It’s Thanksgiving week and as we all take a break from work and school for an extended holiday weekend, we will do some reflecting on what we are grateful for this time of year. As the NFL closes in on the final month of the regular season, teams around the league should take this time to examine what they are thankful for. And I’m here to transcribe this list. Let’s have a look.
Ouch. This is a tough one. Less than a year removed from playing in the NFC title game, the Cardinals resemble a team that age has caught up to. They look slow and unable to be physical enough on either side of the ball. But a huge bright spot for this team is second year running back David Johnson, who’s 863 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns are good enough for 4th and 2nd in the NFL, respectively.
There must be a certain level of thankfulness that owner Arthur Blank has trusted and been patient with GM Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons have been up and down for years and haven’t been able to maintain a great amount of consistency. But the offense is as potent as ever and head coach Dan Quinn keeps moving that defense in the right direction.
What else would you be thankful for in Baltimore besides the defense? Naturally. Few saw this unit playing so well this year, but the D ranks 2nd in the NFL in total yards, 1st in rush yards, and 5th in points against.
The Bills have been a bit of a roller coaster this season, but you can’t argue or complain too much about their run game. If the defense could come along and be more consistent, this team would be a spitting image of what head coach Rex Ryan hoped to build in upstate New York — run the ball and stop the run.
In what can be classified as a terribly disappointing follow-up season to their Super Bowl runner-up year of 2015-16, it doesn’t appear the Panthers have much to be grateful for. However, let me look bigger picture and move away from wins and losses for a moment. God forbid, right? Maybe what comes out of this season will be some sort of change in how the NFL does business at the front office-level. Reigning MVP Cam Newton has been highly critical of officiating and how he feels he’s been treated as it pertains to hits on the quarterback; and then during the Thursday night game a couple weeks ago, all-pro linebacker Luke Kuechly was carted off the field in tears and hyper-ventilating after a hit to the face and head area. So maybe these cases will get the NFL to look in the mirror and fix what’s clearly wrong with this league.
Ummm….uhhhhhh……ayyyyyyyeeeeee……soooooo. Can we just agree that the city should still be thankful for the Cubs?
There’s a lot of disappointment in Cincy this year, but when you lose as many pieces as they have over the last few offseason, you have to see something like this coming. But don’t fret Bengal fans, you do still have AJ Green — albeit injured right now. But c’mon, this guy’s a freak.
Be thankful Browns fans that there are still five games left — and all you need is to win ONE of them!!!
Boy, where to start? The offensive line? Rod Marinelli? Dak? Zeke? So many things in big D to be grateful for. How about simply the return to, not just relevance, but a return to consistent winning football and a belief that the expectations they’ve set can be achieved? I know, that seems a very roundabout thing to be thankful for, but I’d just say “greatness” but they’re not quite there yet. But at least the ‘Boys are in the serious conversation.
Be thankful that Von Miller is on your defense and rest easy knowing that because he’s there, you will never be completely out of the discussion when it comes to legitimate Super Bowl contenders. No matter how the quarterback plays.
Two words — Matthew. Stafford. I’ve never been one of his biggest fans — in fact, I’ve thought of him as mostly an underachiever with a cannon for an arm, who makes less than smart decisions with the football. This season with a decimated offense, led by at times Dwayne Washington as the lead RB, Stafford has shouldered the load and carried the Lions to first place on Turkey Day, setting up a rare must-see 12:30 game for fans to watch as they prepare to feast with family.
Green Bay Packers
Yikes. How have things gotten so bad for such a proud franchise? But fans in GB should be thankful that they have history on their side and that the front office is proven — they will put the right people (players and coaches) in place to get back to winning. Aaron Rodgers has under-performed and the team has really struggled in their last 22 games, going 9-13 over that time, but we know what Rodgers is capable of and a quick turnaround after a down stretch is easily in the realm of possibility.
The $72 million man is starting to earn his money — kind of. Brock Osweiler isn’t living up to the mega-contract, but he’s getting better and still has the Texans atop the division. It’s not a complete bust. At least not yet.
Despite general manager Ryan Grigson’s “maybe true yet still asinine comments” earlier this season, the Colts and their fan base should be so thankful they have Andrew Luck as their QB. This is a 3 or 4 win team without him. With him, they’re still not great, but they’re in the hunt for the division and he gives them the best chance at winning every week he’s out there.
Another high draft pick is coming. But seriously, how disappointing for those who expected so much more from this team in ’16.
Kansas City Chiefs
That a Jamaal Charles injury for the 2nd straight year doesn’t totally cripple your backfield — be thankful KC. Spencer Ware and Chacanderick West have, again, stepped into the opening left by Charles. Alex Smith missed a game, too; yet, the Chiefs are right in the middle of a steel-cage match with the Raiders and Broncos for AFC West supremacy.
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley and the defense. Once the Rams figure out their QB question, there are pieces in place at other positions for this team to be successful.
Adam Gase took a second — well, 5 weeks to be exact — to get things going in Miami. The Fins are 6-4, riding high on a 5-game win streak, and the head coach is probably the most responsible.
The fans of the Vikings should be most thankful that their team got out of the gates so well this season. The 5-0 start is what may save them from bottoming out and missing the playoffs. They put a lot of hay in the barn in those first 5 weeks — now the question is can they scrape and claw and hang on long enough to make it hold up?
New England Patriots
Obviously, we can point to the easy ones — Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. But let’s look a little deeper. How about be grateful that LeGarrette Blount is in New England’s backfield, is happy, and is a force that frees up Brady’s playmaking receivers? The dimension that he adds to Josh McDaniels’s offense is invaluable.
New Orleans Saints
That Sean Payton hasn’t seemed to have lost his touch, even things have seemed bleak at time over the last couple years in the Big Easy. Payton still knows what he wants and how he wants to play the game — put the ball in his QB’s hands and let him chuck it!! If nothing else, Saints for should be thankful that their team is at least entertaining. They could live in Chicago.
New York Giants
The Giants decided to play defense this season!! That’s been, arguably, the team’s biggest flaw over the last 3 years. And all it took was a rookie safety to bring that unit to life. Landon Collins is a defensive MVP candidate, putting up Ed Reed-like stats.
New York Jets
That you’re not the Browns.
So much in Oakland to be grateful for this year. But in a quarterback-driven league, Raider fans should feel really good about having a young gun like Derek Carr under center.
The future. Head coach Doug Pederson seems to have a vision of what he wants his Eagles team to look like and play like. This year won’t end with a playoff game or anything, but Philly fans should be thankful that their rebuild doesn’t show signs of lasting too long.
Steeler fans should be glad that the AFC North is a mess — an un-Steeler-like 5-5 record at this point in the year still has Pittsburgh right in the hunt. Thank you Cleveland and Cincinnati.
San Diego Chargers
Despite injuries to almost every key offensive position, Phillip Rivers has not just steadied the ship — he’s playing at times like he has his full compliment of weapons at his disposal. If San Diego fans didn’t appreciate Rivers before this year, I sure hope they are thankful for him now.
San Francisco 49ers
Chip Kelly’s inaugural season at the helm in San Fran has been abysmal. But with a horrendous season comes a high draft pick. You can bet your life’s savings that Kelly will finally be able to draft his quarterback that best fits his system. In four years as an NFL head coach, he’s never drafted a QB to be the man. He will this spring.
That Russell Wilson’s early season injury has healed. The QB is playing MVP-caliber football and the Seahawks are again atop everyone’s list of teams that could walk away this February hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Success isn’t coming overnight with the Bucs. But the fans in Tampa can feel good that they see flashes of brilliance from James Winston and that the team has Mike Evans on the outside. The team has gotten hammered by injuries at the running back position — bad luck more than anything else. Luck has a way of turning around.
Titan fans must be thankful that Chip Kelly misused DeMarco Murray so badly in Philly that he just had to get out of there. The RB is providing the Titans with balance and an ability to win the time of possession battle in most games. Couple that with how Marcus Mariota has the offense humming along, and it’s no wonder Tennessee has a top-10 offense in the league.
That Jay Gruden didn’t listen to the media — or to complaints coming from his own locker room after week 2, when Kirk Cousins’s job was being questioned. The former Spartan has the Redskins in the thick of a very tight NFC East race and has gone 6-1-1 after the 0-2 start.