Thanksgiving 2022: One thing every NFL team can be grateful for this season

Thanksgiving is here, and every NFL team has reason to be grateful. Yes, that’s right, all 32 of them! Some are clearly better positioned to succeed than others. In fact, some would see playoff hopes almost dashed this weekend. But this day is about appreciation, and if you look closely, there is at least a sliver of promise in every NFL city.

Here’s one thing every team can be grateful for in 2022:

Greg Durch looks like a real rookie. On a team full of aging and often injured veterans, the 24-year-old former undrafted wide receiver was a safe outlet when on the field.

Arthur Smith knows how to build a ground game. The Falcons are more competitive than they should be in large part because everyone carrying the ball, from Cordarelli Patterson to rookie Tyler Allgeier, finds open lanes in their system.

Lamar Jackson’s legs are in good shape. A year after the injuries to the star quarterback, his athletic ability single-handedly kept the Ravens’ offense at bay, pairing with a restocked defense to keep playoff hopes alive.

Stefon Diggs has gotten better with age. Having Josh Allen as the delivery man is certainly at the top of Buffalo’s list of blessings, but his No. 1 goalie remains one of the NFL’s most reliable track players and physical players.

Front Seven has a promising future. Their defense isn’t technically listed as a top unit, but a number of individual parts (such as Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Frankie Luvu) have made sure they are building units.

Justin Fields is definitely a thing. The sophomore QB still needs more time and more help to grow as a passer, but, boy, has he exploded as a playmaker on the floor. May the team’s brass surround him with enough weapons in 2023.

Joe Burrow is still that guy. Not Ja’Marr Chase? No Joe Mixon? Bengals usually rely on smooth sailing as long as their leg is under centre; A few QBs are now throwing nicer touchdown passes on every level of the court.

Amari Cooper was worth the gamble. Cleveland essentially only gave up a fifth-round pick to the former Cowboys WR, remember, and while the Browns struggled overall, they did manage against superior opponents, especially in the red zone.

Duck Prescott hits his stride at the right time. After a lengthy injury hiatus, the QB has settled in as a cracking dealer for the Dallas fast weapons. He has yet to prove he can win a big game, but the needle is pointing upward.

The defense is sound. The sour pairing of Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett has clogged the local headlines, but that hasn’t stopped Patrick Sartain II & Co. somehow giving this duo a shot at every single game this year.

Dan Campbell’s offense can compete in multiple ways. It’s an important thing to say, considering they’ve struggled with injuries and often played catch-up. On the ground (Jamal Williams) and through the air (Amon-Ra St. Brown), they were combatants.

Christian Watson has the makings of a star. It may have been his appearance too little, too late to salvage a lousy setup of Aaron Rodgers, but the upstart was an exciting combination of size and speed during his latest breakout.

Dameon Pierce is a bulldozer. The running back is the main reason Houston has managed to keep so many games close in the first half of the year, giving whoever takes over at QB in 2023 a true partner.

WR Corps looks poised for the future. Getting a long-term QB is crucial, but the young trio of Michael Bateman Jr., Alec Pearce, and Paris Campbell has been surprisingly strong, especially given the team’s other upsets.

Trevor Lawrence is in a much better place. The QB still has room to grow, but not only is he more comfortable under Doug Pederson, but two of his best guns in Travis Etienne and Christian Kirk appear to be just entering the prime of their game.

Patrick Mahomes is a treat for all. Too obvious, perhaps, but how could Chiefs fans be more grateful to anyone other than the No. 15 seed, who Kansas City is poised to battle for the title with Travis Kelsey and her unfazed creativity?

Maxx Crosby is a crippler. A year after exploding with 30 hits as a QB, the edge rusher hits nine sacks in 10 games, giving steady juice to a Raiders defense that caught its fair share of blocks in Josh McDaniels’ first year.

Austin Eckeler is still robotic. When hiring Justin Herbert, you’ll want to see more of them in general. But Ekeler is such a reliable utility man (971 scrimmage yards in 10 games) that his offense can never count.

The Lombardy Cup still belongs to them until now. The spectacle of hell their 2022 campaign was partly a result of what they pushed to secure the 2021 title. Depth is depleted now, but at least the Rams prevail a year ago.

The new setup has opened up Tua Tagovailoa. We don’t know yet the young QB’s cap, but he’s been a significantly more confident passer with Mike McDaniel calling plays and both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle running up the field.

Kevin O’Connell has changed feelings. A playoff berth may or may not be their cap, as usual, but the first-year coach has delivered a refreshing, directional approach to one of the game’s best groups of players. His team has determination.

Bill Belichick can overcome a barren case from a QB. Neither Mack Jones nor Bailey Zabe invoked the staunch support of a run-based offense, but Belichick’s old school “D” kept New England rowdy all year.

Chris Olaf is the real deal. Michael Thomas looks like he’s on his way out, and the Saints still need to spot a QB after 2022, but at least they have the number one starting wide spot on their hands. Only nine others have more receiving yards than a rookie.

Brian Dabul knows how to maximize his number. The Giants weren’t in a position to compete this year, but Daboll’s fiery leadership allowed New York to at least play the spoiler role. Imagine if he could get his hands on a game-changing signal caller.

Robert Saleh’s defense pose. Promoted at every level this season, the unit has true young stars in Quinn Williams and Suss Gardner and is responsible for propelling hopefuls into the offensive playoffs.

Jalen Hurts is a different animal. Not just in terms of his unwavering aura, but in comparison to himself in 2021. Besides being a physical threat with his legs, he’s made strides as a ground hurler, confirming his franchise QB ascendancy.

They’ve found the next great WR. Or at least it seems so, with George Pickens highlighting Pro Bowl-caliber traits in a lumbering offense. Pittsburgh’s record of drafting and developing wide runs is unparalleled.

Jimmy Garoppolo was even better than advertised. Back in the saddle after Trey Lance was injured, the vet seemed particularly comfortable while working with improved weapons and a stingy “D”, threatening another deep postseason run.

Genu Smith is no longer the old Genu Smith. He’s been a fresh machine as a successor to Russell Wilson, serving with authority to channel surprising rival Pete Carroll and making the QB’s plans for 2023 particularly interesting.

Rashad White might help get their offense back. Tom Brady appears to have regained some of his swagger after a rocky start, but the rookie’s emergence in the backfield could be a game-changer as he complements Leonard Fournette.

Derrick Henry is back. The bruiser doesn’t lead the NFL in yards per carry, in part because he only gets a lot of them, but he’s healthy after a short injury stint in 2021 and is once again leading the league title race alongside Ryan Tannehill.

Terry McLaurin breaks out. We’ve always known the Ohio State product to have WR1 abilities, but he’s been especially crucial to the team’s success this year, even with Carson Wentz and Taylor Hynecke snapping up shots at QB.


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