Mac and cheese a Thanksgiving side? A debate is happening in the NFL

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Maybe Matthew Judon knew he’d start a debate, ripping through macaroni and cheese like it was an opposing offensive tackle. But the New England Patriots’ outside linebacker wants no part of it in his house or at his table.

And it’s certainly not part of his Thanksgiving.

“I’m going to tell you we got to get macaroni and cheese off the table,” Judon said Tuesday. “All right, guys. It’s just cheese and noodles. I’m getting on my soapbox. It’s just cheese and noodles and it’s not that good.”

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He considered it “one of the most overrated dishes,” and that the way to have a good Thanksgiving is to avoid the magic of macaroni and cheese. That opinion, though, is not universal.

Fellow Patriots, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Dugger, disagreed with Judon. Down in Atlanta, the opinion might even be considered blasphemous.

Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith, a big fan of Thanksgiving food, stood up for the dish so popular it sometimes becomes the devotion of entire restaurants.

“I think there’s something wrong with you,” Smith said, “if you don’t like mac and cheese.”

Then, in the middle of his media availability Wednesday, Smith took a quick poll of the small Falcons press corps about who likes and doesn’t like mac and cheese. (Full disclosure: Big fan of mac and cheese).

Smith seemed perplexed about how anyone couldn’t like macaroni and cheese — although he also knew there is someone who doesn’t — Judon.

“There’s very few things that everyone can agree on these days,” Smith said. “I would think, I mean, there’s probably somebody that’s offended by that.

“But 90 percent of people probably like mac and cheese.”

That would include his quarterback, Matt Ryan, although for Ryan it’s a bit different. In the Ryan family home, macaroni and cheese was not a Thanksgiving staple as he was growing up. Mashed potatoes were a big thing for him. As was stuffing.

“Don’t get me wrong, I like mac and cheese,” Ryan said. “It just never really was a Thanksgiving staple in my family. I feel like it’s more a Southern thing than it is up North.

“But I like mac and cheese. It’s just not a big holiday dish for us.”

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