself "America's Team," and Miami has always thought of itself as a proud, winning club, mainly because of its undefeated 1972 season. At times the arrogance has been wholly unwarranted, but it's never stopped fans of both teams from acting a bit childish at times over it.
Furthermore, both the 3-7 Dolphins and the 6-4 Cowboys have been resurgent of late, winning three-consecutive games each. Miami's streak obviously still isn't good enough to overcome its 0-7 start and make them a contender for the wild card, but Dallas' run has it eyeing a division title. With quarterback Tony Romo playing as he has of late, that doesn't look as impossible as it did just four weeks ago when the Philadelphia Eagles dismantled the Cowboys 34-7 to put their record at 3-4.
Hut, hut, hike!
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*Daniel Barber has been a fan of all Miami teams since he was a child or since their inception having been born right above Miami.