The holiday season is always full of jam-packed wish lists for Santa Claus, 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, those letters to Santa tend to include some different, often non-material items.
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While some football fans look to find the perfect gift in a box under the tree, NFL teams are hoping for other things to fall into their laps ahead of the postseason or offseason: a playoff spot, a first-round bye, a high draft pick, or even a new coach.
With 32 teams across the league, it’s tough for everyone to get exactly what they’re hoping for as the holiday season comes and goes. But, it helps to narrow things down with a specific wish list.
With that in mind, it’s time to determine the items on every NFL team’s wish list for the 2020 holiday season.
Arizona Cardinals: Consistency
The 2020 season has served as a sort of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” scenario for Cardinals fans, evident by their 7-6 record through their first 13 games of the season.
As the holiday season rolls on and the playoffs inch closer, the Cardinals will hope for some more consistency from Kyler Murray and the offense, and a return to the consistent 30-point performances that they put on from mid-October through mid-November.
Atlanta Falcons: A tank
Plenty of children get toy cars or airplanes when they open up presents from Santa Claus on Christmas morning. For the Falcons, it would be beneficial if they could open up a nice, little tank towards the end of the 2020 season.
These aren’t the Falcons that advanced to Super Bowl LI just a few years ago, with just one quarter sitting in the way of a championship that same year. Get back to the drawing board with a top 10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and build towards a new future.
Baltimore Ravens: A return to glory
Just one year ago, the Ravens looked like they were on top of the world, entering the playoffs as the AFC’s top seed. Then, they lost to the Titans in the Divisional Round, and haven’t been the same since.
Not all hope is lost as they maneuver through the end of the 2020 regular season, especially after a Monday Night win against the Browns. But, they will need to return to that glory of old if they want to qualify for the playoffs this winter.
Buffalo Bills: An AFC East title and a Top 2 seed in the AFC
The Bills have planted their flag in the AFC East in 2020, officially establishing themselves as the division’s team to beat in years to come.
All that’s left in the tail end of the regular season is to officially clinch the AFC East, and push towards the second seed in the AFC bracket.
Carolina Panthers: A healthy Christian McCaffrey
In case you were still wondering after Christian McCaffrey signed a massive contract extension in the offseason, the star running back is the future of the Panthers franchise.
However, he’s dealt with a litany of injuries in his first season as the highest-paid running back in league history. As the Panthers look towards the future after a disappointing 2020 campaign, the organization will hope that McCaffrey can get back to full strength to be a cornerstone for years to come.
Chicago Bears: A clear path towards the future
After going back-and-forth with Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky under center, the Bears find themselves in the middle of the pack when looking at the standings for both the NFC East and the NFC as a whole.
Do they want a higher draft pick? Do they want to sneak into the playoffs? Either way, mediocrity isn’t going to cut it for fans in Chicago, and the best gift the franchise can give at this point is a clear plan for the future.
Cincinnati Bengals: A Top 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
It seems greedy to ask for a top-tier draft pick just a year after drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but that’s exactly where the Bengals are in this holiday season.
With Joe Burrow labeled as the future pending a successful recovery from a season-ending injury, a high-level pick could help the franchise either surround the LSU alum with weapons for 2021, or elevate the team’s defensive efforts to bring back the Bengals of old.
Cleveland Browns: A head-to-head win against the Steelers in Week 17
The Browns are finally living up to the potential that fans in Cleveland felt the team had back at the start of the 2019 season. Now, it’s time to see what they can do with all of this hype.
A head-to-head win against the Steelers will be necessary as they look for an AFC North title in 2020, which doesn’t seem out of the question after consecutive losses for Pittsburgh and back-to-back games coming up against New York teams for Cleveland.
Dallas Cowboys: Avoiding the NFC East title
If the Cowboys are smart, they will sign Dak Prescott to a new deal in the upcoming offseason as the quarterback recovers from his gruesome, season-ending leg injury.
Then, to help him out, the best course of action is to actually avoid an NFC East title in 2020, and get a solid draft pick to head in a new direction in 2021. If all goes well, it could/should lead to an easy run to an NFC East championship in an annually-weak division.
Denver Broncos: A Drew Lock confidence boost
If you take away Drew Lock’s losses against the Kansas City Chiefs, the second-year quarterback’s career record as a starter is actually quite promising.
The problem, however, has been the Missouri alum’s consistency, or lack thereof, in 2020. Yes, he’s battled injuries, but the Broncos’ best bet as they build up their future is a string of confidence-boosting, signature performances from Lock in the team’s final few games.
Detroit Lions: Lose, lose, lose
Losing is something Lions fans have become accustomed with in the last few decades, so why not do it a few more times to end the 2020 season?
They are all but eliminated after 13 games, and find themselves without a permanent head coach or general manager as the holiday season nears its end. The best-case scenario is a high draft pick for the new coach and general manager to work with as the franchise re-evaluates everything in 2021.
Green Bay Packers: Homefield advantage in the NFC
They clinched an NFC North title with multiple games left in the 2020 season, but the Packers’ work isn’t done as the new year approaches.
Homefield advantage is in striking distance, and it’s especially important this year due to the added playoff team and a single bye, rather than the usual two. The top seed will be crucial on either side of the bracket, and the Packers could turn it into a reality as they push towards the playoffs.
Houston Texans: A new vision at head coach
The Texans, like the Lions, are in limbo as the end of the 2020 season nears, both sitting with no head coach after midseason firings.
The tools are there with Deshaun Watson under center, but it’s going to be up to the new coach to turn the Texans into contenders in an AFC South that could easily be anyone’s ballgame any year.
Indianapolis Colts: The same Steelers team that fell apart in early December
The Colts are inching closer and closer to a spot in the AFC playoffs, sitting as the sixth seed through 13 games. Two AFC South battles show up in their final three games, but the biggest game on the slate is undoubtedly their December 27 matchup against the Steelers.
If the same Steelers that fell apart against the Washington Football Team and the Bills shows up on that Sunday, the Colts should have no problems. If they get an angry Steelers squad, their postseason seeding could be impacted.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
With just two wins through 13 games, the Jaguars are very close to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The team has faltered throughout 2020, with 12 straight losses after a Week 1 win against the Colts putting them near the bottom of the barrel in the NFL’s league-wide standings.
At this point, fans in Jacksonville need to start rooting for the Jets if the Jaguars have any hopes of having the best chances in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.
Kansas City Chiefs: Homefield advantage
As the Steelers continue to slide in the AFC standings, the Chiefs continue to reap the benefits as they set their sights on homefield advantage in the playoffs.
Through 13 games, the Chiefs look like the best team in what will be a relatively-even AFC bracket, and being able to plant themselves in Missouri for the month of January would go a long way in their pursuit of a second-straight Super Bowl title.
Las Vegas Raiders: A primetime win against the Dolphins
Who knew that a game between the Raiders and Dolphins would be considered a must-see game in 2020?
As each team looks to punch a ticket to the postseason in a tightly-contested AFC playoff picture, a head-to-head battle in Week 16 will serve as a make-or-break scenario for Jon Gruden’s Raiders.
Los Angeles Chargers: A top 10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
The Chargers have their quarterback of the future with Justin Herbert. Now, it’s time to get him some help, and get the team in a position to close out games in 2021.
Yes, the season-ending injury to Derwin James proved to be a massive loss on the defensive side of the ball before the season even began. But, the defense isn’t in a bad spot heading into 2021 with James, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa across the field.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are solid options in the receivers room for Herbert, and head coach Anthony Lynn has some young running backs on the rise, as well.
Offensive line help could be a good start in the 2021 NFL Draft, or they could try to find a game-changing superstar on offense that the team feels could fill a hole and turn the team into a contender in the new year.
Los Angeles Rams: A win against the Seahawks and an NFC West title
The Rams have re-entered the conversation at the top of the NFC West in 2020, just a few years after their last appearance in the Super Bowl against the Patriots.
Sitting atop the NFC West standings after 13 games, a win against the Seahawks in Week 16 would propel the Rams into the postseason with loads of momentum, and likely a division title under their belts, as well.
Miami Dolphins: Their first playoff appearance since 2016
Don’t look now, but the Dolphins are in position to be playing in the postseason for the first time in four years as the 2020 season nears its end.
Sitting at 8-5 with three games to go in the year, Miami will need some big wins over tough opponents like the Patriots, Raiders and Bills if they want to qualify for the playoffs.
It’s not an impossible situation at the moment, but it may turn into a scenario where head coach Brian Flores is asking for a Christmas miracle when that Bills game rolls around.
Minnesota Vikings: A Christmas Day win
Despite a 6-7 record through 13 games, the Vikings are in contention for a playoff spot in an NFC North that has been dominated by the Packers.
The biggest thing the Vikings will be asking Santa Claus for on Christmas? A win against the Saints on the holiday’s lone NFL game, which would help them significantly as they try to squeak into the NFC’s playoff picture.
New England Patriots: A quarterback
Alright, alright. We know it’s not possible for the Patriots to magically find a quarterback towards the end of the regular season. But, Bill Belichick can dream, can’t he?
It’s clear that Cam Newton isn’t going to be the team’s answer under center going forward, and Belichick hasn’t committed to backup Jarrett Stidham for the team’s long-term future, either.
No one truly knows what’s next for the Patriots at quarterback as they look to recover from Tom Brady’s departure, but New England needs something if they want to return to the top of the AFC East.
New Orleans Saints: A healthy Drew Brees
The Saints aren’t willing to throw Drew Brees back into the fire until he’s 100 percent, and the question now becomes: when will that time actually come?
The Taysom Hill experiment under center has been hit-or-miss in the weeks that Brees has been out, and it’s evident that the Saints are better off with their veteran gunslinger in the backfield.
If they want to make a run in the playoffs this year, they will need Brees to be back at full strength in time to get some reps ahead of the postseason.
New York Giants: An NFC East title
Somehow, the Giants can still say they’re in contention for the NFC East title more than three quarters of the way through the 2020 season, despite a minus-.500 record.
With Washington QB Alex Smith’s status in question due to an injury, the division is completely up in the air as each team navigates its last three games. The Giants have the tougher schedule with games against the Browns and Ravens, but nothing seems impossible when discussing the NFC East at this point.
New York Jets: No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
It’s No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft or bust for the Jets at this point. There’s really nothing else to it, especially when they’re winless through 13 games. Tank for Trevor Lawrence.
Philadelphia Eagles: A push towards the playoffs with Jalen Hurts
Jalen Hurts appears to be the answer moving forward for the Eagles as they wrap up 2020, and now it’s time to see if he can lead the team to a postseason spot in his rookie year.
They would need to win out to even have a chance at this point, but again, nothing is off the table when talking about the NFC East.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A time machine
Remember when the Steelers were undefeated after their 11th game, and looked like a favorite to win the Super Bowl? Fast forward a few weeks, and Ben Roethlisberger’s bunch may not even win the division.
It may not be a real thing, but if Santa Claus could pack up a time machine in a big box and drop it off in Pittsburgh on Christmas morning, Steelers fans would probably appreciate it.
San Francisco 49ers: A good draft pick
The last time Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt and missed most of the season, the 49ers ended up with the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and selected Nick Bosa.
As the team looks to the future, the franchise will hope for some similar luck as it looks to rebuild towards a Super Bowl appearance in the 2021 season.
Seattle Seahawks: A win against the Rams and an NFC West title
The Seahawks are going to do everything in their power to avoid the same situation as 2019, where they lost the division title in the last game of the year and wound up as a Wild Card team as a result.
A Week 16 battle against the Rams looms in Seattle’s future, and that will likely be the deciding factor in which team winds up as the NFC’s third seed in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A high Wild Card spot, and not a game against the Giants
Tom Brady isn’t used to the whole “Wild Card” thing, given his consistent success in years past when it came to the Patriots winning AFC East titles.
Unfortunately for the newfound Floridian, his Buccaneers are a few games out of first place in the NFC South with three games to go in 2020, and may wind up as the sixth or seventh seed in the NFC bracket.
At the very least, the Bucs need to avoid a playoff game against the Giants, which never seems to end well for a Brady-led team.
Tennessee Titans: An AFC South title
The Titans have no reason to complain with their 9-4 record through 13 games, especially given the circumstances that they’ve battled as it relates to COVID-19 in 2020.
Unfortunately, that only leaves them as the AFC’s fourth seed with three games to go in the regular season. At this point, the division title is the priority, but a push towards the third seed in the conference standings isn’t out of the question, either.
Washington Football Team: A healthy Alex Smith and an NFC East title
When Washington fans saw Alex Smith leave the team’s game against the 49ers early, it seemed like playoff hopes began to dwindle. Instead, the team finished out the game strong and pulled out a W, remaining at the top of the NFC East as a result.
Smith’s health is going to be a big question mark throughout the remainder of the 2020 campaign, but if they can get their quarterback healthy and keep their status at the top of the division, Washington could become an interesting team to follow in the postseason.