Writer: Andrew Martin
Everything from the Jaguars somehow being a good team that can compete in the AFC, to teams like the Eagles, Rams, and Vikings leading the NFC, has made this one of the weirdest NFL seasons I can remember. When I thought about potentially making an article for Christmas, I thought about this odd season we’re watching, and how even teams at the bottom of their conference standings have had some sort of positive this year. With Christmas just days away, and the NFL playoffs just around the corner, I decided to find something positive, or a “Christmas present” for every NFL team’s season.
Rams, Christmas present: Jared Goff
This time last season, the Rams were finishing their first year in L.A. After drafting Jared Goff number one overall in the draft, Jeff Fisher refused to start him so that he would be more prepared. Fast forward a year, Jeff Fisher is fired, and Jared Goff is the new golden boy in Los Angeles. Fourteen games into the season, Goff has become one of the best QB’s in the league. He has 3, 503 yards, 24 TD’s, a 62.4 completion rate, and only 7 INT’s. With Todd Gurley by his side, he’s led L.A. to a 10-4 record, and a two-game lead in the NFC West. There will be plenty of #18 jerseys opened up on Christmas morning this year, as the Ram’s faithful may have found their franchise QB.
Cowboys, Christmas present: Zeke’s suspension
I know what you’re going to say, how in the world did Zeke’s six game suspension during their toughest stretch of the season help the Cowboys? For starters it helped Zeke grow up fast, he had to deal with the consequences of hurting his team. Also, his suspension helped other players on the team emerge. For example, Dak learned how to play without a dominant running back by his side. His passing game came to the forefront, and he stretched the ball out, showing that the Cowboys have more than just a running game.
Patriots, Christmas present: Tom Brady somehow being immune to aging
I feel like every offseason we talk about how this could be the year that we see Tom Brady’s age start to negatively affect his game. However, here we are in his 18th year in the league, and with the Pats sitting at 11-3 and top of the AFC East like usual, I think it’s safe to say that age somehow still isn’t a factor for #12.
Chiefs, Christmas present: Kareem Hunt
This present definitely came out of nowhere, Hunt is a rookie from Toledo who the Chiefs took in the third round at 86 overall. Obviously, when you’re selected at that stage in the draft, you fly a little under the radar. Just one week into the season, Kareem Hunt became the radar as he went off for 148 yards on the ground, 98 receiving yards, and 3 TD’s against the Pats. This performance not only made him a star in Kansas City, but made him a fantasy football juggernaut. Since then, he’s been a consistent weapon in Alex Smith’s and Andy Reid’s offensive arsenal. While the Chiefs have had a rough second half of the season, they’re sitting at 8-6 and still a top the AFC West, and look poised for a postseason run with an electric Hunt in the backfield.
Bills, Christmas present: Kelvin Benjamin trade
In late October, just before the end of the trade deadline, the Panthers made a very unexpected move. They dealt their third year WR, Kelvin Benjamin, to the Bills for a pair of draft picks. To be honest, this trade doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me from a Carolina standpoint, but acquiring someone like Benjamin for the Bills was brilliant. While he has been plagued by injuries for a lot of his short career, he stands out as an explosive 6’5 receiver. Through his career, Benjamin has 2, 544 yards on just 177 catches, and 19 TD’s. It’s those kinds of numbers that give Buffalo fans a reason to be excited.
Jaguars, Christmas present: Being good for once
I’ll admit it, I have FULLY jumped on board the Blake Bortles and Jaguars bandwagon as the playoffs get ready to start up. For many years now, the Jags have been the laughing stock of the NFL along side the Browns, but not so much this year. In 2016 the Jags finished 3-13, jump forward a year, and they’re currently sitting at 10-4 with a playoff berth clinched. How have they managed this kind of turn around? By improving literally everything, Blake Bortles has become a good QB with over 3,000 yards, and 19 TD’s. Also, the Jags have a strong receiving core, and a running game led by rookie Leonard Fournette. The defense only gives up an average of 14.9 PPG to opponents, the lowest in the league. So, when you’re watching the Jags win playoff games this year, just know that you’re not dreaming. Merry Christmas Jacksonville, you don’t suck anymore!
Packers, Christmas present: Aaron Rodgers injury
I struggled finding a “present” for this Packers team, at the beginning of the year they looked poised for another Super Bowl, but then Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. After talking to a Packers fan, I got an interesting perspective, and realized that Rodgers’ injury was in fact their present. Being without Rodgers exposed the Packers biggest weakness to themselves, defense. Rodgers is such a good QB that he managed to mask the rest of the team’s flaws, but without him leading the charge, the weaknesses on defense came to the forefront. It was a wake-up call for the Green Bay’s front office, and showed them that if they wanted another Super Bowl with Rodgers, they need to make moves in the offseason to help him on the other side of the ball.
Titans, Christmas present: Finally beating the Colts
While it may have been a bit of a disappointing season for Titans fans after all of the Mariota expectations in the offseason, there is one thing to be happy about. Finally beating the Colts. Coming into this season the Titans had lost 11 straight to Indianapolis, and dropped 16 of the previous 17. At least this season they beat the Colts twice, 36-22 the first time, and 20-16 the second time.
Redskins, Christmas present: Another very interesting offseason ahead
It seems like every offseason the Redskins have QB struggles, whether it be who should be starting, or contract negotiations. In this case, it will once again be contract negotiations. Entering another offseason after being franchise tagged, Kirk Cousins will look to push for a long term deal, and get the respect he deserves as a possible franchise QB. So, yeah, sorry Washington fans, I guess your Christmas present this year is actually just getting super frustrated and angry at your front office!
Vikings, Christmas present: Case Keenum
Sam Bradford looked to be the guy for the Vikings coming into the 2017 season, as Teddy Bridgewater remained injured. However, after suffering an early season injury, Case Keenum became the starter, and man oh man did he run with that opportunity. We’ve seen Keenum play for other teams, and honestly, he just wasn’t anything special. He’s lead Minnesota to an 11-3 season and an NFC North championship, while throwing for 3,219 and 20 TD’s.
Saints, Christmas present: A dominant run game
Coming into the season with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson as the Saints’ RB’s, everyone had high expectations for the run game. However, AP didn’t work out at all, and ended up getting cut. That left Mark Ingram, and a Rookie from Tennessee who was taken 67th in the Draft, Alvin Kamara. These powerful backs have combined for 1,697 yards, and 18 TD’s. A ground game that good is a headache for any defense, but when you also have a guy like Brees beside them at QB, it’s just not fair.
Saturday Down South
Seahawks, Christmas present: Russell Wilson’s consistency
It’s been a tougher season for the 12th Man than they’re used to, the defense is injured pretty much everywhere, and the offense doesn’t exactly have the biggest names. However, one thing remained constant every week, Russell Wilson being clutch. He’s the reason for every Seahawks win, simply due to his ability to get outside of the pocket when he needs to, and deliver strong passes. Wilson was a fantasy football favorite this year with 3,669 yards and a staggering 30 TD’s. We don’t yet know if Seattle will be able to clinch the Wild Card, but we do know that if they do clinch it, it will be because of Wilson.
Giants, Christmas present: Ben McAdoo being fired
Wow, what a train wreck of a season for the Giants. First OBJ suffered a season ending injury, then every other receiver did, and then McAdoo benched Eli for Geno Smith. Geno freaking Smith. The Giants were one of the poorest run teams this year, and honestly, one of the worst ran teams we’ve seen over the last several years. However, they did do one thing right, they fired Ben McAdoo, and his always awful looking haircut/facial hair. If you’re a Giants fan, at least take comfort in the fact that next season, OBJ will be back, and McAdoo will not.
Browns, Christmas present: Lebron James
Face it Cleveland, the Browns are destined to always be awful, but at least Lebron is still in your city. For now. The Browns are now on the clock.
Steelers, Christmas present: A promising postseason
While it may seem obvious that the Steelers could make a deep run into the playoffs, it becomes very evident when you look at their schedule and roster. This team is built to win with guys like Antonio Brown, Le’Veon, Big Ben, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and they’ve proved that thus far with wins against strong opponents. For example, they’re currently 11-3, and have beaten the Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs, Lions, and Packers. They also showed they can compete with the AFC favorite Patriots, they may have lost to them last week 27-24, but I think they have the talent to beat them when the AFC Championship comes around.
Bengals, Christmas present: A new coaching staff, maybe
An awful season for the Bengals led by Marvin Lewis is coming to an odd ending. A week ago ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Marvin Lewis would be stepping down after the conclusion of the season, but Lewis went on to deny those reports. While it may look like the Bengals need a change at the HC position, and possibly at other coaching positions, they’ll have to do it against Lewis’ will.
Colts, Christmas present: Somehow beating the Steelers
A very ugly season for Indianapolis is finally coming to an end, and I had a pretty tough time finding a positive in their season, until I looked at their wins. Then I remembered that they managed to beat the Steelers earlier in the season…in the preseason, which was basically the Colts Super Bowl. Colts fans, if the Steelers go on to win the Super Bowl this year, I highly recommend to constantly talk about how you guys beat the Super Bowl champs, just don’t mention the part about it being in the preseason.
Broncos, Christmas present: Offseason QB battle
It hasn’t been a very exciting season for Denver, they’re sitting at 5-9, and looking for answers. In last week’s game against the Colts, Trevor Siemian left the game with a left shoulder injury, and Brock Osweiler made his return as a Bronco. While Siemian has been the Broncos starter all year, Brock went for 194 yards, and 2 TD’s, and thus making people wonder who should be the starter. The offseason will determine that, and come next year, the Broncos may have a new starter.
Buccaneers, Christmas Present: A good draft position
Expectations were high for Famous Jameis and the Bucs coming into the season, and obviously they were a little too high, as they now sit at 4-10. The Bucs are in one of the most offensively-talented divisions in the NFL with the NFC South. With that being said, it’s time the front office takes their attention away from the offense, and puts it on improving things defensively. With a good position in next years draft, it’s a perfect time to start that improvement.
Eagles, Christmas present: A franchise QB
We weren’t really sure what to expect from Carson Wentz this year, but nearing the end of the season, we now know he’s one of the best QB’s in the league. While he may have gone out with a season ending injury a few weeks ago, he led the Eagles to an NFC East title in his second year in the league. He went absolutely off for 3,296 yards, and 33 TD’s in just 13 games. Merry Christmas Philly, you may have just found your Franchise QB.
Falcons, Christmas present: An incredible future
It hasn’t been the season that Falcon’s fans had hoped for as Atlanta suffered from a bit of a Super Bowl hangover. After last season’s disappointing loss, Kyle Shanahan left for the 49ers HC job, and thus leaving the Falcons offense without their magician. The loss, and newly run offense led to a disappointing season, but why worry Falcons fans? Just google the Falcons roster, and tell me how you can’t be excited with names like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and MANY others there.
Raiders, Christmas present: Navorro Bowman
In the middle of October, the 49ers surprisingly cut Pro Bowl LB Navorro Bowman, and very soon after the Raiders signed Bowman to a one-year deal. Bowman’s talent and leadership is an unmatched advantage for the Oakland defense. Which is why it is vital for the Oakland front office to resign Bowman this offseason. While it may not have been the best season for the Raiders, fans can still be happy about acquiring a Pro Bowler without having to give up any other players.
49ers, Christmas present: Jimmy Garoppolo
It looked like nothing but a good draft pick was going to come out of the Niner’s season, until new GM John Lynch stepped up. Lynch traded a 2018 second round pick to the Patriots for Jimmy G. Since then Garoppolo has started three games for the Niners, and he’s won all three games. In those games he’s passed for 1,008 yards, and 2 TD’s, becoming the first 49ers QB since Jeff Garcia to throw for 300+ yards in consecutive games. For once, the future is bright in San Francisco with Jimmy G at the helm.
San Francisco Chronicle
Panthers, Christmas present: Devin Funchess breakout season
Funchess was having a great year already, but in October when the Panthers decided to trade Kelvin Benjamin away, he became Cam Newton’s premier guy. He certainly hasn’t disappointed in that role either, he’s helped Carolina get to the top of the NFC South alongside the Saints, and has gone for 781 yards a 7 TD’s.
Chargers, Christmas present: A very improved defense
While Phillip Rivers may still be leading the way for the Chargers, it was what was happening on the other side of the ball that was impressing people this season. The Chargers were one of the best defensive teams in the league this season, giving up only 16 passing TD’s. While they gave up those 16 TD’s, they have 16 INT’s to match, and cause a constant headache for QB’s and OC’s.
Dolphins, Christmas present: One extra draft pick
Earlier this season, the Dolphins traded their up and coming RB Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for one fourth round pick. Basically, they traded someone who could have turned out to be their franchise running back for a pack of Top’s cards, and some Big League Chew bubble gum. If you’re a Dolphins fan, and you need to see a positive out of this, then I guess maybe this fourth-round pick could turn out to be a rare success.
Jets, Christmas present: Not being AS bad as people predicted
Coming into this season, expectations for the Jets were lower than you could imagine. Many predicted the Browns would even have a better season than them. However, they had a pretty decent start to the season, and everyone thought they might actually be decent. That was until they lost to Dolphins and Bucs, and then we all just kind of saw what we expected. They’re now sitting at 5-9, so I guess one positive to the season is they didn’t do nearly as bad as we all thought they would.
Ravens, Christmas present: Alex Collins
The Ravens offense has not looked good at most parts of the season. Joe Flacco is throwing too many picks, Breshad Perriman didn’t turn out to be the guy Raven’s fans had hoped for, but Alex Collins soon became that guy. He’s the RB Baltimore desperately needed, with 895 yards and 5 TD’s on the season. He has almost single-handedly kept hope for Baltimore offensively.
Texans, Christmas present: Deshaun Watson
Watson was taken 12th overall in last years draft, and as we all know suffered a season-ending injury midway through the year. However, it was what he did in his five starts that has NFL fans everywhere excited to watch his career play out. In just five games, Watson threw for 1,699 yards, and 19 TD’s. His ability to tuck the ball and run when he needs to sets him apart in a league full of mostly pocket passers, and makes him a very intriguing young player. His future success is dependent on his health though, this is his second ACL injury, but with a healthy body he could take Houston to new heights.
Cardinals, Christmas present: Drafting a new QB
Most NFL fans could tell you that Blaine Gabbert isn’t a franchise QB, but unfortunately, he’s been Arizona’s guy all year long, hence the 6-8 record. With that being said, the Cardinals will be in a good enough position in the draft to get a new QB. Which QB? I think Baker Mayfield might be a perfect fit for them considering where they are in the draft. So, despite a boring season in Arizona, someone like Baker trading his Sooner red for Cardinal red could make things very interesting.
Lions, Christmas present: still having playoff hopes
Over the last several seasons, the Lions haven’t been playoff contenders, but after signing Matt Stafford to a FAT contract extension, they’ve improved to an 8-6 record. That 8-6 record has them sitting at second in the NFC North, and there are a couple of scenarios that could get them into the playoffs. The easy one is the Lions win out the remainder of the season, and the Falcons lose out. This scenario is very possible as the Lions would just have to beat two struggling teams, the Bengals and Packers, and the Falcons face two very strong teams in the Saints and Panthers. The other scenario is far more complicated, involving multiple teams losing, but one thing remains the same. If the Lions can win out, they have a serious chance at getting to the playoffs this year.
Bears, Christmas present: Jordan Howard
Mitch Trubisky hasn’t exactly panned out so far in Chicago, leading to a disappointing 4-10 record, but luckily there is one player for Bears fans to be happy about. Jordan Howard. He’s rushed for 1,069 yards and 7 TD’s so far, and has fans excited for the run game. While nothing else has gone right for the Bears this year, at least they have Jordan Howard to give them a little hope each week.