NFL Christmas wish list: Here's the perfect gift for every team this holiday season
'Tis the season for joy and presents for all. While mirth and good cheer may not be available for every team around the NFL-- particularly for those who are likely to miss the playoffs -- we can still recommend the perfect present for every franchise -- for this season or the future.
Here's a trip around the league with gift suggestions for each team this holiday season.
Regime change: Even though the franchise inked head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim to matching contract extensions through 2027, it's clear that this duo needs to go. Kingsbury is 28-34-1 in his four years in charge, and he has one playoff appearance, a 34-11 blowout loss in the 2021 NFC Wild Card round against the Rams,
Face-of-the-franchise quarterback Kyler Murray openly ripped into Kingsbury's offense, saying "schematically, we were kind of f-----" when talking about a fourth-and-1 interception he threw early in a 25-24 loss against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12. Not great.
More targets for Kyle Pitts: The Falcons made Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in the common draft era (since 1967) and used him as a decoy frequently in the first 11 weeks of the 2022 season prior to his season-ending knee injury. Pitts' 1,026 receiving yards his rookie year in 2021 made him only the second tight end in NFL history to have 1,000 or more yards as a first-year player. The other was Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka. Get Pitts his targets.
Contract extension for Lamar Jackson: Baltimore has averaged an NFL-worst 9.3 points per game since Week 13, when Jackson left their 10-9 victory against the Denver Broncos with a knee injury. The 2019 NFL MVP is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the Ravens can't afford to bungle contract negotiations with the player they uniquely built their entire offensive playbook around.
Healthy Micah Hyde: The 31-year-old safety had what was thought to be season-ending neck surgery at the end of September, but he was spotted working off to the side of Bills practice with trainers on Tuesday. Buffalo general managers Brandon Beane said, "We haven't ruled anything out" when asked about Hyde's return this season, via The Athletic. Shoring up the back end of the defense just in time for the playoffs could be the cherry on top the Bills need to fulfill their Super Bowl dreams.
First-round quarterback: The Panthers have been without a long-term answer at QB since Cam Newton suffered an injury to his right shoulder on a hit from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 10 of the 2018 season. While many Panthers fans probably hope to win the dumpster-fire that is the NFC South division, it would be better for Carolina to hold on to its top-10 draft pick and begin developing a passer for the long term. Ideally, that would be in the C.J. Stroud range. Eight different quarterbacks have started a game for the Panthers since 2018. It's time to draft and develop.
Star receiver for Justin Fields: Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have all thrived following their teams' acquisitions of top-flight wide receivers. Fields has produced many incredible highlights this season, but many times the jaw-dropping runs have come because no one is open downfield. George Pickens on line one?
Star cornerback: Cincinnati is rolling out second-round rookie Cam Taylor-Britt and journeyman Eli Apple. So far, that's resulted in the 20th-ranked pass defense, allowing 226.1 passing yards per game. Joe Burrow has been on fire since Week 3, throwing 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions for an NFL-best 108.7 passer rating in that span. Shore up the Bengals secondary, and they'll be contending for years to come.
Bag of coal: They've been the opposite of nice in the way they handled the Deshaun Watson situation this year. Especially after the Browns seemed to have found a bit of groove in Jacoby Brissett's last start, an overtime win against Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Amari Cooper: I'm sure Jerry Jones wishes he could have a do-over on flipping the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to the Browns for late-round picks. Their passing game is overly reliant on CeeDee Lamb, and when opposing defenses sell out to take him away, the offense struggles. The Cowboys witnessed this firsthand in their collapse in Jacksonville last week.
Time machine: The Broncos gave Russell Wilson a five-year, $245 million extension upon trading for him this offseason despite him having two years left on his current contract. After seeing him have the worst year of his 11-year career in 2022, I'm sure the franchise is less than enthused about being tied to Wilson through his age-40 season.
Defensive backfield help: Cornerback Amani Oruwariye is in a contract year, and he's taken a step back after hauling in six interceptions a year ago. Mike Hughes also hasn't worked out in a slot/nickel role. This is a team on the rise, and an improved secondary could be a game-changer.
Green Bay Packers
New defensive coordinator: Joe Barry's zone-based scheme has been lit up this season, specifically when playing the run as too many plays start with guys dropped back way too deep. The premise of his scheme is to limit big plays, but the Packers defense has been torn up by little paper cuts that have added up into big wounds. Green Bay has plenty of talent on defense, but needs the right play-caller to maximize its front office's investment on that side of the ball.
Bryce Young: They need a quarterback they can build around, and thanks to their 1-12-1 record, they'll get that opportunity.
First-round quarterback: The Colts have had a different Week 1 starting quarterback since the 2016 season, so they desperately need someone they can develop and build around long term. Enough with the veteran stopgaps. They currently have the sixth overall pick, that could be in the C.J. Stroud range. It's time to draft and develop.
Cornerback partner opposite Tyson Campbell: Whether it's been Shaquill Griffin or Tre Herndon, the Jaguars' other outside corner has been getting cooked all season. Darious Williams has been nice in the slot for them. Shoring up their secondary could go a long way since Trevor Lawrence appears to have arrived as the next great, young quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs
First-round offensive tackle: Orlando Brown has taken a step back in his contract year and keeping Patrick Mahomes upright is always a top priority. Securing a talented and affordable offensive tackle is exactly what the Chiefs need to stay in contention for a long time.
Las Vegas Raiders
Improved coaching: Josh McDaniels' first year as the Las Vegas Raiders head coach has been a disaster. Last year's team won 10 games and made the playoffs, pushing the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals to the edge of defeat. Now, they're all but cooked with a 6-8 record and three games to play despite adding all-world wide receiver Davante Adams and 2010s All-Decade Team pass rusher Chandler Jones. The 2022 season will be remembered as a waste of talent, and here's to hoping McDaniels can find some wisdom in the offseason.
Los Angeles Chargers
Health along the offensive line: The Los Angeles Chargers pressures allowed/dropback percentage is 38%, the fourth-highest in the NFL ahead of only the Chicago Bears (44.8%), New York Giants (44.5%), and Houston Texans (38.2%). That's not great. Los Angeles has gotten away with it this season because of Justin Herbert's brilliance, but this offense could hit another level with improved pass-blocking. Being able to keep Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater and Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley healthy is paramount to the Chargers' short-term and long-term success.
Los Angeles Rams
Healthy do-over: Luckily for the defending Super Bowl champs, that's exactly what 2023 will provide them. The Rams need quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald healthy and on the football field -- that just hasn't happened enough for them this season. With a 4-10 record and three games to play, they'll set the record for most losses by a defending Super Bowl champion if they trip up just one more time.
Better and healthier Byron Jones: The Dolphins have invested with both draft picks and in contracts for Jones, fellow cornerback Xavien Howard, safety Jevon Holland, linebacker Bradley Chubb, linebacker Jaelan Phillips, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. Yet, that group ranks 26th in scoring defense (24.6 PPG allowed), 23rd in total defense (357.6 total YPG allowed), 27th in third-down defense (43.7% conversion percentage allowed), 25th in red zone defense (62% red zone touchdown percentage allowed), and 29th in takeaways (13). Whether it's Jones' ankle healing or a schematic shift, something needs to change.
More good luck: The 11-3 Minnesota Vikings are 10-0 in one-score games this season, which is tied for the most in a season in NFL history. It's miraculous considering their +2-point differential is the worst by an 11-win team through 14 games in NFL history as they have the 28th-ranked scoring defense (24.9 PPG allowed and the worst total defense (399.2 total YPG allowed). That team profile is screaming with red flags come the postseason, but in such a parity-filled year, maybe luck is all they need to keep winning.
New England Patriots
Real offensive coordinator: The development of quarterback Mac Jones, the team's first-round pick a year ago and the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up, has stalled in his second season under "offensive assistant coaches" Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. Patricia has been a defensive coach since becoming the Patriots linebackers coach in 2006 and through his three seasons as the Lions head coach. Bill Belichick making his friend the primary offensive play-caller hasn't worked: the Patriots rank 25th in total offense (319.6 total YPG), 17th in scoring offense (21.4 PPG), 29th in third downs (34.1%), and dead last in red zone offense (37.8% red touchdown percentage). Please get this team an actual offensive coordinator. Jones' career hangs in the balance.
New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton: The Saints need their mojo back. They are the league's worst scoring offense since Week 9, averaging 14.5 points per game. There's pieces there from Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave and Michael Thomas (pending his health). Even if Payton unretires, New Orleans still has his contractual rights, and probably would rather him coach in the Big Easy than for another team.
New York Giants
New wide receivers: It was tempting to put Daniel Jones here, but the starting receiver trio of Darius Slayton, Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins is incredibly underwhelming to say the least. The Giants being 8-5-1 is a strong testament to Brian Daboll's coaching, Saquon Barkley and the New York defense.
New York Jets
New quarterback: Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, isn't the answer. Mike White is fun, but it's unclear if he can be the franchise guy long term. However, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is set to hit free agency this March, someone who both Jets head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur are very familiar from their time together in San Francisco. They have seen firsthand that if you surround Garoppolo with the right cast, you can go to the Super Bowl. Running back Breece Hall along with wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore are a fun, young bunch who just need a competent quarterback in order to take flight.
Health: The Philadelphia Eagles are the most complete team in football. Quarterback Jalen Hurts' shoulder and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson's kidney are concerning, but the team only needs one more win to clinch the NFC's top seed and a first-round bye. If the Eagles can get to full strength by the NFC Divisional Round, they should be the team to beat in the conference.
Offensive line help: Former first-round running back Najee Harris hasn't averaged 4 yards a carry in his two-year career. That's a problem. Kenny Pickett would benefit greatly from a capable ground game.
San Francisco 49ers
Quarterback health: The San Francisco 49ers own the NFL's best defense, and they have some of the best offensive weaponry in the game between running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle. Rookie "Mr. Irrelevant" Brock Purdy has filled in nicely; here's to hoping he doesn't follow in Trey Lance's and Jimmy Garoppolo's footsteps onto the injury report.
Healthy Tyler Lockett: The Seattle Seahawks average 5.9 yards per play with the wide receiver on the field since 2018 and 4.7 with him off of the field. His 44 receiving touchdowns since 2018 are tied for fifth-most in the NFL. His presence opens things up for quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver DK Metcalf as well as the running game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rob Gronkowski unretiring ... again: While it's unlikely, he did tweet "I'm kinda bored" on Tuesday. Tom Brady and the rest of the Buccaneers offense hasn't looked the same without Gronk's presence over the middle. Getting Gronkowski back could be the spark Brady needs as the Buccaneers look to slink into the playoffs as the champions of the worst division in football, the NFC South.
New strength and conditioning staff and/or better injury luck: This is the second season in a row Tennessee has dealt with major injury issues. From quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a significant portion of their secondary, the injury bug has run rampant along the Titans roster. Their injury report this week is longer than a CVS receipt.
Long-term answer at quarterback: No offense to Taylor Heinicke. The undrafted Old Dominion alum is maximizing every ounce of football talent in his body, but it's not enough for the Commanders to be anything more than a fringe wild card team. Whether that's trading up in the draft, signing Jimmy Garoppolo, or even Geno Smith, Washington has to do something. Neither Heinicke nor Wentz are the answer for years down the road. Read More