During one of the greatest weeks of the NFL season, everyone has something to be thankful for. Watching the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day is a tradition that never gets old, and when they play an opponent that should result in a close game, that makes it even better.
Then throw in a game with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan going back and forth in an offensive shootout and you have quite the lineup. With several big games on Sunday and one more on Monday, football fans have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend. Here is a look at what each team has to be thankful for this season.
Each NFL Team Should Be Thankful For…
New England Patriots: The Fountain of Youth
Despite having the oldest team in the league, the New England Patriots defense has been suffocating so far this season. Even with Tom Brady and the offense struggling, the Patriots have had no issues establishing themselves as a favorite to reach yet another AFC Championship game.
Buffalo Bills: Makeovers
What a difference new personnel can make. In the off-season, the Buffalo Bills made quite a few changes on the offensive side of the ball to make things better for quarterback Josh Allen. After an 8-3 start to the season, I would say that it worked. Despite a tough stretch of games down the road, the Bills have separated themselves from the AFC pack and look to be safe for a wildcard spot in the playoffs.
New York Jets: Comebacks
An injury to Sam Darnold at the beginning of the year helped lead to a horrendous 1-7 start. However, a win over their New York rivals has sparked a 3-game winning streak and the team seems to be getting better quickly. Who knows, 8-8 could make the playoffs this year and the Jets are more than capable of getting to that mark.
Miami Dolphins: There’s Always Next Year
Sorry, Miami, the team hasn’t had a very good season and there haven’t been many signs of life to spark a lot of hope. The Miami Dolphins still have the Bengals on the schedule so they should still be able to add at least one more win. The Dolphins need to have a successful offseason to really mix things up.
Baltimore Ravens: The MVP
Lamar Jackson is on a completely different level than everyone else and he is only getting better. His talent was on full display Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams when he rushed for over 90 yards and threw five touchdowns. Oh, and he didn’t even play most of the fourth quarter. Defenses beware of this Baltimore Ravens team the rest of the way.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steel Curtain
Without Ben Roethlisberger under center, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has not been the same. They currently have the 28th ranked offense but the Steelers defense has led the way and currently has them on track for a wild card playoff berth. If the Steelers can hold on, they are going to need the offense to step up.
Cleveland Browns: The NFL Schedule
Yes, the Cleveland Browns did not get off to the start everyone thought they were capable of. However, they have the winless Bengals twice in the last five weeks as well as a matchup with the three-win Arizona Cardinals. Expect the Browns to finish strong and be a team that nobody will be excited to face in the playoffs. Yes, the Browns will make the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Draft
Brown paper bags? The Cincinnati Bengals have been terrible, to say the least. They have only scored more points than the Washington Redskins this year and now they are making another switch at quarterback, going back to Andy Dalton. A.J. Green has been out all year and maybe the Bengals are already missing Marvin Lewis. Maybe next year’s draft will help but for right now, fans are already showing up with paper bags covering their heads.
Houston Texans: Offensive Balance
The Texans are not just the Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins show. The receiving core has depth with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills getting their share of yardage. Mix in 6 touchdowns from Darren Fells and you have quite the air attack. Houston is getting it done on the ground too with Carlos Hyde leading the way. As a team, they have over 1500 yards on the ground.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
It seems a little odd to be thankful that the franchise quarterback retired before the season started but if it wasn’t for that, the Indianapolis Colts wouldn’t have found out that they are better with Jacoby Brissett. With Brissett’s speed and mobility, he can extend plays a little better and has provided more of a dual-threat for the Colts this season. The Colts are not only in contention for the playoffs but have a shot at their division as well.
Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Changes
With the offense struggling to get things going to start the season, the Titans decided to make a change against the Denver Broncos and gave Ryan Tannehill a shot. Despite not being able to lead the team from behind in that game, the Tennessee Titans stuck with Tannehill and have been rewarded with a 4-1 record since then. The improved play at the quarterback position has helped Derrick Henry rush for over 150 yards and 2 touchdowns in each of their last 2 games.
Jacksonville Jaguars: AFC South
The current three-game losing streak could have easily eliminated the playoff chances of the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. However, with nobody completely separating themselves in the division and not much separation in the AFC wildcard, the Jaguars could still find a way. If Nick Foles can find a way to lead this team back into contention, it would be one heck of a rollercoaster for the Jags this season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes’ Knee
After getting off to an electrifying start to the 2019 season, the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans all had a major scare when Patrick Mahomes went down with an injury against the Broncos. As it turns out, Mahomes dislocated his knee but did not do any damage to any of the tendons. After a few weeks of sitting out, expect the Kansas City offense to take off and make things tough for their opponents the rest of the way.
Oakland Raiders: The Black Hole
This season hasn’t been hard to figure out for the Raiders so far. When the Oakland Raiders are at home they win, and win they are on the road, they lose. Their home and away splits are 5-1 and 1-4 respectively. At least they can say they are giving their Oakland fan base plenty to cheer about this season.
Los Angeles Chargers: Dignity Health Sports Park
Playing in their final season at this stadium, the Los Angeles Chargers have once again been a let down for most of the season. It’s a good thing that Dignity Health Sports Park only holds 27,000 people because it would otherwise be hard to fill the place up. Hopefully the change of scenery next season will spark a performance change on the field.
Denver Broncos: The First Three Quarters
If the Broncos only had to play three quarters every game, this season would look a lot different. If the games ended after three quarters, the Broncos would be sitting at 7-4 and tied with the Chiefs for first place in the division. Instead, their 3-8 record has them at the bottom of the AFC West and they are turning to a rookie quarterback to lead them the rest of the way.
Dallas Cowboys: NFC East
The Dallas Cowboys have been a middle of the road team all season thus far. They haven’t beat a team that currently has a winning record, but they still find themselves in first place in the NFC East. They are also 4-0 so far within their division which is why they still have a chance at making the playoffs.
Philadelphia Eagles: Haven’t Peaked Yet
This is an interesting topic to be thankful for but for the Philadelphia Eagles, they have reason to still be excited. Philadelphia is underperforming right now but they are still figuring it out and finding some success as they go. With four of their last five games against two-win teams, expect the Eagles to go on a run. Their Week 16 matchup with the Cowboys will likely determine the winner of this division.
New York Giants: Eli Manning
The veteran quarterback was benched for good in favor of Daniel Jones in Week 3. Being the true captain of the New York Giants that Eli Manning is, he has helped tutor Jones along the way. With this kind of leadership, the Giants should be able to get back on track sooner rather than later.
Washington Redskins: Building Blocks
Although the year hasn’t been what the Redskins had hoped for, they have put themselves in a situation to set up future success. With interim coach Bill Callahan leading the way, the Redskins can take full advantage of finding out what their young players can do. The biggest example is getting Dwayne Haskins on the field now and letting him learn firsthand after backing up Case Keenum for much of the season.
Green Bay Packers: Matt LaFleur
When the Packers decided to make Matt LaFleur their head coach, there was a lot of uncertainty on whether he was the right man for the job. With the Packers sitting at 8-3 and in first place in the NFC North, the Packers must be thrilled with where they are at compared to last season. That being said, LaFleur will be the first to tell you that he expects better from himself. Look for the Packers to only improve moving forward.
Minnesota Vikings: Ball Control
Throughout this season, Kirk Cousins has shown an increased awareness and limited his interceptions. Cousins, who threw 10 interceptions last year, has only thrown three this season and the offensive line has been helping keep the pressure off. This offensive effort has been backed by Dalvin Cook’s 1000-yard season thus far and has the Minnesota Vikings in a tie with the Packers right now for first place.
Chicago Bears: A Bond Building
It might be a little bit too late to save the Chicago Bears season, but it looks like Mitchell Trubisky could be forming a good connection with wide receiver Allen Robinson. In Trubisky’s last two starts, he has targeted Robinson 19 times and connected for over 200 yards.
Detroit Lions: The Future
Except for a 12-point loss to the Vikings, the Detroit Lions have played every game this year to within 1 score. Although this is frustrating for Detroit this season, they should be encouraged by the fight of the team and should expect better things from Matt Patricia and the Lions moving forward.
New Orleans Saints: Teddy Bridgewater
When Brees went out early this season with a thumb injury, the New Orleans Saints needed Teddy Bridgewater to step up and guide the team until Brees could come back. Bridgewater did just that going 5-0 in his starts which helped give New Orleans a commanding lead in the NFC South.
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey
Without Christian McCaffrey, the Carolina Panthers would not be in second place in the division. He has been virtually a one-man team, collecting 1700 yards so far this season and not showing any signs of stopping. The Panthers need to get him some more help, especially with Cam Newton out with an injury, but until then, go watch this guy play!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brett Farve…A.K.A. Jameis Winston
This is an exciting team to watch and one that should get better as Jameis Winston studies and gets better. The one thing that is for sure is that he will never give up and will always keep trying. Winston is second in passing this season with 3391 yards and has a dynamic duo of wide receivers to throw the ball to. Right now, he is forcing the ball into too many tight spots and has 20 interceptions. Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans need to hang in there as the future looks bright.
Atlanta Falcons: Past Success
With another disappointing season all but wrapped up, Falcons fan might have to be happy with the past success of this current team. The team hasn’t been able to get things going since their Super Bowl run and it might be time for the Falcons to start making some changes.
San Francisco 49ers: New England Patriots
In this age of the Patriots dynasty, how could anyone outside of New England be thankful for the Patriots? Two years ago, the 49ers made a trade with the Patriots to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite the 49ers struggling in 2018, they finished strong behind Garoppolo and are now 10-1 this year and look like one of the best teams in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks: Road Warriors
For a team that is traditionally so good at home, the Seattle Seahawks have been better on the road this season. Posting a 6-0 road record while being just 3-2 at home this season, maybe being a wild card team is exactly what they should be aiming for.
Los Angeles Rams: The Greatest Show on Turf
They are not there just yet, but they are set up to be exciting when they open up in their new stadium next year. With so many weapons on both sides of the ball, the Rams have all the potential to be electrifying. This season might be a little too far gone at this point but expect the Rams to make some noise next year.
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
An extremely talented wide receiver that has been perfecting his craft for a long time, Larry Fitzgerald leads by example and will have a lasting impact on the Cardinals organization. His leadership and ability to connect with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray will make Arizona a dangerous team in years to come.
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