NFL Christmas Wish List: AFC Edition

Joe Nicely explores what each AFC team should have on their Christmas lists this year.

Happy Holidays! Thanks for joining me here at The Combine! You hopefully had a few presents under the tree this year and, just like you, your favorite NFL team probably has some wants and needs on their Christmas wish list. Let’s check out what each NFL team should be asking for this year!

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have kinda already had their wishes come true, as Lamar Jackson has stepped into the starting QB role and has them on the cusp of winning the division as we head into Week 17. Baltimore’s Christmas wish would probably be for a time machine to stop themselves from giving Joe Flacco such a massive contract. Look for the Ravens to right that wrong this offseason and send Flacco and his huge paycheck packing.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I guess the wish that immediately comes to mind, is that the Steelers could’ve used Le’Veon Bell this season…but truth be told, Pittsburgh’s numbers from the RB position are perfectly fine. What the Steelers should ask for is the ability to closeout games, as they’ve recently blown second-half leads against the Raiders, Chargers, and Saints. Pittsburgh is also being haunted by the season-opener, a game in which they totally gifted the Cleveland Browns a tie.

Cleveland Browns: The lowly Browns have already received a huge gift in the form of rookie QB Baker Mayfield, who has lifted the Browns from winless in 2017 to a respectable 7-7-1 this season. Cleveland made a smart move by running Hue Jackson out-of-town early this season. What the Browns need from Santa Claus is a home run coaching hire this offseason. The Cleveland job is more desirable than it has ever been, as they have a nice young core of players on the roster. Now, they just need to get this hire right.

Cincinnati Bengals: Like the Browns, we expect the Bengals will also be hiring a new coach when the season is over, so they could definitely use some holiday magic during that process. While a new voice in the locker room might help Cincy, their true wish for the new year will be health. The Bengals are entering the final week of the season without Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Tyler Boyd…and that’s just on offense. Cincy has some solid pieces on both sides of the ball, but was never really able to get them on the field together for much of the season.

 

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: The AFC South wish list is all about the quarterbacks and the Houston Texans should wish for the continued health of theirs. Drafting Deshaun Watson has proven to be a game changer for the Texans. After a sluggish start to the season with Watson returning from a major injury, the Texans ran off nine straight wins once the second-year QB knocked the rust off. Besides being the answer to Deandre Hopkins’ prayers, Watson offers Houston a chance to both win now and feel great about the future.

Indianapolis Colts:  The pair of Andrew Luck and Frank Reich might as well have big red bows on their heads. The hiring of Reich and return of Luck from a scary injury, have turned around the Colts’ fortunes in just one season. While the Colts should be thankful for what they have, it wouldn’t hurt for them to ask the big guy in red for another explosive player to pair with Luck and T.Y. Hilton on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe Santa will bring the Colts a very special Bell via the free agent market this summer.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans have to be thankful to be in a position to make the playoffs with a win in Week 17, but their wish list should have one thing at the top…clarity. Tennessee is in sort of a middle-of-the-road purgatory. They aren’t bad enough to tank, rebuild, and get a high draft pick, but they also aren’t good enough to realistically compete for a Super Bowl. This mediocrity is best exemplified in QB Marcus Mariota. Like the Titans franchise itself, Mariota looks amazing at times and pedestrian at others. This is when he’s able to actually stay on the field. With his rookie contract winding down, Tennessee will need to make a difficult decision regarding what to do with the injury-plagued Mariota.

Jacksonville Jaguars: What a difference a year makes. The Jags were a half of football away from playing in the Super Bowl last year, but have looked downright ugly in 2018. The Jaguars made their bed with QB Blake Bortles this past offseason and have spent the entirety of 2018 tossing and turning in it. The Christmas wish for the Jags is simple…please bring them a quarterback. With a talented RB in Leonard Fournette and a defense that could still be great, Jacksonville management can’t allow this possible window of success to close.

 

AFC EAST

New England Patriots: It would probably be greedy for the Patriots to ask for much this Christmas, but despite all the franchise’s success in the past, both the present and future are looking a little bleaker than usual. With Josh Gordon gone, Rob Gronkowski looking human, and Tom Brady on the downside of his career…the once explosive Patriot offense appears to be stalled out. If New England hasn’t already used all of it’s Christmas wishes, the Pats should cross their fingers for an injection of young talent. The New England dynasty is showing the ill-effects of years without a high draft pick that would infuse the roster with a young star.

Miami Dolphins: Like the Tennessee Titans, the Dolphins are mired in mediocrity. And like the Titans, Miami has been tied to an oft-injured QB. Ryan Tannehill has missed 25 regular and post-season games since injuring his knee in December of 2016 and is due to make a salary that would make him the sixth-most expensive quarterback in the league in 2019. This for a Dolphins organization that is already in ugly salary-cap shape. Miami needs a Christmas miracle in the form of a young and cheap QB.

Buffalo Bills: It’s kind of hard to believe that the Bills were in the playoffs last season. The Bills have continued to play hard for coach Sean McDermott during what amounts to a “soft reboot” this season. Buffalo drafted a very talented, but very raw quarterback in Josh Allen. The Bills also have an exciting, young defense led by budding star Tre’Davious White. You can’t put time in a bottle, but that’s what Buffalo needs this Christmas; time for this raw, but talented group to grow up and reach its potential.

New York Jets: Todd Bowles probably hasn’t gotten a fair shake as the head coach of the Jets. He took over Rex Ryan’s defensively geared roster in 2015 and finished 10-6, but hasn’t won more than five games in a season since. I say that Bowles hasn’t gotten a fair shake because the Jets offensive roster has been a dumpster fire for his entire tenure. With the draft pick of QB Sam Darnold, New York appears to have an offensive centerpiece to build around, but it’s fair to wonder if Bowles is the right coach to guide this ship into the future. Perhaps the Jets can find the next Sean McVay under their tree this Christmas.

 

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs’ cup overfloweth this year, so they are looking for more of a Christmas bonus, than a Christmas miracle. Kansas City probably wishes Santa could go back in time and make Kareem Hunt less of an idiot, but that’s probably a stretch, even for jolly old Saint Nick. The best gift for this talented Chiefs team would be a win in Week 17 that would clinch home-field throughout the playoffs. Playing at Arrowhead would give Kansas City a big advantage in the post-season.

Los Angeles Chargers: Christmas thoughts and prayers up for Philip Rivers’ wife, who is pregnant with the couples NINTH CHILD! We all know how expensive kids are, so maybe the Chargers should wish for Rivers and his beautiful bride to continue adding to the family. The more children that Rivers has, the longer he will have to play for the Chargers.

Denver Broncos: Ugghh…John Elway has earned the benefit of the doubt, but the Vance Joseph/Case Keenum experiment has been a bust. The Broncos still have unbelievable talent on defense and two exciting rookies on offense in Phillip Lindsay and Courtland Sutton, so there’s no need to panic. Elway has engineered quick turnarounds before, he just needs to reach into his mile-high Christmas stocking and pull out a shiny new head coach/QB combo to get things back on track.

Oakland Raiders: We round out our holiday wish list with the team that needs a Santa’s sleigh packed full of goodies. The Raiders probably have a very long list of wishes this Christmas, but perhaps the most important one isn’t the most obvious… the Raiders need a home. After bouncing between Oakland and L.A., and now being Las Vegas bound, Gruden and his elves need a place to settle down for a nice winter’s nap. With their whereabouts unknown for next season, the Raiders will have to make do with their plethora of upcoming draft picks. Perhaps when they get settled into their new Vegas digs in 2020, the Silver & Black will be ready to head in the right direction.

 

 

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