It’s the holiday season, so let’s dig into Santa’s bag of goodies to see what each team is looking for as Christmas approaches.
San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers need new overtime rules. A tie against the Rams in Week 10 could provide for a sticky situation when playoff seeding time comes around. Who wants to see ties in football?
Chicago Bears - The Bears need an additional playmaker, and a better play caller. Where has Devin Hester been this season? His lack of production, and Matt Forte’s lingering injury issues, have turned the Bears offense into a one-man show featuring Brandon Marshall. Mike Tice created the “Randy Ratio” for Randy Moss in Minnesota, and this appears to be a repeat of that offense.
Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals need more consistent play on a weekly basis, or just a chance to replay Weeks 5-9. Cincinnati began the season with a loss, followed by three consecutive wins and four consecutive losses. That would be streaky enough, but the Bengals followed this with four consecutive wins.
Buffalo Bills - The Bills need it to be preseason (when they were considered a dark horse playoff contender), or lower expectations in a division where they are the only team without a Super Bowl title...ever.
Denver Broncos - The Broncos need a box of Thank You cards to send to the Colts (for Peyton Manning), the Jets (for taking Tim Tebow) and to the Panthers (for firing John Fox).
Cleveland Browns - The Browns need an easier division. Last season, the AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs (Ravens, Steelers and Bengals). We could see a repeat performance for the division in 2012, and Cleveland (despite showing growth this year) once again sits at the bottom of the standings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Buccaneers need more consistency on the defensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay is No. 1 in the NFL against the rush allowing 83.2 yards per game, BUT who would want to run the ball when you can throw against the league’s worst (allowing 309.4 yards per game) pass defense.
Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals need an offensive line that allows a quarterback to attempt more than 200 passes without being injured. Kevin Kolb attempted 183 passes, before his season ended, while John Skelton had 179 pass attempts. Ryan Lindley has attempted 103 passes, and has the best chance of eclipsing 200.
San Diego Chargers - The Chargers need to find a replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson. San Diego failed to keep Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, and now are left with Jackie Battle and Ryan Matthews. Matthews just has not produced, causing defenses to key on the semi-erratic Phillip Rivers. Going after Norv Turner is just too easy at this point.
Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs need the 2012-13 season to end. The team has the fewest wins (2) this year and Jamaal Charles has been the only bright spot on either side of the ball. Chiefs fans actually cheered earlier in the season when Matt Cassel was injured, and the Javon Belcher situation only added to a year that the organization would rather forget.
Indianapolis Colts - The Colts and all of their fans need to be pinched...to determine whether they are dreaming or not. Even in their wildest fantasies, Colts fans could not have predicted this season would play out the way it has. “Chuck Strong” has continued as a motto for this team, and Andrew Luck’s play has been even better than advertised.
Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys need a general manager not named Jerry Jones. Jones is the kind of owner a player wants to suit up for, because he is willing to spend money, but there is a reason he is the only person in the league who plays both roles on a single team. Put player personnel in someone else’s hands; there is enough to worry about on the ownership side of things.
Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins need the second coming of Dan Marino. Indianapolis was lucky enough to replace a franchise quarterback with what appears to be another long term signal caller. The Dolphins STILL have not found their franchise man.
Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles want Vince Young’s “Dream Team” statement back. Ever since Young proclaimed the Eagles as a dream team, thanks to free agent acquisitions during the 2010 offseason, Philadelphia has failed to live up to the label. Michael Vick’s $100 million+ contract now seems like a joke, as does the rest of the money spent on free agents, and Andy Reid is ending his career in Philly with a whimper.
Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons need a 2008, 2010 or 2011 version of Michael Turner in the offensive backfield. This season’s Atlanta team has moved the ball effectively through the air, but Turner has not been the same threat to break a long run.
New York Giants- The Giants need to remember they are the defending Super Bowl Champions, and play like it. The NFC East is getting tighter towards the end of the season, and this is due in large part to a 1-3 stretch in Weeks 9 through 13. The three losses all came to potential playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Washington), but the Giants have had opportunities to distance themselves atop the division standings.
Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars need a lot of help...everywhere. Jacksonville ranks among the bottom four in the NFL in rushing yards (No. 32 - 78.8 yards per game), rushing defense (No. 31 - 144.0 yards per game) and pass defense (No. 28 - 260.9 yards per game).
New York Jets - The Jets need to erase the 2011 offseason from memory. The addition of Tim Tebow has been a headache, and the need arose from locker room comments made at the end of the 2011 season. Signing Mark Sanchez to a three-year extension also appears to have been a mistake.
Detroit Lions - The Lions need to remember how to win games. Detroit has played seven games decided by four points or fewer. The Lions a 3-4 in these games, including a 1-2 overtime record. This team has been capable of making big second half comebacks, but some of the deficits have been too large to overcome.
Green Bay Packers - The Packers need to find a cure for the injury bug. Pro Bowlers Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and Greg Jennings have all missed time due to injury, and now Jordy Nelson may be on the shelf until playoff time.
Carolina Panthers - The Panthers need a running back to lead the team in rushing. Despite having recognizable names in the backfield (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert), Cam Newton leads the team in rushing with 524 yards on the season. This is not a recipe for success.
New England Patriots - The Patriots need to learn to play pass defense. Statistics are misleading when a team leads as often as New England does and opponents are forced into passing situations early, but the best (and perhaps only) way to beat the Patriots is through the air.
Oakland Raiders - The Raiders need Darren McFadden to heal. Last season McFadden was one of the most exciting backs in the league before he suffered an ankle injury. He has not looked the same since that point, and the Raiders rush offense has suffered because of it (No. 31 - 81.2 yards per game).
St. Louis Rams - The Rams need longer field goals to count for more points. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein has made more field goals from over 40 yards (14) than he has from under 40 yards (7).
Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens need healthy veterans on the defensive side of the ball. Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb were key losses to one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. Webb will not return this year, while Suggs and Lewis will each fight through bicep strains the remainder of the season.
Washington Redskins - The Redskins need more rookies like Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III. Getting a potential franchise quarterback in the draft takes some luck, but to gain two potential Pro Bowlers (at offensive skills positions) in one draft is astonishing.
New Orleans Saints - The Saints need Bountygate to go away and Sean Payton to return. Losing a head coach of Payton’s caliber can be devastating for any team, but for a high-energy team like the Saints it was beyond disastrous. New Orleans was the final NFL team to win a game this season, and most of that flatness can be attributed to the Bountygate fallout.
Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks need all the money they gave Matt Flynn...back. Signing Flynn during the offseason put Seattle back in the NFC West discussion. Any quarterback was going to be an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson, but no one expected rookie Russell Wilson to win the starting job over Jackson AND Flynn during training camp.
Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers need to get younger at a lot of positions. Pittsburgh has nine players who have played at least 10 seasons in the league, including both of the team’s backup quarterbacks (Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch) and six starters on the defensive side of the ball.
Houston Texans - The Texans need to find a way to defend against strong passing attacks. The Lions and Packers were each able to score at will against the Texans, and Justin Blackmon put up over 200 receiving yards in Week 11.
Tennessee Titans - The Titans need to find a way to hold an opponent under 20 points. Tennessee has only been able to do this in one game this season, a 19-13 overtime loss in Week 8 to the Colts. The Titans have allowed opponents to score at least 30 points in seven games this year.
Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings need a quarterback who can throw the ball after Week 3. Through three weeks, Christian Ponder ranked among the top quarterbacks in the league in passer rating. Since then, Ponder has thrown for less than 100 yards on three separate occasions and has reached 200 yards only four times.