In a year where there hasn’t been as much normalcy as we’re used, to say the least, we’re thankful that the NFL and Thanksgiving are a constant.
We still get the Lions’ afternoon game that you halfway pay attention to because you’re busy cooking!

We still get the annual Dallas Cowboys Tryptophan Bowl that you doze off with a full-belly to! That’s enough to be very gracious in 2020.

So during our week of gratitude, it’s time to go over what each team has to be thankful for thus far throughout the season.

Seattle Seahawks // Russell Wilson’s Fully-Stocked Pantry

“Let Russ Cook” has become the mantra of this Seahawks team because he’s a top-3 quarterback in the league who in the past has been underused by Seattle.

This year, he hasn’t had to be the make-it-from-scratch chef with magic made by himself; his receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have been so dependable that he has plenty of ingredients to cook with when they do let him

Photo: Getty Images / SB Nation Illustration

in the kitchen.

Los Angeles Rams // Being Overlooked

Last season since the Rams missed the postseason following their Super Bowl appearance, people treated their 9-7 record as if it was 3-13. Thus, this year they’ve been underestimated as a team outside of Aaron Donald; they’re still the same McVay-run, well-oiled machine that made a Super Bowl run and have a top-10 defense. They’re thankful to be a blip on teams’ radars as they quietly win games as a system.

San Francisco 49ers // Band-Aids

The 49ers have had arguably their best 6 players injured the majority of the year and it feels like the injury bug only gets worse each week. They’re thankful band-aids exist.

Arizona Cardinals // The Houston Texans’ Incompetency

The Texans gifted DeAndre Hopkins to Kyler Murray in exchange for David Johnson, a Whataburger taquito, and Bill O’brien’s plane ticket out of town. “Thanks!” -Kyler Murray

Philadelphia Eagles // Ties

The Eagles are a bad football team, plain and simple. However, they’re fortunate enough to play in a division of bad football teams in the NFC East, so despite being 3-6-1, they’re in the first place by default since everyone else only has 3 wins too but they have a tie.

That tie that everyone criticized Doug Pederson for might be what gets them to the playoffs if Dallas, Washington, and New York rollover. It’s absurd that they might end up hosting a playoff game, but welcome to 2020.

Dallas Cowboys // Limited Capacity Seating This Season

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Cowboys have allowed 25% of fans to attend games this season. It’s a good thing it’s only 25% because they’ve played so poorly that when the Steelers came to town there were so many Terrible Towels waving that if they allowed normal seating arrangements it would’ve looked like a Pittsburgh home game. Not a good look for “America’s Team.”

New York Giants // Discipline

A rumored fistfight with Marc Colombo aside, Joe Judge has actually been a solid hire it looks like from the infrastructure standpoint of things; the o-line has played tremendously better, they’ve run the ball well even without Saquon Barkley, and have been at the very least competitive in many of their games despite being 3-7; they could easily make the playoffs in this division because of his hard-nosed demeanor that’s made them disciplined. However, you’ve got to wonder if they even want to give up the draft position and stick with Daniel Jones.. It would be very Giants to ruin their tanking and have to commit to their turnover machine.

Washington Football Team // Alex Smith is a Human Miracle

Alex Smith is alive. He is walking. He is running. He is throwing the football. He is PLAYING IN ACTUAL GAMES. HE IS WINNING ACTUAL GAMES. Any of these should have rejoiced. We’re thankful for his (hopefully continued) health.

Green Bay Packers // Spite

Aaron Rodgers is playing with the anger and fire of a thousand suns and having the best season of his career since his MVP numbers. Green Bay drafting Jordan Love as his “replacement” has given Rodgers the key to this revenge tour that’s revived his numbers: spiting his own team.

Minnesota Vikings // Fair Trades!

The Vikings had to get rid of Stefon Diggs after he was so disgruntled with the team and sending cryptic tweets, so they traded the man responsible for the “Minnesota Miracle” to Buffalo for a first-round pick.

Normally the team who receives the superstar is the clear winner of trades, but the Vikings turned that pick into his replacement, Justin Jefferson, who looks like a future franchise guy. Does it feel like the Bills and Vikings both won the trade?? In sports, this is like seeing a triple rainbow.

Chicago Bears // The Human Decency of their Defense

The fact that the Super Bowl-talented level defense hasn’t attempted to murder the anemic offensive players or coaches in the locker room yet this year is the ultimate exercise of restraint and society is grateful that potential catastrophe hasn’t happened (yet).

Detroit Lions // The Falcons and Chargers

They’re the only other teams that might be better at blowing fourth-quarter leads than them, and for that, Detroit is grateful.

Now they can coast under everyone’s radar until their yearly loss on Thanksgiving for all of America to see.

Carolina Panthers // Matt Rhule: Master-builder

In The LEGO Movie, a master-builder is someone who can create awesome things out of the legos without following the instructions it would normally come with. Matt Rhule is a master-builder. He came in as a first-year head coach with all of their draft picks dedicated to defense, Teddy Bridgewater quarterbacking a new team, expectations to tank for a draft pick, and all that while Christian McCaffrey has been non-existent due to injury.

He’s taken a roster built to win years from now into a team that’s been competing in every game thus far this season and it’s been incredibly impressive to see his seamless transition to the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers // Tom Brady the GM

Tom Brady has been able to do something Belichick couldn’t care less about in free agency after he committed to Tampa: attract free agents. It’s almost like he’s their GM because so many people want to play with the GOAT; he brought back Gronkowski, he got them Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy, and now Antonio Brown has moved to second base with his Tom Brady love affair by signing with Tampa after Bill disavowed their relationship like a controlling step-dad in New England. Tom Brady makes people want to come to Florida! It’s his greatest achievement thus far.

New Orleans Saints // Depth

Considering everyone was already considered about Drew Brees’s noodle-arm tendencies last year where the aging legend struggled to air the ball, I’m sure the Saints are thankful for who Sean Payton refers to as “the next Steve Young” in Taysom Hill as his backup while Brees is out with 11 broken ribs. Jameis Winston, the league-leader in passing yards last season, Heisman trophy-winner, and former #1 pick will hold his iPad in silence while this “Steve Young” who has thrown 41 total passes starts in his place.

Atlanta Falcons // Strong Starts

I guess this is one way to look at it.

Cleveland Browns // Tighter Chin Straps

Last season was an absolute year from Hell for the Cleveland Browns given their expectations marred by distractions and drama that for the most part didn’t even take place during actual plays, like Myles Garrett unsheathing his helmet to knock Mason Rudolph into oblivion like a WWE star and getting suspended.

This year, Myles got a tighter chin strap and has kept his helmet on, and the Browns have avoided off-the-field issues, and they’re a 7-3 team in playoff position because of it.

Pittsburgh Steelers // Revivals

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Big Ben is alive!! We lauded Mike Tomlin for somehow taking a team quarterbacked by Duck Hodges to an 8-8 record last season with Ben’s absence. We’ve seen many of the veteran quarterbacks worsen with age, so Big Ben coming back and being the missing piece following his rehab has made all the difference.

Their record shows for it as the only remaining undefeated team. Credit to Big Ben, too, because he hasn’t exactly been on the TB12 Program in the past; he’s evolved into Slim Ben.

Cincinnati Bengals // The Eye of the Tiger

Unfortunately, the only bright spot of the season for the Bengals was stripped away on Sunday by a hit that caused a torn ACL and a torn MCL; #1 overall pick Joe Burrow is out for the season after somehow remaining alive thus far behind a nonexistent offensive line. However, if you’re a Bengals fan, and Joe Burrow can undergo a successful recovery process, you learned you got the right guy. The “Eye of the Tiger” toughness he’s shown out of LSU and being the natural-born leader is that of a future legend.

Baltimore Ravens // Angry Energy

The Ravens had Super Bowl expectations this year, and not only have they underperformed, but they’ve also looked lost and plain boring doing so. Granted, they have had significant injuries throughout the year, but unless Lamar Jackson breaks away for a Madden-like run, they can’t create anything on offense.

At least there’s been a fighting spirit still present in Baltimore though; Hollywood Brown tweeted about the Ravens needing to “use their souljas,” Lamar Jackson said in an interview that he was frustrated the other teams knew what plays were coming, and last week John Harbaugh had a heated exchange with Malcolm Butler pregame. If they can figure things out and rally the locker room, the fire in the team is still there. You’re not a dead team like the Lions.

Indianapolis Colts // Philip Rivers’s Small Workload

We thought maybe Rivers would have retired after the Chargers wanted to move on from him, but the good ol’ Mouth from the South is still in the league slingin’ it with the Colts and has quarterbacked them to a division lead. He had to do way too much those last few years in LA; the key to the Colts’ success has been that he has an elite defense, protection behind a top-tier offensive line, and a game plan from Frank Reich that has a balanced running attack to back him up. He doesn’t have to carry the load as a 38-year-old who has to throw the ball with a sidearm motion and that’s made Indy one of the most well-balanced teams in the league.

Tennessee Titans // Money Well-spent

Tennessee took a bit of criticism during the offseason when they shelled out a 4-year $118 million deal to Ryan Tannehill, who many thought could have merely caught lightning in a bottle for a few weeks, and also extending running back Derrick Henry with a 4-year $50 million deal because the “NFL Value” community will tell you it’s not wise to pay his position. Thus far, the investments have paid off; although the REAL problem has been their defense, they’re 7-3 and Henry and Tannehill have kept up the same pace as last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars // Keelan Cole’s Taste

There really hasn’t been anything positive going on in Jacksonville, but Keelan Cole in an interview said “I’d rather be a Jaguar than a Falcon or some sh** like that,” and I’m pretty sure he’s the only Jaguar who hasn’t actively requested to play somewhere else. So Jacksonville, Cole might be your franchise guy!

Houston Texans // Bill O’Brien Can’t Make Any More Fireable Offenses

You’ve already fired him, Texans! He’s gone! You at least didn’t give him the chance to trade Deshaun Watson for a 4th round pick and a pound of beef jerky! That’s something to be thankful for, right?

New England Patriots // Bill Belichick’s Inevitable Revenge Tour Next Year

The Patriots took a one-year flyer on Cam Newton in a year where key players have been out because of COVID and Tom Brady left them for dead. Cam has been a shell of himself coming off of injury, the defense that was compared to the ‘85 Bears for a while last year has been mediocre at best, and they’re 4-6 and going to miss the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. However, Belichick is such an evil mastermind that you never bet against him; he’ll have cap space next year and presumably a healthy roster and you just get a feeling that all of this adversity and criticism this year is only fueling his anger to be a destroyer of dreams again in 2021.

Buffalo Bills // Josh Allen’s Ascension

I don’t think there’s a single quarterback more criticized than Josh Allen because of his accuracy coming out of college and his risk-taking tendencies that sometimes backfire. This year, with the Patriots no longer as an inevitability in the AFC East, his accuracy has canceled out many of those risks and turned them into just plain absolutely ELECTRIC plays that a leader would make.

It’s a Shakespearian tragedy that Bills Mafia isn’t allowed into the stands this year to break tables as their franchise quarterback takes them on a wild ride to the postseason.

Miami Dolphins // Brian Flores – The Fixer-Upper

2019: The Dolphins traded away Tannehill for an old, bearded Ryan Fitzpatrick, let all of their big-name free agents walk, fired their coach, traded Robert Quinn, Kenyan Drake, Laremy Tunsil, and Minkah Fitzpatrick to accumulate draft picks to try and lose every game and tank their season for Tua Tagovailoa.

2020: Brian Flores has transformed what was heralded as one of the worst rosters ever assembled into a potential playoff team, Tua has been off to a solid start off of a college injury, and they have a gritty, identity of toughness in the organization that makes it look like a well-oiled machine fit to be a solid competitor for years to come.

Brian Flores is a man of culture.

New York Jets // The Season is still only 16 Games this Year

It’s easier to lose try and lose 16 games to get the #1 pick than it is to lose 17 in 2021!

Denver Broncos // Stadiometers

If you’re not familiar with the term, this is the tool doctors use to measure your height. Drew Lock has played poorly enough for the Broncos that John Elway is going to be able to whip out his stadiometer again to find another quarterback over 6 feet to draft to replace him. It’s been a revolving cycle of tall QBs ever since Peyton retired.

Los Angeles Chargers // SportsCenter Highlights

The Chargers are a top 3 most-exciting team to watch on television in the NFL with Justin Herbert slinging absolute dimes 50 yards down the field after he avoids pressure. However, they just happen to manage to find a way and lose the game somehow, too.

A 3-7 record is in no way fun if you’re a Chargers fan, but those highlights you see on SportsCenter before the blown lead at the end are at least exciting to watch, right?

Las Vegas Raiders // A Vaccine is in the Works

The Raiders have been a pleasantly surprising contender this year; they beat Kansas City (almost twice) and are in the hunt for one of the AFC Wild Card spots. However, they’ve been a multi-time offender of not following COVID protocols that have caused many players to miss games, a draft pick to be taken away, and received a hefty fine.

Thankfully, a vaccine is hopefully in the works because they could be even better with a fully healthy roster. I don’t think Gruden, the ultimate “football guy”, has the patience to go on with more rules than absolutely necessary to play football for much longer, so they need that vaccine and normalcy fast.

Kansas City Chiefs // Getting in Line for Seconds

Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones, and Travis Kelce, following their big-time extensions, are wiping the stuffing and mashed potatoes off their faces with a hundred dollar bill as their napkin and calmly getting back in line to get some more food on their plate.

It appears the Super Bowl champs are running it back and are still very hungry.

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