(photo courtesy of Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It’s Christmas time and kids around the world are unwrapping gifts from under their Christmas tree. Some got gifts they were hoping for while others got unexpected surprises. All in all, the gift of giving was in full swing. In that spirit, every NFL team is in need of something. So why not gift them a few things that they need? Here is the list of gifts the General would give to NFL teams going into the end of the regular season.
Arizona Cardinals-A healthy Tyrann Matheiu
The Cardinals are a dangerous team heading into the playoffs. They have multiple weapons on offense and their defense can put pressure on you from all angles. Unequivocally, their best playmaker was defensive back Tyrann Matheiu. But unfortunately, the third-year defensive back tore his ACL in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cardinals are a still a threat to win the NFC, but that threat is less without Matheiu. If only they could be gifted a healthy playmaker like him at this time.
Atlanta Falcons- Better decision-making for Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan has always been said to be one of the great young quarterbacks in the NFL. But this year, he has definitely struggled. He is near the top in interceptions thrown in the NFL and he has just been off ever since the hot start by Atlanta. If he had some better decision-making, then maybe the Falcons win some of those games instead of taking a loss.
Baltimore Ravens- Health
The Ravens have struggled this season. They have also been hit with key injury after key injury. They have lost their top pass-rusher, wide receiver, quarterback and running back this season. Not many teams can overcome that one. Maybe they would have been better with some of their key pieces healthy. But all of that is pure speculation at this point.
Buffalo Bills- Some consistency
The Buffalo Bills are definitely a talented team. But their issue is they show up inconsistently. If they were a solid team, they would have been in the playoffs at this point. But instead, they are on the outside looking in. The key word is consistency with them and they have yet to find it all season long.
Carolina Panthers- A healthy Kelvin Benjamin
The Carolina Panthers have had a storybook season so far. They have won scoring a ton of points and won scoring very little. It just seems like they have the “it” factor. Cam Newton has stepped up as a passer and that is huge for Carolina. But he would probably much rather be throwing the football to Kelvin Benjamin than Ted Ginn Jr. The speedy veteran is having a career year, but he still has questionable hands and Benjamin was the closest thing they had to a sure thing at that position. Hopefully that does not catch up to them in the playoffs.
Chicago Bears- More defensive playmakers
Looking at the Bears, they are not badly set up offensively. Jay Cutler has not played bad this year for the Bears and Alshon Jeffrey has been solid this season. But on the defensive side of the ball, there are not many playmakers there. Besides Darnell McPhee, not many playmakers you can speak of there. Hopefully for them, they are able to bring in some defensive playmakers this offseason. They need them sorely.
Cincinnati Bengals-A postseason win for Marvin Lewis
The Bengals have been great in the regular season for a while now. That used to be something that could never be uttered ever. But now, the Bengals are a perennial participant in the playoffs. Making the playoffs is not enough anymore for the Bengals, as they have lost every playoff game they have had since Lewis has taken over there. For him, it is imperative that they get a win in the playoffs soon. If he doesn’t, he could potentially get the ax.
Cleveland Browns- A moment of clarity
The Browns have not been relevant ever since they reappeared in the NFL in 1999. And the most recent edition is a group that is much in disarray. It seems the front office and the coaching staff cannot ever get on the same page. So for them, a moment of clarity is needed. Maybe with that moment can come some people that actually can be on the same page and build that organization. If that moment never comes, they will continue to be known as “The Mistake By The Lake”.
Dallas Cowboys- A healthy Tony Romo
The Cowboys seemed like they never could get it going this season offensively. They had star wide receiver Dez Bryant get injured early and quarterback Tony Romo was injured early also. He meant a lot to that team because they have only won one game since he has been injured. The Cowboys are now on their fourth quarterback and they would do anything to have their star QB back. Alas, the Cowboys will go from division champs to potentially the cellar dwellers in their division in one year.
Denver Broncos- Consistency offensively
The Denver Broncos were one of the most potent offenses in the NFL last season. They could get it done whether it be Peyton Manning throwing touchdown passes or their running attack chewing up yardage. But John Fox and his coaching staff were let go after the season in favor of former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. Ever since he has been there, he has changed the offense and not for the better unfortunately. The offense has not been consistently firing on all cylinders all year and if it were not for their defense, the Broncos would be in trouble. And no matter if it were Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler, there is just that learning curve that it takes to get comfortable in a new offense. Maybe Denver will get consistent one of these days offensively.
Detroit Lions- Some sense of direction
The Detroit Lions had a tumultuous start to the season. They lost six straight games and then there was a shakeup in their coaching staff and their front office. In all that, the Lions have played better since the changes have happened. But honestly, this franchise has no direction at this present time. Maybe with the next hires in their front office and coaching staff they will find some direction and be able to move forward.
Green Bay Packers- A consistent offensive line
The Green Bay Packers have had their issues offensively this year. Some would pin those issues on the loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson. But their issues are much deeper than the loss of a veteran wide receiver. The offensive line has not been what it usually is. You can consistently see quarterback Aaron Rodgers running around trying to make plays while avoiding defensive players coming for him. A quarterback like Rodgers deserves to have someone consistently block for him. And if the line could block more consistently and the running game show up every week, the Packers may be a more consistent team.
Houston Texans- A consistent defensive playmaker opposite of JJ Watt
The Houston Texans are sitting in first place and much of the credit (at least defensively) should go to JJ Watt. He has fought through all kinds of things to still have an impact on the game. But the thing that is amazing is he has had no consistent threat opposite him most of his career. If they could only find someone to consistently be a threat along the defensive line with Watt, the defense would be even better than they are right now.
Indianapolis Colts- Offensive line help
The Colts have paid many people along their offense. They brought in veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore. They even gave an extension to wide receiver TY Hilton. But they have never really addressed their offensive line. And because of that, they now sit with two banged up quarterbacks and an offense that has been very inconsistent. Maybe they should look at the guys up front when it comes to spending money next offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars- A defensive pass rush
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made some strides this season. Their young players have stepped up. Allen Robinson has become the receiver they thought he would. Allen Hurns has been excellent in his first two years. And quarterback Blake Bortles has taken a giant step forward. Defensively, they have the pieces, but they are missing one crucial element. The Jaguars need a consistent pass rusher that strikes fear in the opponent. Maybe this offseason, they will be blessed with one.
Kansas City Chiefs- Another wide receiver
The Kansas City Chiefs were known as a team that ignored their wide receivers when it came to the endzone in 2014. Last year they did not have one touchdown to their wide receiver. Coming into this season, they acquired wide receiver Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles to bolster that wide receiver corp. Maclin has done well for Kansas City. But for the Chiefs to get better, they need another wide receiver to expand their offense. If they are able to find that playmaker opposite Maclin, then watch out for what Andy Reid can do with them.
Miami Dolphins- A redo on the Ndamukong Suh contract
Let’s be honest. Ndamukong Suh has not had the impact that he was thought to have when he signed that megadeal in Miami. He has been seen loafing on plays and there have been reports that he has “gone rogue” a few times on the field. I don’t know what the Dolphins thought was going to happen when they signed him, but they have been utterly disappointed and are wishing they had a warranty on Suh so they could trade him in.
Minnesota Vikings-Another playmaking wide receiver
The Vikings have started to make strides towards getting it back on track there. They got Adrian Peterson back and he returned to form. But unfortunately for them, their wide receivers have not panned out like they thought. The trade for Mike Wallace was not as profitable as they thought and rookie Stephon Diggs has turned out to be their best playmaker. The team obviously needs another guy there to help Teddy Bridgewater and that passing game. If they get that added weapon, then the Vikings could be even better offensively.
New England Patriots-Health
The Patriots are always a perennial title contender. But this year, the team has had some health issues. Julian Edelman is currently out injured (although he is practicing now) and running back LaGarrette Blount is out for the year with a hip injury, joining third-down back Dion Lewis (torn ACL) on injured reserve. If the Pats were fully healthy, the team would probably still be undefeated and even more dangerous. But now they are not as dangerous offensively and they need some players to step up.
New Orleans Saints- A redo on Brandon Browner’s contract
The New Orleans Saints have not exactly been where they thought they would have been this season. The team has struggled and they will not be making the playoffs again. One piece that was supposed to make them better was cornerback Brandon Browner. He was brought in from New England to bolster their secondary, but he has nothing but create drama. The veteran corner set a record for most penalties in a season this year and has been a disruption for the team. If only the Saints could have seen the future before they signed him.
New York Giants- Holding on to leads
The New York Giants appear to be heading to another season sitting at home instead of being in the playoffs. They had a bunch of chances to make the situation better for themselves, but they just could not close the deal. If the Giants just could have held on to the leads they had in fourth quarters this season, they would be talking playoffs right now. But instead, they invented ways to lose in football’s most important quarter.
New York Jets- A redo of the Eagles game
The Jets are in the playoff race this year and could make the playoffs. And when you’re in that situation, there is always the thought of what games got away from you. The one that got away from the Jets was the game versus the Eagles earlier this season. They just seemed to be not in the game and when they tried to make a comeback, it was too late and the Eagles had the game at hand. If they had won that game, they would not be in the predicament they are in right now, scratching and clawing for a playoff spot.
Oakland Raiders- Defensive backs
The Oakland Raiders are trying to get it right. The progress is there. Khalil Mack is a wrecking ball defensively and the offense has definitely got the right pieces, led by quarterback Derek Carr. But as far as defensive backs, the Raiders need help there. Safety Charles Woodson was the lynchpin back there and took care of a lot of mistakes that were made. But he is retiring after this season and they will need someone to replace him. Along with that, the pieces they have there are not ones that prove to be a solid secondary. The Raiders may be shopping for cornerbacks this offseason.
Philadelphia Eagles-redo on the contracts of DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell
The Philadelphia Eagles have plenty of issues going on that have affected their season. Two of them happen to be players they brought in to make them better. Byron Maxwell was paid handsomely to be their shutdown corner. He has proven not to be that shutdown corner. And although he has had some good moments, he has had others that make you wonder whether it was him or the Seattle defensive scheme. Offensively, Murray never fit the offense that Chip Kelly ran and it showed. He is more of a North/South runner in a scheme that does not cater to that at all. If they could have saw the future, they surely would have avoided these two in free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers- Late-game adjustments and decisions
The Steelers have a high-octane offense and they have a defense that is growing with each week. But unfortunately, some of the adjustments and calls down the stretch from the coaching staff leave things to be desired. For example, the Steelers had the game won versus the Denver Broncos when offensive coordinator Todd Haley inexplicably called a pass play that was intercepted by the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall. Denver ultimately lost the game and could not capitalize on the gift, but these sort of gaffes and inexplicable coaching decision have happened a lot this year. If the Steelers could clean these decision up and continue to grow as a team, they would give some team fits come playoff times.
San Diego Chargers-A resolution to the stadium issues
It seems like the Chargers and the city of San Diego have been fighting over a new stadium for decades at this point. News is out that the team may be moving to Los Angeles with them getting the new stadium that they craved so much. The move still has to be voted on by the owners in Houston in January, but it seems like the stadium questions may finally be coming to an end for the Chargers and the city.
San Francisco 49ers- An end to the nightmare
The San Francisco 49ers season has been painful. They lost a few players to retirement and others to free agency. And all the while, the team did not really replace those players who left. And this season has some remembering the days when Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary were coaching the team. It is an endless nightmare that seems to have no end in sight currently. For the sake of the 49ers and their fans, they are hoping it ends soon.
Seattle Seahawks- a rebirth of the Legion Of Boom
The Seahawks are soaring right now and their offense is the one leading the way. Russell Wilson is playing at a level he has never played at before. However, the secondary needs to get it together like they have in years past. There have been some breakdowns that normally did not happen in past years. If they can get that together for the playoffs, then all is well. But that has to be alarming though. And it has to be fixed when crunch time comes around.
St. Louis Rams- Consistent quarterback play
The Rams thought they solved their quarterback issues when they traded for Nick Foles from the Eagles. But unfortunately, he has not been what they thought he would be and has been benched in favor of Case Keenum. But let’s not be fooled here, Keenum is not the answer either. If this team had a solid quarterback to depend on, then they would be ready to take the next step. Until then, they will continue to be pretenders.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Consistent pass rush
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made some improvements this season. The offense has become more solid and the running game has gotten better. Defensively, they have had games where they have looked solid and others where they have been missing in action. One thing that would make them more solid is a consistent pass rush. If they are able to add that and maybe more cornerback help, then the progression of this team can continue.
Tennessee Titans- Offensive line help
The Titans drafted quarterback Marcus Mariota with their first round pick this season and he made some headway as a starter. But he also was taking a lot of hits this season behind a makeshift offensive line. In order to protect their investment, the Titans need to invest in the offensive line and that starts in the offseason and in the draft. Once they do that, then maybe the offense will get better.
Washington Redskins- Defensive pressure
The Redskins have been surprisingly good this season. Many did not expect this, including me. But they are in control of their own destiny. If they continue to win, then they will be in the playoffs. But one thing they have overcome this season is consistent pressure up front. If they had that this season, they would be better. But going forward, that would be an investment worth making for them.
Merry Christmas to all and hopefully your NFL teams accept the gifts that await them. They sure could use them.
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