Thanksgiving football schedule 2012: Playoff implications abound

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

With two divisional games and several teams near or at .500, the three Thanksgiving NFL games will have plenty of playoff implications. The Texas Longhorns and TCU Horned Frogs square off in the only college football game of the day.

Featuring two key divisional matchups, the lineup of Thanksgiving NFL games has three games that will each have implications for teams in playoff contention, beginning with a morning game between the Texans and Lions.

The sole game between non-divisional opponents, the Texans are big favorites to hand the Lions a third consecutive loss in the first game of the day, beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET. With a 4-6 record, the Lions are not eliminated from the playoffs, but the team is losing ground on the strong NFC North very quickly. Meanwhile, the 9-1 Texans are pulling away from the AFC South and the rest of the conference in pursuit of the top seed in the AFC.

Neither the Cowboys nor the Redskins can say the same. Both will be trying to claw back into contention for the NFC East title at 4:15 p.m. ET. The division is now very much up in the air following back-to-back losses by the Giants. The historical rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins has had over 100 games, but it will be the first for Washington's rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Thursday also features a crucial game for college football, when the No. 18 Texas Longhorns host the TCU Horned Frogs at 7:30 p.m. ET. With a fifth consecutive win, the Longhorns would set up a Big 12 showdown against the Kansas State Wildcats. Although the Horned Frogs have struggled in conference play, the team also recorded big wins against Baylor and West Virginia while also forcing three overtimes in a game against Texas Tech.

In the final NFL game of the day at 8:20 p.m. ET, Tom Brady and the Patriots are favored to find plenty of success against the Jets. After a three-game skid, the Jets got back on track with a win, but are still three games behind the Patriots for first in the AFC East. The two teams faced each other in a Week 7 game that went to overtime, but the Patriots came away victorious with a 48-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.

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