It’s a Merry Christmas indeed for NFL fans, with the number of games being played on the holiday ramping up over the past few years.
Thanksgiving football is a long-running tradition in the NFL, but Christmas games do not share the same level of commitment.
The main reason for the lack of games on Dec. 25 is that the holiday falls on different days of the week each year, many of which are not typical days the NFL plays.
This contrasts with Thanksgiving, which is always celebrated on Thursday, a day when teams play anyway.
Even though Christmas games have been few and far between for the NFL, there have been some played on the holiday, more commonly in recent years.
So far, there have been a mere 27 NFL games played on Christmas. That does not include the triple-header that will be played on Christmas 2023, bringing the total up to 30.
Out of the 27 games that have been played, there has been an uptick in more recent years.
Christmas 2023 marks the fourth consecutive year teams have battled it out on the big day.
The longest NFL Christmas Day game was also the longest game in the franchise’s history.
In 1971, the first Christmas games were held. The first game of the day was the Dallas Cowboys versus the Minnesota Vikings.
The second game played on the holiday was the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. This was the game that still stands as the longest in NFL history.
The game went into double overtime, lasting 82 minutes and 40 seconds. The Dolphins beat the Chiefs 27-24.
After this extra-long game, the potential start of a tradition quickly fell flat.
It wasn’t until 1989 when another game was played on Christmas, the Minnesota Vikings against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 2023, there will be three games played on Christmas Day. The first is the Las Vegas Raiders against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The second game of the holiday will be the New York Giants versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
To round out the day, the Baltimore Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers.
It looks like the four-year streak of NFL games on Christmas Day will come to an end in 2024.
In 2024, Christmas falls on a Wednesday, a day on which the NFL does not typically hold games.
“We’re not looking to play football on a Tuesday or Wednesday at this point, especially this late in the year as we get close to the postseason,” NFL executive vice president for media distribution Hans Schroeder said per the Athletic.
“We want to focus on the run to the playoffs and for that competitive equity to really shine through. I don’t think we’re going to look at Tuesday or Wednesday football. We’re looking at the days where we’re already playing football and have the opportunity to celebrate something larger on a holiday with a lot of our fans together,” Schroeder continued.
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