Thanksgiving 2022: Every NFL team has one thing to be thankful for this season

Thanksgiving is here and every NFL team has reason to be thankful. Yes, right, all 32! Some are clearly better positioned for success than others. Some might even see playoff hopes all but wiped out this holiday weekend. But this day is about appreciation, and if you look closely, there’s at least a little bit of promise in every NFL city.

Here’s one thing every team can be thankful for in 2022:

Greg Dortch looks like a real newcomer. In a team crowded with aging and often injured veterans, the 24-year-old formerly undrafted wide receiver was a safe outlet on the field.

Arthur Smith knows how to build a floor game. The Falcons are more competitive than they should be, largely because everyone who carries the ball from Cordarrelle Patterson to rookie Tyler Allgeier can find open lanes in their system.

Lamar Jackson’s legs are in great shape. A year after the star quarterback was plagued by injuries, his athleticism has single-handedly kept the Ravens offense afloat, coupled with a replenished defense to keep playoff hopes alive.

Stefon Diggs has improved with age. Josh Allen’s presence as the guy who delivers the ball certainly tops Buffalo’s list of blessings, but his No. 1 goal remains one of the NFL’s most reliable route runners and physical players going to 30.

The Front Seven has a promising future. Their defense isn’t technically considered a top unit, but a number of individual pieces (e.g. Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Frankie Luvu) have been confirmed as building blocks.

Justin Fields is definitely something. The sophomore QB still needs time and more help to grow as a passer, but boy has he exploded on the floor as a playmaker. May the crew surround him with proper weapons in 2023.

Joe Burrow is still that guy. No Ja’Marr Pursuit? No Joe Mixon? The Bengals can usually count on smooth sailing as long as their type is below middle; Few QBs are currently throwing nicer touch passes at any level of the field.

Amari Cooper was worth it. Cleveland essentially only gave up a fifth-round pick for the ex-Cowboys WR, remember, and while the Browns have struggled overall, he’s produced against superior opponents, particularly in the red zone.

Dak Prescott is making progress at the right time. After a long layoff due to injury, the QB has settled in as a crackerjack distributor for Dallas’ fast guns. He has yet to prove he can win a big game, but the needle is up.

The defense is intact. Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett’s poor pairing has choked up local headlines, but that hasn’t stopped Patrick Surtain II and company from somehow giving this duo a chance in every single game this year.

Dan Campbell’s offense can compete in a number of ways. That’s a big thing to say considering they’ve struggled with injuries and often caught up. They were fighters on the ground (Jamaal Williams) and in the air (Amon-Ra St. Brown).

Christian Watson has what it takes to be a star. His emergence might have been too little, too late, to salvage a seedy setup for Aaron Rodgers, but the rookie has been an enticing combination of size and speed during his recent outburst.

Dameon Pierce is a bulldozer. The rookie running back is the main reason Houston managed to keep so many games tight in the first half of the year, providing a true tackle-shedding partner for anyone taking over at QB in 2023.

The WR Corps looks ready for the future. Acquiring a longer-term QB is paramount, but the young trio of Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell have been surprisingly strong, especially given the team’s other turmoil.

Trevor Lawrence is in a much better place. The QB still has room to grow, but not only is he more comfortable under Doug Pederson, but two of his top weapons, Travis Etienne and Christian Kirk, appear to have just reached their prime.

Patrick Mahomes is a panacea. Perhaps too obvious, but what else can Chiefs fans be more grateful for than No. 15, whose chemistry with Travis Kelce and unimpressed creativity set Kansas City up for another title run?

Maxx Crosby is a disruptor. A year after exploding with 30 QB hits, the edge-rusher has up to nine sacks in 10 games, steadily saping juice from a Raiders defense that took its fair share of clods from Josh McDaniels in the freshman year are.

Austin Ekeler is still automatic. Overall, if you deal with Justin Herbert, you’ll want to see more of them. But Ekeler is such a dependable utility man (971 scrimmage yards in 10 games) that his offense can never be tallied.

The Lombardi Trophy is still theirs for the time being. The hellscape that was their 2022 campaign is a partial result of what they paid to secure the 2021 title run. The deep is now exhausted, but at least the Rams reigned supreme a year ago.

Your new setup unlocked Tua Tagovailoa. We don’t know the young QB’s cap yet, but he was a far more confident passer as Mike McDaniel called plays and both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle ran down.

Kevin O’Connell changed the mood. A playoff berth may or may not be their cap, as usual, but the freshman coach has brought a refreshing offensive approach to one of the best groups of skill players. His team has determination.

Bill Belichick can overcome a barren QB situation. Neither Mac Jones nor Bailey Zappe have championed a run-related offense, but Belichick’s old-fashioned “D” has kept New England lively all year.

Chris Olave is the real deal. Michael Thomas looks like he’s on his way out and the Saints have yet to figure out QB beyond 2022, but at least they have a No. 1 wideout on their hands. Only nine others have more receiving yards than the rookie.

Brian Daboll knows how to maximize his staff. The Giants haven’t been able to compete this year, but Daboll’s fiery lead has allowed New York to at least play the spoilsport. Imagine if he could get his hands on a game-changing signal caller.

Robert Saleh’s defense has taken shape. The unit has been upgraded at every level this off-season and boasts real young stars in Quinnen Williams and Sauce Gardner. She is responsible for driving an offensively challenged playoff hopeful.

Jalen Hurts is a different beast. Not just in terms of his unwavering aura, but also in comparison to his 2021 self. Aside from remaining a physical threat with his legs, he’s made great strides as a downfield pitcher, confirming his franchise QB is on the rise.

You’ve found your next big WR. Or at least it seems so, with George Pickens flashing Pro Bowl caliber traits in an otherwise lumbering attack. Pittsburgh’s track record of designing and developing wideouts is second to none.

Jimmy Garoppolo was even better than advertised. Back in the saddle after Trey Lance’s injury, the vet seemed particularly pleased with improved weapons and a miserly “D,” threatening another deep post-season run.

Geno Smith is not the old Geno Smith anymore. He was a whole new machine as Russell Wilson’s successor, operating with the authority to lead Pete Carroll’s surprise contenders and make their 2023 QB plans extra interesting.

Rachaad White can help restore their offense. Tom Brady seems to be getting some swagger back after a difficult start, but the rookie’s emergence in the backfield could be a game-changer as he complements Leonard Fournette.

Derrick Henry is back. The bruiser doesn’t lead the NFL in yards per carry, in part because he gets so many of them, but healthy after a shortened 2021 through injury, he’s once again fueling a division title run alongside Ryan Tannehill.

Terry McLaurin breaks out. We’ve always known Ohio State’s product had WR1 abilities, but he’s been particularly important to the team’s success this year, even as both Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke snapped in the QB.


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