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5 winners, losers from NFL Thanksgiving games: Jordan Love’s statement game, Dak Prescott enters MVP race

The arrival of the NFL Thanksgiving games is one of the best times of the year. As everyone sat around with their families to enjoy some football on Thursday, the NFL delivered a three-game slate that will provide plenty to analyze and talk about in the days to come.

It started with a stunner as the Green Bay Packers went into Ford Field and handed the Detroit Lions their first loss to a divisional opponent this season. The victory could prove to be a turnaround point in the Packers’ season, while also raising doubts about Detroit’s legitimacy as a contender.

As for the Washington Commanders vs Dallas Cowboys game, at least we saw some NFL history while we ate turkey, mac & cheese and dinner rolls. Speaking of turkey, the tryptophan seemed to hit the Seattle Seahawks hard before they took the field on NBC, losing ugly to the San Francisco 49ers on a national stage.

Let’s dive into our winners and losers from the 2023 NFL Thanksgiving games.

Winner: Jordan Love shows he could be the Packers’ franchise quarterback

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers have not put Love in a favorable situation for a first-year starting quarterback. Entering NFL games today, the Packers had one of the worst rushing offenses in football and that was before Aaron Jones’ injury. In addition, Green Bay has one of the youngest receiving corps in the NFL in the last five years, which means a much higher frequency of route-running mistakes, blown assignments and drops.

Related: NFL power rankings

However, gaining experience can fix some problems. The Packers’ receivers are gaining confidence and more familiarity with their assignments, creating big-play opportunities and providing Love with options he can actually progress through and target instead of throwing the football away. It’s made a huge difference.

  • Jordan Love stats (Weeks 11-12): 49-of-70, 590 pass yards, 5-0 TD-INT, 119.3 QB rating

No one would suggest that Love is ready to proclaim Love as the new face of the Packers’ franchise or a future Hall of Famer. However, he’s already shown more than enough to be Green Bay’s starting quarterback in 2024. It will allow the front office to build a team around him and that can make Love look even better next season.

Related: NFL QB rankings

Loser: Detroit Lions prove they aren’t a Super Bowl contender

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit is still the best team in the NFC North and it could finish the regular season with a top-three seed in the NFC, meaning a home playoff game at Ford Field. However, recent weeks have proven the Lions aren’t ready to contend for a Super Bowl.

We’ll start with the offense. The Lions’ turnover margin over the last five games is -6. Jared Goff has always largely been the product of his environment largely elevated by the system and players around him. The circumstances are very good in Detroit and Goff is collapsing. It would be one thing if Detroit suddenly had turnover problems but was still playing great defense. Outside of the matchup against the Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo-led Raiders, this has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL since Week 7.

  • Detroit Lions defense stats (vs BAL, LAC, CHI, GB): 1,635 total yards allowed (408.75 total ypg), 6.75 yards per play allowed, 21-for-46 on third downs (45.7% conversion rate), 124.6 average QB rating allowed, 11-1 TD-INT, 70% completion rate

Nothing the Lions can show us in the coming weeks should lessen the concerns surrounding this football team. If Detroit struggles against the New Orleans Saints Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos, then it’s not even well-position to win a single playoff game in January.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott proves he’s an MVP candidate

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL MVP odds need to skyrocket for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. While he played one of the worst defenses in football, the NFL Thanksgiving games are a big state. Against one of the Cowboys’ biggest rivals, Prescott delivered an excellent performance.

Prescott did a majority of his damage in the first half, throwing for over 250 yards with a QB rating of over 150. It was easy, with the Washington Commanders leaving wide receivers open and Prescott easily diagnosing what Washington did both post- and pre-snap. Of course, this is par for the course. In the last five weeks, Prescott has been the best quarterback in football.

  • Dak Prescott stats (last 5 games): 124.8 QB rating, 70.6% completion, 1,602 passing yards, 320.4 pass ypg, 17-2 TD-INT, 8.9 yards per attempt, 106 rushing yards, 2 rush TDs, 4-1 record

Those are MVP-caliber numbers for a quarterback who already held the highest Pro Football Focus grade in the NFL. Prescott is playing the best football of his career, bringing back some of the rushing elements we saw pre-ankle injury and pairing that with his phenomenal mind and skills to create All-Pro caliber play. Now, Prescott just needs to beat the Seahawks (Nov. 30) and Philadelphia Eagles (Dec. 10) to become the MVP front-runner.

Loser: Washington Commanders need to dump Ron Rivera, Jack Del Rio

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Commanders
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera is one of the most well-liked coaches in the NFL. He was hired to bring stability to this organization and his loyalty to certain people boosted his reputation. However, the 2023 season is just the latest example that he’s no longer deserving to be a head coach.

Related: Washington Commanders coaching candidates

For one thing, Rivera is now 38-51-1 since the 2018 season. Washington’s lone playoff appearance with Rivera came when the team had a losing record. The Commanders have also benefitted from the NFC East being fairly weak at times. The biggest indictment on Rivera, however, is his loyalty to Jack Del Rio.

Putting aside Rivera’s decision to not fire Del Rio after a long history of controversial and even offensive tweets, Del Rio just isn’t good at his job. Despite Washington having one of the most talented and expensive defensive lines in the NFL, it has one of the league’s worst defenses.

  • Washington Commanders defense stats (Weeks 7-11): 108.4 QB rating allowed, 12-1 TD-INT, 65.2% completion rate, 271 passing yards per game allowed

Del Rio’s defense has allowed multiple touchdown passes nine times this season. In the first half alone, the Commanders surrendered a 150.5 QB rating and 12.3 yards per attempt to Prescott. Rivera has kept Del Rio around for too long. While it’s not the primary reason Washington must clean house, it plays a part.

Winner: San Francisco 49ers re-establish supremacy

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

From Weeks 1-5, the San Francisco 49ers outscored opponents by 99 points in their first five wins. It was utter domination by Kyle Shanahan’s team on both sides of the ball. San Francisco’s offense converted 48.1 percent of its third-down attempts and averaged 33.4 points per game

Since returning from the bye week after that three-week slump, we’ve seen that same version of the 49ers. On a short week against a division rival, San Francisco decimated Seattle. Thursday marked the 49ers’ third consecutive win by double-digit points, including their third against a team with a winning record.

There’s not a better-coached team in the NFL and San Francisco has the best roster in the NFL. In a league with a lot of parity, the 49ers have everything they need to win the Super Bowl. Ultimately, it will come down to whether or not they can stay healthy and that’s far from a given.

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