The 1 Thing Each NFL Franchise Should Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving


AFC EAST


Buffalo Bills

2017 Record: 5-5
Thankful For? Kansas City Chiefs Meltdown

This team is nowhere near a contender and can’t tank at 5-5, so they find themselves in an awkward spot. However, the Bills have Kansas City’s 2018 first-round pick, meaning no one has benefited from the Chiefs’ current 1-4 stretch more than Buffalo. What once looked like the 30th overall pick will likely end up in the low 20’s. As you can tell, there isn’t a whole lot to be grateful for as a Bills fan at the moment.


Miami Dolphins

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? Jay Cutler's Contract

Dolphins fans are not happy they dragged Jay Cutler out of retirement to watch him absolutely stink it up. They’re even less pleased knowing they paid him $10 million to do this. You know what they are happy about though? The contract is only for one year.


New England Patriots

2017 Record: 8-2
Thankful For? The Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Duo

This duo still shows no signs of slowing down, with the Patriots once again looking like the Super Bowl favorite and Tom Brady as the MVP frontrunner. After 17 years of greatness, I’m not even sure if Patriots fans are thankful for how good they have it.


New York Jets

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? The Cleveland Browns

It’s easy to forget that it was the Jets - not the Browns - that everyone pegged going 0-16 this season. Thanks to generous performances by the Dolphins, Jaguars, Browns and Bills, the Jets have mustered four victories this season. Cleveland’s ineptitude has taken the attention off of the Jets being a laughingstock. Plus, they aren’t even the most embarrassing NFL franchise in New York at the moment. In other words, 2017 has been good to the Jets.


AFC NORTH


Baltimore Ravens

2017 Record: 5-5
Thankful For? An Embarrassing AFC

Calling this a down year for the AFC would be a dramatic understatement. Aside from New England and Pittsburgh, the NFC might boast the next eight teams to round out the top ten. Sitting at 5-5, the Ravens are capitalizing on this fact, currently holding the second wild card spot. Despite a borderline-unwatchable offense, Baltimore should reach the postseason with five of their final six coming against AFC squads.


Cincinnati Bengals

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? A.J. Green's Existence

Could you imagine watching Andy Dalton try to play quarterback without one of the five most gifted wide receivers in the world on his team? It would be even more painful than it already is. At 4-6 and still (somehow) in the thick of the AFC wild card race, A.J. Green and his 743 yards and 6 touchdowns are the biggest reason why. At Thanksgiving dinner when it’s time to go around the table and say what you’re thankful for, A.J. Green should be first on every Bengals fan’s list.


Cleveland Browns

2017 Record: 0-10
Thankful For? No Draft Lottery

The Cleveland Browns are probably most grateful for the fact that there are only six games left in this miserable season. Sitting at 0-10, this year can’t end soon enough for a team that won a single game last season. While trying to create optimism around the Browns is normally an impossible exercise, having the first pick in a quarterback-rich draft without ping-pong balls to worry about isn’t the worst spot to be in.


Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 Record: 8-2
Thankful For? A Pass Rush

T.J. Watt, like every other human on this planet, is not J.J. Watt. He doesn’t have the same power or explosiveness his brother does, but as a rookie, he has been a key cog in Pittsburgh’s revitalized defense. Currently holding the top seed in the AFC, Steelers fans are grateful this unit can actually get after the quarterback. We’ve seen time and time again that getting pressure on Tom Brady is the only way to beat New England, and Pittsburgh might finally have the personnel to take down the defending champs.


AFC SOUTH


Houston Texans

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? Deshaun Watson

Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson only played seven games this season, but boy was it an impressive seven-game stretch. Texans fans are giddy over finally finding a franchise quarterback, and will enter 2018 with Super Bowl aspirations. Assuming Watson, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus return to full health, Texans fans are grateful knowing brighter times are ahead.


Indianapolis Colts

2017 Record: 3-7
Thankful For? A Tough Closing Schedule

When you’re 3-7 with nothing but a franchise quarterback who may never play again, what should you do? LOSE! Securing a top-five draft pick would certainly be a win for the Colts, who finish with games against the Titans, Jaguars, Bills, Broncos, Ravens and Texans. It’s not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents, but the Colts should be able to drop all six in respectable fashion.


Jacksonville Jaguars

2017 Record: 7-3
Thankful For? Leonard Fournette

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Not only has Leonard Fournette been an absolute beast for the AFC South-leading Jaguars, but he has also kept the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. It’s a win-win for a franchise hoping to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007.


Tennessee Titans

2017 Record: 6-4
Thankful For? Marcus Mariota's Health

The Titans have not taken the leap this season many people expected. Marcus Mariota has thrown 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and the defense has underperformed as well. However, Tennessee still finds itself at 6-4, one game back in the AFC South and a game ahead in the wild card. As long as Mariota stays on the field, Titans fans should feel confident in this team making the playoffs.


AFC WEST


Denver Broncos

2017 Record: 3-7
Thankful For? The 2018 NFL Draft Class

Has there ever been a team so talented that has been more crippled by horrendous quarterback play than this Denver Broncos squad? I’d argue that there hasn’t. Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler (we can soon add Paxton Lynch’s name to the list) couldn’t lead an offense to victories despite having a top-five wide receiver duo in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Luckily for the Denver faithful, they are in the perfect spot to add Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen next year.


Kansas City Chiefs

2017 Record: 6-4
Thankful For? A Dynamic Offense

The word “dynamic” associated with an offense led by Alex Smith once seemed impossible, yet here we are. Everyone knew the torrid pace Kareem Hunt started the season with was unsustainable, but the rookie from Toledo has still been a revelation for the Chiefs. Travis Kelce remains a match-up nightmare, and there’s no stopping Tyreek Hill once he’s in the open field. On this Thanksgiving, Chiefs fans get to say their Alex Smith-led offense is fun to watch.


Los Angeles Chargers

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? The Best Pass Rushing Duo In Football

The Joey Bosa/Melvin Ingram duo has been as good as advertised. Combining for 19.0 sacks and making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, the Charger duo is turning a team with no fans into an entertaining one. Currently in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt as winners of four of their last six, LA’s newest team is one nobody wants to face.


Oakland Raiders

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? An Easy 2018 Schedule

The Raiders are still in the playoff hunt, but it’s hard to really call themselves contenders. They are somehow allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.3% of their passes, and the offense is far less dynamic than many anticipated. With four of their final six against teams competing for playoff spots, Oakland looks primed to finish third in the AFC West this season. On the bright side, that means an easier schedule in 2018.


NFC EAST


Dallas Cowboys

2017 Record: 5-5
Thankful For? Tyron Smith

“You don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone.” Cowboys fans are learning this in the worst way possible with the back injury to Tyron Smith. The All-Pro left tackle’s recent absence has crippled the offense the past two games to the tune of 8 sacks allowed against the Falcons and 0 touchdowns scored against the Eagles. While Zeke’s return in Week 16 may steal the headlines, Smith’s return is the one that better dictates Dallas’ postseason chances.


New York Giants

2017 Record: 2-8
Thankful For? Ben McAdoo's Bizarre Hair-do

Seriously, enjoy it while you can, because there’s no chance you see it (or him) on New York’s sideline in 2018.


Philadelphia Eagles

2017 Record: 9-1
Thankful For? Carson Wentz

Wow. It’s hard to remember a quarterback who has improved as much from year 1 to year 2 as Carson Wentz. The second-year signal caller leads the league with 25 touchdown passes and has his Eagles at an NFL-best 9-1. As one of the MVP frontrunners with Philly fans dreaming of a Lombardi Trophy, Wentz is at the top of many Eagles fans’ gratitude list.


Washington Redskins

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? Kirk Cousins

I’m not sure any team has botched negotiations with a superstar quite like Washington has with Kirk Cousins. Now in his second season under the franchise tag, Cousins will enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent with plenty of suitors. As one of the 12 best signal callers in the league, fans should show Cousins their appreciation over these final six games in hopes that he doesn’t leave next offseason.


NFC NORTH


Chicago Bears

2017 Record: 3-7
Thankful For? Fan Loyalty

This team should have zero fans. They won a game where their quarterback completed a total of four passes. The fact that anyone shows up to Soldier Field for Bears home games should be acknowledged.


Detroit Lions

2017 Record: 6-4
Thankful For? Matthew Stafford

After his first pass of the season went for a pick-six, it was safe to assume things could only improve for Matthew Stafford. All Lions fans would attest that it certainly has. Despite zero run game, Stafford has pieced together his most prolific season (19 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions) and has Detroit in the thick of the playoff conversation. It’s a rare statement in sports, but Stafford is worth every cent as the highest paid player in the NFL.


Green Bay Packers

2017 Record: 5-5
Thankful For? Aaron Rodgers

Everyone already knew Aaron Rodgers’ greatness, but watch Brett Hundley take five snaps with this offense, and then you REALLY appreciate Aaron Rodgers’ greatness.


Minnesota Vikings

2017 Record: 8-2
Thankful For? Case Keenum

If you would’ve told any Vikings fan they’d be grateful for Case Keenum three months ago, they would’ve laughed in your face. However, seven victories, 2,194 passing yards and 12 touchdowns later, Keenum has been the franchise savior. Sitting at 8-2 with a balanced offense and a top-three defense, this squad is a Super Bowl contender thanks to Keenum’s brilliance.


NFC SOUTH


Atlanta Falcons

2017 Record: 6-4
Thankful For? They're somehow 6-4

The Super Bowl collapse hangover has been very real for the Atlanta Falcons. The offense has struggled under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and the defense has been average, yet Atlanta still finds itself in the thick of the playoff hunt. Things can only improve for Julio Jones who has 1 touchdown through 11 games, and four of their final six games are at home. With ample postseason experience, Atlanta fans can be grateful knowing they are as dangerous as any other NFC squad.


Carolina Panthers

2017 Record: 7-3
Thankful For? Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly’s impact cannot be overstated. When sidelined, as was the case for most of 2016, Carolina’s defense is extremely average. But when No. 59 is on the field calling the shots, this defense simply wreaks havoc. At 7-3 while still waiting for Cam Newton to rediscover his MVP form, Kuechly is the No. 1 reason Carolina finds itself in the playoff picture.


New Orleans Saints

2017 Record: 8-2
Thankful For? A Rushing Attack

Finally, some help for Drew Brees! After years of needing to chuck it 45+ times a game, NFL enthusiasts are getting to see Brees’ brilliance when the defense needs to respect the run. The results? Brees is completing a career-high 71.6% of his passes while boasting a 3:1 TD:INT ratio. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have been a phenomenal two-headed attack, and the Saints might just be the team to beat in the NFC.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? Mike Evans

Sorry Tampa fans, but there really isn’t much to be excited about. Jameis has shown zero improvement in year 3, the team is 4-6 and won’t have a top pick in the NFL draft, and there’s no one too exciting on defense. They do have one of the eight best receivers in football, and will look to maximize his value in the coming years. Bucs fans are hoping there’s more to be thankful for a year from now.


NFC WEST


Arizona Cardinals

2017 Record: 4-6
Thankful For? Larry Fitzgerald

The Cardinals keep stinking, but Larry Fitzgerald just keeps on being awesome. Is there any Cardinals fan who can honestly say Fitzgerald is NOT their favorite player? The dude is a national treasure who never drops a pass despite being thrown wounded ducks from Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton.


Los Angeles Rams

2017 Record: 7-3
Thankful For? Sean McVay

Is it Sean McVay, or is it the fact that it’s anyone but Jeff Fisher? I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the 31 year-old first-time head coach who has turned the “Worst Show On Grass” into the second best offense in the league. The quarterback guru has maximized Jared Goff’s ability, helped Todd Gurley regain his groove, and prevented disgruntled fans from changing their allegiance to the Chargers.


San Francisco 49ers

2017 Record: 1-9
Thankful For? Kyle Shanahan/Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers are far from good, but unlike the Browns, there are pieces in place to suggest this team will compete in the next 2-3 years. Jimmy Garoppolo remains an enigma, but four years under Tom Brady’s tutelage and now working alongside offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan should result in success.


Seattle Seahawks

2017 Record: 6-4
Thankful For? Russell Wilson

This guy is literally the entire offense. When the Seahawks feel like having a good laugh, they’ll hand it to Eddie Lacy for a gain of one, but other than that, every play relies on Wilson’s brilliance. The guy is somehow making J.D. McKissic – the second-coming of Dexter McCluster – look like a threat, while also maximizing Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson. Oh, and he also leads this team in rushing by over 150 yards.


Image Source: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Comments