Which NFL Team Has Won the Most Thanksgiving Games?

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Like turkey and cranberry sauce, the NFL is an integral part of the Thanksgiving Day experience and has been for more than a century now. Here, we take a quick look at how football became a Turkey Day tradition and which NFL teams have played and won the most games on the holiday.

When did ‘football on Thanksgiving’ become a thing?

Football on Thanksgiving is a time-honored tradition that actually dates back to before the National Football League was created. The first reported Turkey Day game was in 1876, just 14 years after Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. That game was a collegiate affair between Yale and Princeton, which led to other Ivy League colleges holding games on Thanksgiving. High schools later joined in the fun, some of which still carry on the tradition to this day. 

The NFL got in on the action during its inaugural season in 1920 with six games on the slate. 

Which NFL team has played the most Thanksgiving games?

Detroit Lions NFL Thanksgiving logo in 2014
A general view of the logo for the Detroit Lions traditional Thanksgiving Day football game as displayed during the game between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions during a regular season game played at Ford Field in Detroit in 2014 | Scott Grau/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nowadays, there are typically three NFL games on Thanksgiving. But even though there are 32 teams in the league, not every team gets to participate in the Turkey Day festivities. In fact, you’re more likely to see the same teams play every year.

The Detroit Lions began playing home games on Thanksgiving in 1934 and have done so every year since, minus 1939-1944 due to World War II. 

The Dallas Cowboys started their tradition of hosting Thanksgiving football in 1966 and have only missed playing on the holiday twice since. Both the Cowboys and Lions have hosted their own Turkey Day game every year since 1978, with Detroit, who holds the record for most games played on Thanksgiving with 81, typically filling in the early timeslot and Dallas playing in the afternoon.The Cowboys are second on the list with 53 games played on Thanksgiving.

The NFL added a night tilt in 2006, which features a matchup between a more random selection of teams.

Which NFL team has won the most Thanksgiving Day games?

Since the Lions and Cowboys always play on Turkey Day, it’s no surprise they hold the records for the most wins on that festive Thursday. Detroit leads the way with 37 wins with Dallas in second with 31. The Cowboys, however, own the better winning percentage at .594 with a record of 31-21-1. The Lions currently sit at .469 with a mark of 37-42-2. 

(Records are current through the 2020 slate of Thanksgiving games.)

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference