By Matt Citak
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means that it’s the time of year to stuff our faces with lots of food, but also, to think about all the things that we’re thankful for in our lives. Since we each do this personally, we figured it’d be fun to take a guess at what some of our favorite professional sports teams are thankful for as well at this time of year. Over the next several days, we’ll be rolling out lists for each of the major sports that give thoughts on what teams should be thankful for right now.
Here is what each NFL team is thankful for this Thanksgiving.
(Ed. note: If you don’t get sarcasm, this may be the wrong post for you).
New England Patriots: The TB12 Method
The TB12 Method is longtime Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s new book, which details what an average day of eating and workout is like for the 40-year-old star. Looking at his 2017 stats, one thing is very clear: it works. Brady, in his 18th NFL season, leads the league in passing yards, is second in passing touchdowns, and has the top passer rating among the league’s quarterbacks. Despite being the oldest non-special teams player in the NFL, Brady continues to dominate and play at an MVP-level.
Buffalo Bills: Sean McDermott
No one expected the Bills to compete for a playoff spot this season, so the fact that we are in the latter-half of November and Buffalo is still very much in the playoff picture is impressive. Rookie head coach Sean McDermott deserves a ton of the credit, as he has gotten the most out of a Bills roster that isn’t reaping with talent. Buffalo traded away Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby, two of their most talented players, during the preseason, yet the moves do not seem to have affected the team at all. The future is bright in Buffalo now that Rex Ryan is gone.
Miami Dolphins: Giancarlo Stanton
The Dolphins are not good this year, and while they may technically still be in playoff contention, it would take a lot of dominoes falling the right way for them to reach the postseason. The offense has been one of the worst in the league, and the defense has not been much better. With nothing to be thankful for on the field, we must look elsewhere in Miami to find some joy. The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton was just named National League MVP, making him the first player in Marlins history to win the award. Stanton is on the trade block though, so enjoy him while you still can, Miami fans.
New York Jets: Veteran QBs Hitting Free Agency
With the Jets already winning four games this season, it is unlikely that they will find themselves with a top pick in next April’s NFL Draft. This means they will almost certainly be out of the running for several of the top rookie quarterbacks available. The team has been floundering in mediocrity since 2010, and desperately needs a jolt at the quarterback position to get them back in contention. Luckily for the Jets, Buffalo just decided to bench Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie QB Nathan Peterman, thus potentially signaling the end of Taylor’s tenure with the Bills. With the Kansas City Chiefs also selecting Patrick Mahomes in the first round of this year’s draft, the Jets could have their choice of veteran QBs to pursue in free agency this upcoming offseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown entered the 2017 season as the league’s top wide receiver, and has done absolutely nothing to lose that title. Brown leads the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and receptions of 20+ yards. His 10 receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns against the Titans in Week 11 made Brown the youngest player in NFL history to reach 700 career receptions. Brown is truly in a league of his own, and boy are the Steelers thanksful for him.
Baltimore Ravens: The Pass Defense
The Ravens are hovering at .500, and with Pittsburgh pulling away in the AFC North, the Ravens will have to look towards the Wild Card if they want to be playing postseason football. The offense, led by Joe Flacco, has struggled immensely this season, ranking 31st in the league with only 279.8 yards per game. A significant reason for Baltimore still being in the playoff hunt has been the team’s pass defense. The Ravens are allowing a mere 185 passing yards per game, which ranks second in the NFL behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cornerback Jimmy Smith, who currently leads the NFL in defensive passer rating, is to thank. The craziest part? Smith injured his Achilles in early October and has been playing through the injury ever since.
Cincinnati Bengals: Carl Lawson
Lawson was Cincinnati’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, and boy does it look like the Bengals struck gold. The rookie edge defender has tallied multiple pressures in every game, and is on pace for 71 pressures this season. Since the start of the 2014 season, only Khalil Mack, Markus Golden, and Joey Bosa have finished their rookie campaigns with at least 50 pressures. It seems as if Lawson will be a mainstay in the Bengals defense for years to come.
Cleveland Browns: The Promise of Next Season
Following a 1-15 campaign in 2016, the Browns have yet to win a game this season. In fact, Cleveland has won just four games since the start of the 2015 season. And you thought your team had it bad… The Browns will once again have a top pick, which the people of Cleveland are praying will result in a franchise quarterback. Knowing the Browns though, they will find a way to mess up the pick. But hey, there’s always next year!
Tennessee Titans: Kevin Byard
Many expected the Titans to be one of the biggest surprise teams this season, and at 6-4, Tennessee finds itself right in the middle of the AFC playoff race. While it was believed Marcus Mariota would be the one leading them to the postseason, it’s actually been the play of Kevin Byard on the defensive side of the ball that has helped boost the Titans. The second-year safety out of Middle Tennessee currently leads the NFL with six interceptions, and ranks as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best safety.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Tom Coughlin
The Jaguars went 3-13 last year in what turned out to be their sixth consecutive losing season. Then the team hired Tom Coughlin as executive vice president of football operations in January, and everything changed. The NFL veteran’s fingerprints are all over Jacksonville’s new team culture, from the dress code, to players arriving to meetings early, to the style of play the team uses every Sunday. The result? Jacksonville is in first place of the AFC South, and look to be on their way to their first playoff berth in 10 years.
Houston Texans: Sashi Brown
The Texans made a splash in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft when they traded the No. 25 pick, along with their 2018 first round pick, to the Browns to move up to No. 12. Many people around the league believed Cleveland would use this selection to take a quarterback, but instead, Browns GM Sashi Brown chose to stockpile picks and pass on all of the first round quarterbacks. Houston went on to use the No. 12 pick on Deshaun Watson, and seven games into his young NFL career, Watson looks like the franchise quarterback Browns fans have been dreaming about for years.
Indianapolis Colts: Jacoby Brissett
The 2017 season has not gone the way the Colts would have hoped. The team seems to have completely bungled Andrew Luck’s shoulder injury, resulting in their star quarterback missing the entire 2017 campaign. However Luck’s injury opened the door for Jacoby Brissett, who has done an admirable job of bringing some stability to the quarterback position. Brissett has looked solid this year, despite not having any time to work out with his new team prior to Week 1. Brissett has provided Indianapolis with possible trade value in the future, along with insurance in case Luck is unable to recover from the shoulder injury.
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith’s Renaissance
Smith has done a good job since joining the Chiefs in 2013, helping lead Kansas City to three postseason trips during his four seasons there. But in 2017, Smith looks like a new man on the field. The veteran QB has the Chiefs offense clicking on all cylinders, and his amazing play, which includes a ridiculous touchdown-interception ratio, has him smack dab in the middle of MVP talks. It looks like Andy Reid has done it again.
Oakland Raiders: Vegas
After a stellar 2016 campaign that saw the Raiders go 12-4, Oakland has struggled to repeat that performance this season. It does not look like Jack Del Rio will be leading this year’s Raiders team to another postseason berth. On the bright side, the Raiders recently broke ground on their 65,000-seat domed stadium with the hope that the stadium will be ready for the 2020 season. This season may be slipping away, but at least we can look forward to Vegas, baby!
Los Angeles Chargers: Joey Bosa
The second-year defensive end out of Ohio State has been all the Chargers could have dreamed for, and then some. Bosa played in just 12 games in 2016, yet finished the season with an impressive 10.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Through 10 games of the 2017 season, the 22-year-old has already matched his rookie sack total. Bosa looks well on his way to being the NFL’s next J.J. Watt.
Denver Broncos: Short-Term Memory
It wasn’t long ago that the Broncos were sitting at 3-1 entering a Week 5 matchup at home against a previously winless New York Giants team. New York somehow came out on top in that game, representing their first win of the 2017 season. The loss was the beginning of the end for Denver, as they went on to lose six consecutive games, quickly falling out of the playoff race. You know things must be bad when you fire your offensive coordinator in the middle of the season and Brock Osweiler is your starting quarterback…
Philadelphia Eagles: The Browns’ Lack of Talent
The Eagles made a huge splash prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, trading the No. 8 pick, the 77th overall pick, and the 100th overall pick in that draft, along with their first and second round picks in the 2017 Draft, to move up to the No. 2 pick. Cleveland was coming off a 3-13 season and was desperate for an influx of talent to their roster. When all was said and done, the Eagles ended up with Carson Wentz, and a year and a half later, with the second-year QB in the middle of an MVP season, they could not be happier in the City of Brotherly Love.
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo’s Back
It’s hard to imagine what might have been had Romo not suffered a compression fracture in his vertebra during Dallas’ third preseason game last year. Dak Prescott was forced into action as a rookie and immediately thrived. He played so well that Romo was relegated to the bench upon recovering from his injury, officially signaling the start of the Prescott Era in Dallas. Prescott is well on his way to his second Pro Bowl in as many years, while Romo’s back is safely resting in the comfortable confines of the CBS broadcast booth.
Washington Redskins: John Lynch
The 49ers general manager swung a trade for QB Jimmy Garoppolo prior to the trade deadline, thus seemingly ending San Francisco’s search for a franchise quarterback. While the trade certainly excited everyone in San Francisco, it also led to joyous celebrations for the people in our nation’s capital. The 49ers were seen as the Redskins’ biggest competition for signing Kirk Cousins this upcoming offseason. With SF out of the picture, it’s looking very likely that Cousins will be staying in Washington for the long haul.
New York Giants: Top College QB’s
The 2017 season has been nothing short of a nightmare for the New York Giants. While Eli Manning is far from the reason for New York’s dismal record, the veteran quarterback has shown the value of having a franchise QB you can rely on week in and week out. The Giants don’t pick in the top-5 very often, so you better believe they will be taking Manning’s successor with that pick. Between Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold, the Giants should have their choice of rookie quarterbacks.
Minnesota Vikings: The Defense
The Vikings have recently been known for their strong defense, and 2017 proves no different. Minnesota is among the top-five teams in the league in points allowed per game, total yards allowed per game, and rushing yards allowed per game, and with Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary, their passing defense is no slouch either. With all of the question marks surrounding the quarterback position this season (between Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and Teddy Bridgewater), Minnesota relies on its stellar defense to dominate opponents. This is why the Vikings are sitting comfortably in first place of the NFC North.
Detroit Lions: Darius Slay
Unlike the Vikings, the Lions are not ones to normally count on the defense to win ballgames. It has mainly been the play of Matthew Stafford that has led Detroit to two postseason berths in the last three seasons. And while Stafford seems to be heading towards his second career Pro Bowl appearance this year, it has been the play of Darius Slay on the defensive side of the ball that has really stood out. Slay leads all NFL cornerbacks in interceptions and passes defensed, all while shadowing some of the NFL’s top wide receivers, including Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Michael Thomas, and Larry Fitzgerald. You may not know his name yet, but Slay’s name will soon be mentioned with Patrick Peterson, Xavier Rhodes, and the other elite CBs.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
With Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone, the Green Bay Packers got the chance to experience what life would be like without their star quarterback. And let me tell you this- it ain’t pretty. The Packers scored 23 or more points in four of the five games that Rodgers played the full 60 minutes. In the five games since? Green Bay has reached 23 points only once, and was just shutout at home against the Ravens.
Chicago Bears: The Defense
There really isn’t much to like in Chicago this season, so we’re going to go with the surprising play of the Bears’ defense. Chicago ranks right outside the top-10 in total yards allowed per game and points allowed per game. These statistics are somewhat shocking considering the Bears’ 3-7 record, but it’s true. Two of Chicago’s wins came against the Steelers and Panthers, both of which are currently in the playoffs. Those two teams combined for 20 points against the Bears’ defense. With more defensive outings like those, the Bears would be able to hide Mitch Trubisky even more than they already do.
New Orleans Saints: The Run Game
Ever since Drew Brees became the starting quarterback for New Orleans back in 2006, the Saints have been a pass-first offense. Why wouldn’t they be when they have one of the greatest signal-callers in NFL history under center? Well it seems like the torch has finally been passed to the run game this season, as Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have combined forces to create one of the NFL’s strongest run games. The Saints rank third in the league in rushing yards per game, and lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns. Brees is still his future-Hall-of-Fame self, but with the run game performing at this level, the 38-year-old QB doesn’t need to throw the ball as much as he has in the past.
Carolina Panthers: O-Line’s Recent Play
Carolina has won three consecutive games, and a big reason for that has been the recent play of the offensive line. The Panthers’ o-line has allowed their quarterback to be sacked only once during the recent wining streak, while leading the way for the offense to rack up an astounding 580 rushing yards over that span. In Carolina’s Week 10 win over the Dolphins, the Panthers ran for a whopping 294 yards, including 95 from Cam Newton. The Panthers thrive when Newton has room to run, so Carolina will be keeping their fingers crossed that the offensive line can keep it up.
Atlanta Falcons: Super Bowl LII
If you follow the NFL, you are well aware of the Falcons’ historic collapse in Super Bowl LI in which they blew a 25-point lead in the second half to lose to the Patriots. The epic Super Bowl collapse is all the Falcons and their fans have been hearing throughout the season. You wouldn’t be able to find a fan base more looking forward to a new team losing in the Super Bowl than the people of Atlanta.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jon Gruden
The Bucs find themselves laying in the basement of the NFC South at Thanksgiving, a disappointing place to be considering the expectations for the team prior to the start of the season. Dirk Koetter is the most likely candidate to lose his job due to this colossal failure, and with Jon Gruden recently stating his interest in getting back to the sidelines, the stars seem to be aligned for a reunion. Gruden last coached for the Buccaneers, where he led them to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory. A Gruden return to Tampa Bay makes too much sense.
Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay
Sean McVay made history when he was named head coach of the Los Angeles Rams back in January, becoming the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. Despite being the youngest, through two and a half months of the 2017 season, McVay has already proven that he has one of, if not the best, offensive minds in the entire league. The young head coach has transformed the Rams’ offense from the worst in 2016 to the highest-scoring in 2017. It took until the midpoint of this season for the Rams to register more points than they did in ALL of 2016. McVay and Jared Goff could be tearing up Los Angeles together for the next decade.
Seattle Seahawks: Jimmy Graham’s Basketball Career
Graham spent four years at the University of Miami playing basketball, and although he gave up his collegiate sport in order to pursue a career in the NFL, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end still uses some of his box-out abilities today. Graham has been a touchdown machine over the last month and a half, largely in part to Russell Wilson targeting his tight end every time Seattle gets into the red zone. Graham has seven touchdowns in the last six games, with all seven coming from inside the red zone and six of them coming from within six yards. Wilson simply lobs the ball up in the air and lets Graham use his big frame to body the defender and make the catch.
Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson
Arizona’s playoff chances were dashed after Carson Palmer was lost for the season with a broken arm. However you wouldn’t be able to tell the Cardinals are out of it with the way Peterson has been playing. The shutdown corner has been targeted just 39 times, and has allowed only 15 completions all season. Despite matchups against some of the league’s top wide receivers, Peterson has allowed one catch or fewer in five games so far. Even in a lost season, the 27-year-old corner continues to show why he’s among the elite at his position.
San Francisco 49ers: Tom Brady
If Tom Brady weren’t in such amazing shape at 40-years-old, then the 49ers never would have been able to acquire QB Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. Considering San Francisco hasn’t had a Pro Bowl quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2002, the 49ers couldn’t be happier that Brady was able to find the Fountain of Youth, thus leading to Garoppolo landing in the Bay Area. John Lynch and the 49ers are hoping they finally found their franchise quarterback in Garoppolo.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.