Ah, Thanksgiving. A time to enjoy the company of kin, good food, and football. A time to stop and reflect about all that you are grateful for....all of the moments, people, places, and things that make your life worth living.
I know I certainly contemplate such things each year. It's nice to remind myself that I didn't obtain happiness on my own. I had a lot of help, and recognizing that, I give thanks where thanks are due.
In that spirit, I've written one thing that each NFL team and fan of said team should stop to recognize and give thanks for this holiday season. Enjoy!
Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer
He's not busted up! The Cardinals are not only a contender for a wild card in the NFC, but they are a threat to make a run through the playoffs. When Palmer was traded to Arizona, it looked like somewhat of a desperate move to have an established quarterback in Phoenix. However, the veteran has proven the skeptics wrong, and now has his offense firing on all cylinders.
Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Blank
Be thankful for such a patient owner, Falcons fans! Even though the team has taken a tremendous step back, Mr. Blank has publicly stated that he backs this regime, and Mike Smith is safe. This is a team that nearly won the NFC in 2012. This season is just a hiccup, and Blank is smart to keep the core of this group intact.
Baltimore Ravens: Art Modell
Without Art Modell and "The Move," there wouldn't be a Ravens squad to win Super Bowls.
Buffalo Bills: The Super Bowl years
This team is close, and I was very close to picking EJ Manuel in this spot, for the promise he shows. But, the ghost of Jim Kelly outweighs that. No, the Bills didn't bring the Lombardi Trophy to Buffalo, but still...4 straight Super Bowl appearances is amazing. Think about how hard that would be to pull off in this day & age? Be thankful for that run.
Carolina Panthers: Steve Smith
A future Hall of Famer at wide receiver, Steve Smith has spent his entire career in Charlotte. Be thankful for all of the wild antics and great moments this man has provided.
Chicago Bears: Matt Forte
Is Matt Forte the most underrated runningback in the NFL? Maybe. I certainly can't think of another off the top of my head. Forte is the Chicago Bears' Swiss army knife....he simply does it all! Bears fans should be very thankful to have such a stud as the foundation for their offense.
Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Zimmer
The Bengals' defensive coordinator continues to be one of the more underrated coaches in the NFL. Mike Zimmer is repeatedly mentioned during the offseason when the coaching carousel is in full tilt. Yet, Zimmer remains in Cincinnati where he perpetually produces one of the league's best defensive units. Be thankful while you have him, Bengals fans!
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson
Yes, the man they traded to Indianapolis earlier this year....but look, T-Rich has done little to nothing on the Colts roster, and now, the Browns look like clairvoyants. This is a team that is rebuilding and needs draft picks, which is exactly what they got out of the deal. And beside, how much has Richardson's absence hurt the Browns?
Dallas Cowboys: The NFC East
Ah, the usual Dallas-mediocrity discussions have already started. However, at (6-5), the Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia for the division lead. On paper, Dallas is the best team in this division. Though that has been said for seemingly the past 7 years, this year their record may reflect that. Be thankful that the NFC East is the worst division in the NFL, Cowboys fans.
Denver Broncos: John Elway
This is a no-brainer. Not only did John Elway win 2 Super Bowls as a player in Denver, but he is also responsible for bringing Peyton Manning to Denver. Look how that has turned out.
Detroit Lions: Aaron Rodgers
That's right, Detroit. I am telling you to be thankful for an injured Packer. But, seriously, with all of the Lions' inconsistencies, there's no question that Green Bay would be leading the NFC North with a healthy Rodgers.
Green Bay Packers: Tradition
Green Bay is the smallest market in the NFL by a landslide. In today's large market domination, Packer fans should take some time to step back and reflect on how important Green Bay's football tradition is to the NFL. For, if not for that tradition, and all of the diehard cheese heads, the league might not have a franchise in town.
Houston Texans: Andre Johnson
It sounds like Johnson may leave Houston sooner rather than later, considering his most recent postgame interview. If that's the case, I'd suggest Texans fans to look back on Johnson's career and be thankful for all he has meant to that offense.
Indianapolis Colts: 2011
The Colts hadn't had a losing record in 10 years when the 2011 season concluded. Yet, serendipitously, the Colts' (2-14) record landed them the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft. With that pick, Indianapolis selected Andrew Luck, the best quarterback prospect to come out of college since the man that led the Colts to all those winning seasons, Peyton Manning. Sure, a 2-win season hurts, but look at the big picture, and Indianapolis has good reason to be thankful for this little speed bump.
Jacksonville Jaguars: January
Though the Jaguars have shown a spark the past couple of weeks, this is still an atrocious football team. Jacksonville fans, be thankful that 2014 will soon be upon us and will provide a clean slate for what I believe to be the right regime in place.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tom Brady
Weird, right? But Kansas City should be extremely thankful for Tom Brady & the New England Patriots defeating Denver Sunday night. After a tough loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Chiefs needed a favor to keep pace with the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
Miami Dolphins: the OT win against Cincinnati
(8-8) may be good enough to make it in to the playoffs in the AFC this season. If that's the case, Dolphins fans should be extremely thankful for the overtime win against Cincinnati a few weeks ago. If Miami doesn't get that win, the team is not in position for the second wild card. I believe the week 14 game against Pittsburgh will determine the AFC's 6th seed.
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson
Another no-brainer. No Adrian Peterson. No playoffs in 2012. No chance. No hope. A player who is now destined for Canton. Be thankful and enjoy!
New England Patriots: Everything
Maybe this is a cop-out, but what do the Patriots NOT have to be thankful for? Aaron Hernandez, and I can't think of anything else! They have multiple Super Bowl appearances, with 3 wins. They have arguably the greatest coach/quarterback combination in NFL history. They just beat the AFC favorite, and look to be a serious contender for yet another Super Bowl run.....just sit pretty, New England.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
Sweet Breesus has done more for the city of New Orleans than a football field could ever measure. He is truly a special individual, and all stats, records, and the Super Bowl aside, means more to New Orleans than any other player means to his subsequent team.
New York Giants: the New England Patriots
Yes, yes. You can already see where I'm going with this one. Giants fans, just be thankful that when you make it to a Super Bowl, New England will seemingly be there waiting on you. You tend to get good results in such games.
New York Jets: Defense
Defense. It's the only thing keeping the Jets in the AFC hunt....well....that and the fact that the AFC is mediocre at best this season. Even so, this Jets defense has seemingly fallen a bit since earlier in the season. Still....not much else to be thankful for if you're a Jets fan.
Oakland Raiders: Al Davis
Crazy, maybe? But Al Davis bled silver and black...much like the fans in Oakland. He did a lot to lay the foundation of what the NFL is today.
Philadelphia Eagles: Andy Reid
Yes, Andy Reid got the boot after last season's (4-12) campaign. But please, Eagle fans, be thankful for all that this man accomplished as your head coach. You may have a fresh start with Chip Kelly, and it may be working out pretty well so far, but this Thanksgiving, look back on the Andy Reid Eagles and be thankful you had him for so long. Most teams don't enjoy the consistency and stability he produced.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Rooney family
Need I say more? Look at what the Rooney's have done for the Steelers franchise. Pittsburgh has been the prime example of a stable organization for the better part of the NFL's history. Kudos!
Saint Louis Rams: Robert Griffin III
The Rams are the great beneficiary of Washington's lust over Robert Griffin III. Why? They received 3 first round picks and a second rounder when the Redskins moved up in 2012 to draft him. The Jeff Fisher regime has hit early in recent drafts (Michael Brockers, Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Tavon Austin, & Alec Ogletree were all 1st or 2nd round picks), so one would trust that the team is going to make safe picks and eventually get the better value in this deal. Plus, the Rams are winning with Kellen Clemens! Once Sam Bradford returns, this team will contend in the NFC. Be thankful that Washington fell in love with the Heisman-winner, because the Rams will likely have a strong foundation for the future because of that deal.
San Diego Chargers: Antonio Gates
For the better part of the 2000's, Gates has been one of the top 2-3 tight ends in the NFL. You can look at him and Tony Gonzalez as guys that really changed the way the position was played. Be thankful you've had him for his whole career, San Diego...his next stop may be Canton.
San Francisco 49ers: Mike Singletary
I know it sounds stupid, but I don't feel like the former Niners' head coach gets enough credit for what he left for Jim Harbaugh to inherit. If for no other reason, be thankful for what he did in the way of grooming the Vernon Davis of today.
Seattle Seahawks: The home crowd
Cliche, maybe, but Seattle definitely needs to be thankful for the tremendous homefield advantage the Seahawks fans have created in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle is a feared place to play in the NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Glennon
Now a contender for rookie of the year, Mike Glennon saved the season from full-on dumpster fire status. Be thankful that this staff successfully hit on this pick.
Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright
This has been a back-and-forth type of season for the Titans, but one constant has emerged on offense: Kendall Wright. With all the questions surrounding Jake Locker's future, and the defensive inconsistency, Titans fans have grumbled with pessimism. However, the first-round pick from 2012 has established himself as the central cog in the Titans' offense, a security blanket for whoever is at the helm in Nashville, and a beacon of hope for the future.
Washington Redskins: Kirk Cousins
One way or another, Washington is going to be thankful for the services of Kirk Cousins. One way - they get some of those draft picks they gave to St. Louis back when they ship him out of DC. Another - they have a reliable fill-in for when RG3 is inevitably injured again.