The holiday season is full of wishes, whether children are asking for their favorite toy or adults are asking for a new iPhone, car or a promotion at work.
But, when you’re in the NFL, things are a bit different. While some fans are looking to find the perfect gift from Santa under their tree, NFL teams are hoping for a few non-material gifts to fall into their lap ahead of the playoffs: a playoff spot, a high draft pick, a first-round bye.
With 32 teams across the league, it’s tough for Santa to deliver exactly what every team may be hoping for as the holiday season comes and goes. But, it helps to narrow things down when he has a list.
With that in mind, it’s time to dive in with the items on every NFL team’s wish list for the 2019 holiday season.
Arizona Cardinals: More offensive weapons for Kyler Murray to work with
Can you imagine how good Kyler Murray would be with an offense like Kurt Warner had during his tenure with the Cardinals? Get Murray a solid receiving corps and a consistent running back with good hands in the backfield, and you could have some potential for the 2020 season.
Atlanta Falcons: A time-travel machine to go back to the first half of Super Bowl LI
Seriously, what has happened to the Falcons since that Super Bowl collapse against the Patriots? The team went from playing with the league MVP under center and one of the game’s best wide receivers to scratching and clawing through an entire season in a relatively weak NFC South. Maybe they’ll find a special machine under the tree in a few weeks to help them get back on track.
Baltimore Ravens: The top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage
The Ravens are that kid in your class that already seems like it has it all, but what they have is never enough. Sure, the boys in Baltimore have the AFC North locked up, but they’re out for more.
A first-round bye? The top seed with home-field advantage through the playoffs? A Super Bowl run? Let’s see what Santa has in store for Lamar Jackson and Co. this winter.
Buffalo Bills: Their first AFC East title since 1993
Sure, the Bills are just hoping for a playoff spot at this point, fighting through what has turned into a jam-packed playoff race in the AFC. But, they could be in for a historic feat if they can pull off an impressive winning streak to end the regular season, possibly resulting in their first AFC East title in 26 years.
Even more shocking? They’re technically still in good enough shape to finish with a first-round bye if a long list of miracles were to occur in the upcoming weeks.
Carolina Panthers: Just make it to 2020
The Panthers’ playoff hopes are officially gone, and they’re riding the Kyle Allen train at the quarterback position for the rest of 2019. Now, the goal is simple: Just stay healthy and head into 2020 with a new look.
Keep Christian McCaffrey out of harm’s way, keep the core intact, and rebuild to win an NFC South in 2020 that could be anyone’s ballgame.
Chicago Bears: More wins, baby
The Bears seem to be turning things around in the second half of the 2019 season, with a good shot at a spot in the postseason despite a loaded field of teams in the NFC.
Mitchell Trubisky is hitting his stride, the defense (outside of a late Cowboys comeback on Thursday Night Football) looks good, and things are looking up. Could they pull off a shocking run to get some redemption in the playoffs this year? If they can keep up their winning ways, they’ve got a good shot.
Cincinnati Bengals: More losses and a No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft
While the Bears’ message has to be “Just win, baby,” the Bengals’ motto has to be the opposite. Just “Bungle for Burrow” or “Crash for Chase” at this point, and get a fresh start as they continue to rebuild in 2020.
Cleveland Browns: A happy Odell Beckham, Jr.
The Browns’ 2019 season didn’t live up to the hype. I think everyone got over that fact early enough in the year to move on quickly, but that doesn’t mean they should move on from any of the insane amount of talent they have on offense. Get Odell Beckham, Jr. back on track alongside Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry, and let everyone come back with some added motivation in 2020. It could be just what they need to compete with the Ravens next year.
Dallas Cowboys: An NFC East title for a first-round home game in the playoffs
I personally believe the Cowboys have all the pieces right now to earn a spot in the Super Bowl down in Miami, but the coaching just isn’t there. Like Jerry Jones said, however, all it takes is a home playoff game after winning the NFC East to get this team going, and they could pull off some surprises in the postseason if they can squeeze in.
Denver Broncos: A face of the franchise under center
The Broncos have been through a lot on offense since their Super Bowl 50 win against the Panthers and Peyton Manning’s retirement. They’ve gone through Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen and Drew Lock under center in the few months of the 2019 season, and they can’t find an answer offensively. They’ll need to figure out where to go next for 2020, and if they can get back to the top of the totem pole in the AFC West.
Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson? Barry Sanders?
The Lions always give fans hope at the beginning of the year that the upcoming season could be something special, and something always goes awry. Injuries derailed this team, and they’ll need a miracle to bounce back against a loaded NFC North in 2020. Maybe Calvin Johnson suddenly wants to come out of retirement? Barry Sanders looks like he could still go, too…
Green Bay Packers: Keep Aaron Rodgers healthy
The Packers are finally back to the success that many thought they’d have throughout the 2010s, and now it’s time to finish the job. Can they keep their team healthy and have a full-strength Aaron Rodgers for the postseason? If that happens, they could be in line for a strong playoff run in January.
Houston Texans: A comeback from the Patriots hangover and an AFC South title
Every team that manages to beat the Patriots in the regular season seems to fall apart in the next few weeks. In 2018, the Titans, Lions, Dolphins and Lions all experienced it, and none managed to make the playoffs as a result. The Texans need to avoid the Patriots hangover, and finish the year strong en route to an AFC South title.
Indianapolis Colts: Consistency
The Colts know all about how tough it is to have consistency in the NFL, especially after the last-second retirement of Andrew Luck before the season. Now, they just need to hit their stride and stop hitting the brakes in 2019, and hope for a spot in the AFC playoff seeding. After that, it’s time to find one more star to help Jacoby Brissett in the Colts offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A new defense
The Jaguars shook everything up when they shipped cornerback Jalen Ramsey off to Los Angeles after a rollercoaster of a tenure with the Jaguars in the first half of 2019. Now, it’s time to shake things up in a different direction and get back to the winning ways that led them to an AFC Championship game appearance a few years ago. Defensive line help would be a good start, and then it’s time to rebuild the secondary.
Kansas City Chiefs: The second seed in the AFC and a road through Arrowhead
The Chiefs already beat the Patriots on the road, albeit among some controversy at Gillette Stadium as it relates to the officiating. That is undoubtedly one item crossed off their holiday wish list, and they now just have to finish the job over the last few weeks of the season.
If they can win out, they’ll just be rooting for some bad Patriots losses for a first-round bye in the playoffs. That would give them some extra time to get Patrick Mahomes healthy, and would give them some home-field advantage until a potential AFC Championship game against the Ravens. Could Arrowhead Stadium prove to be the difference-maker in the 2019 playoffs?
Los Angeles Chargers: A perfect 2020 NFL Draft
The Chargers haven’t been the same since January 2018, when they were trounced on the road in the postseason against the Patriots. They seem to invent a new way to lose as each game passes in the 2019 season, and now it’s time to rethink everything as they look towards the new decade. Now, it’s time for a perfect storm to get back on track before next September hits.
Do they draft a quarterback in the first round as a succession plan for Philip Rivers? Do they go with a defensive stud early to build up that side of the ball and go with offense in the second round? Do they try to trade up for a big splash early in the first round? It’s pivotal that the Chargers nail this draft with every pick they have, or else they may continue to spiral downwards in the AFC West.
Los Angeles Rams: An all-NFC West Wild Card round
The Rams may just be the unluckiest team in the NFL at this point. They finally get back to a Super Bowl after a high-scoring 2018 season, only to run into Bill Belichick and one of the best defenses the Patriots head coach has ever put together. Now, they’re having a solid season, only to fall behind the best two teams in the entire conference, who happen to be in their own division.
Could the NFC see three NFC West teams in the mix in the playoffs? If the Rams have it their way and their wish comes true, the conference could be in for a rude awakening in January.
Miami Dolphins: Big-time defensive picks in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft
Initially, it seemed like the Dolphins were “tanking for Tua,” as they searched for their franchise quarterback. Now, they find themselves holding a hodgepodge of first-round picks for the 2020 NFL Draft, and it’s just about using them properly if they hope to take advantage of Tom Brady’s eventual departure from the AFC East.
Brian Flores was a great defensive coach for Brady’s Patriots under the tutelage of Bill Belichick, and that’s where the Dolphins need to strike in the upcoming draft. They can’t expect to build up a divisional contender by only prioritizing offense, and they’ll need to play to Flores’ strengths if they want a chance to swim back to the top of the AFC East.
Minnesota Vikings: A primetime win for Kirk Cousins and a playoff spot
Kirk Cousins is on fire in the latter half of 2019, and he could be the key to a surprising playoff performance for the Vikings if the NFC North squad can pull into the postseason. But, he’ll have to shine when the lights are brightest in a big primetime game against the Packers in Week 16 first.
If Cousins can get over that hump (he’s 0-8 in Monday night games throughout his NFL career) and if the Vikings can win out, they could be a real sleeper pick in a stacked NFC.
New England Patriots: A new receiver, offensive line help and a first-round bye
The Patriots went from having the most loaded receiving corps of any team in 2019 to struggling to find any receivers for Tom Brady to throw to. From a group that included Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown to a squad of backups including Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
Somehow, they’re still a top-two seed in the AFC seed, but they may need some help to get the job done if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champions. They’ll be asking for some receiving help to get some of the stress off of Julian Edelman, and some offensive line help to get pressure off of Brady under center. Add it all up, and they’ll maybe get their wish of a seemingly-annual first-round bye in the postseason.
New Orleans Saints: An NFC West collapse
The Saints already have the NFC South locked up, but now their focus has to be on the NFC West. They’ll need an NFC West collapse of some sorts, whether it’s the 49ers, Seahawks or both, if they want to lock up the top seed in the NFC and home-field advantage until a potential Super Bowl appearance.
New York Giants: A healthy Daniel Jones
When you’re not even competing in a division where the current leader has a 6-7 record, the season was probably over a long time ago. Just get Daniel Jones healthy, keep Saquon Barkley intact and get on to 2020 in a hurry.
New York Jets: A Ghost of Christmas Past
Sam Darnold may have been ridiculed for thinking he was seeing ghosts on Monday Night Football against the Patriots earlier this season, but the whole organization may wish they could start seeing some Ghosts of Christmas Past to revert back to some past success. They’re consistently a bad team, and fans will just have to hope that the new decade can bring a new look to the Jets offense.
Oakland Raiders: A win in the final game at the Coliseum
The Raiders were so close to really making a push for an AFC West title, but couldn’t get the job done when the Chiefs were on the other side of the field. Who knows what would’ve happened with a healthy Johnathan Abram on defense, or a certain wide receiver on offense, but it’s now just time to send the fans home happy from the Coliseum one last time before the ride’s over (again).
Philadelphia Eagles: An NFC East title
Somehow, someway, the Eagles are still in a race for an NFC East title with the Cowboys. Yes, you read that correctly. The 6-7 Eagles are still in the hunt for a division title, battling against the 6-7 Cowboys the rest of the way.
It’s like the horrible movie that you went to the theaters to see, and you just want it to end so you can move on with your life. If the Eagles can win the division, they can head into the playoffs with a fresh start and treat it as a whole new season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A Duck-led surge into the postseason
Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.
The Steelers are the modern-day Mighty Ducks, led by Devlin “Duck” Hodges under center. They’re surging in the AFC standings, and somehow could squeak right into a Wild Card spot after a rough start to the year and three quarterbacks throughout 2019. Could they be the team to shock the system in the NFL this year?
San Francisco 49ers: A top seed in the NFC and a healthy roster
The Niners, much like the Ravens, have it all at this point. They’re in control of their own destiny, and just need to keep up their high-scoring pace for the rest of the year. If they stay healthy and keep the foot on the gas pedal, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with as the road to the Super Bowl heads through the Bay Area.
Seattle Seahawks: Consistency and a win over the 49ers
The Seahawks seem to have the weapons on both sides of the ball to make a serious run in the playoffs, but the biggest issue they’ve run into relates to their own consistency. Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level, and they have plenty of talented receivers to work with offensively.
But, it’s been a story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at times this year, evident by their loss against the Rams on Sunday Night Football. If the right version of the Seahawks shows up the rest of the way in 2019, they’ll be in good shape. If not, say hello to the fifth or sixth seed in a stacked NFC.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defensive help
You can probably add a miraculous recovery for Mike Evans to the Buccaneers’ holiday wish list, but at this point, it’s time to start prioritizing for 2020. To do that, it’s time to return to what won them a Super Bowl in the early part of the 2000s, and get some defensive help to go with the already-stellar one-two punch of Evans and Chris Godwin on offense.
Tennessee Titans: A contract extension for Ryan Tannehill and business as usual in the second half of the season
Ryan Tannehill has been lights out for the last few weeks for Tennessee, and the priority has become signing him long-term to keep him around as the new franchise quarterback (Sorry, Marcus Mariota). Now, they need to keep riding this momentum to a potential AFC South title, and a home game in the playoffs.
Washington Redskins: A new offensive line
The Redskins seem to have the quarterback that they plan to build their offense around for the near future, but now it’s time to get him some protection.
The Redskins’ offense has all sorts of issues to work through as they prepare for the 2020 season, but building an offensive line that actually respects their quarterback is a solid start. The Colts helped Jacoby Brissett a ton by providing a stellar offensive line to work with after Andrew Luck’s retirement, and the Redskins could learn a lot from what Indianapolis has done to build up a divisional contender in the AFC.
It may take a few years to get done, but getting a good start on the process in the upcoming offseason would be the perfect wish list item for the NFC East squad.