Thanksgiving is the best holiday on the calendar. Let’s just start there. The origin of the holiday may have been to essentially celebrate the harvest and another year of hard work before settling in for the winter, but it’s probably defined more by food and football for many now. Growing up, this was always my favorite holiday because I got two NFL games on Thursday in addition to the normal slate. Now, we get even more games available to us as the NFL continues to gobble up real estate on the schedule.
Whatever Thanksgiving means to you, be safe, and enjoy the long weekend if you’re fortunate enough to get some time off work. For those of you that work retail or service industry, I see you and may you get good customers all weekend. Here are the 10 NFL-ish things I’m thankful for this year.
1. Prime Vision. I could probably do without the break-ins from Sam Schwartzstein during the Amazon broadcasts, but overall, the Prime Vision product is a dream realized. For years, I’ve wanted the opportunity to watch a game with a camera angle showing more of the field. It gives the viewer a different experience and the product continues to evolve. Last year, I thought some of the name tags on players cluttered the screen, but that has seemed to improve (or I’ve gotten used to it). The AI additions highlighting open receivers and potential blitzers adds a further element of enjoyment.
I’m excited to see where Amazon takes this and if other carriers will innovate. There’s so much going on during a football game and we’re finally getting to see more of it in real time.
2. Mike McDaniel’s track team. The Miami Dolphins might be the most fun team in the league. The 7-3 Dolphins are the highest scoring team in the league and regularly produce explosive run and pass plays. McDaniel served as the running game coordinator under Mike Shanahan before he got his shot in Miami, so the care he puts into the running attack and the balance of his offense shows up every week.
His emphasis on gathering track stars that wear pads really makes his offense special. Tyreek Hill might be the Offensive Player of the Year if not the MVP. He leads the league with 1222 yards receiving, 200+ more than AJ Brown and CeeDee Lamb. Raheem Mostert has broken out in a big way in Miami after years of bouncing around the league. He’s currently second in the league in rushing behind Christian McCaffrey. Hill and Mostert lead the league in TD receptions and TD rushes respectively.
3. Love kinda stinks. I said before the year I wanted Jordan Love to be perfectly average for the Green Bay Packers. I want the Packers organization and Packer backers to fully buy in to the idea that Jordan Love can be the guy that takes them back to the promised land so that they’ll invest in him financially and emotionally... but ultimately he’ll let them down.
If you polled Packers fans right now, I think most would say they’ve already discarded that notion and want to move on, so it’s not a perfect scenario. However, there was always a small piece of my brain that worried the whole “pick a QB and let him sit and learn for years” plan was going to work again and the cycle would repeat itself. At least the Packers are likely wandering in the QB wilderness for at least a few minutes.
4. Greg Olsen. It’s interesting that FOX gave all the money to Tom Brady to be the next great color commentator when they already have one in house. I’m sure Brady will be fine and they’ll have a “good problem” on their hands, but Olsen has grown into the role and should be on one of the top teams somewhere.
I don’t know how often this happens, but I’d love to see Olsen move into the role on NBC’s Sunday Night Football if and when they’re ready to move on from Collinsworth. Or maybe Amazon can lure him away to build a new and better announcing team on Thursday Night Football.
5. Carolina Blues. I’m still not sure how they were able to beat the surging Texans but so far, so good for the Carolina Panthers season if you’re a Bears fan. While it was always a possibility that the Panthers would turn back a top 5 pick in the 2024 draft, few imagined that the Bears might be picking first with that trade.
The dysfunction in the Panthers organization between owner, head coach, and quarterback is a good lesson for the Bears too. If the Panthers do end up delivering a top pick back to the Bears and the Bears do the right thing by cleaning house, make sure that the new coach chooses the quarterback he wants.
6. Hooded sweatshirts. I looked in my closet this summer and I asked myself “do I really need 14 hooded sweatshirts?” Then cooler weather arrived and the answer came back to me as yes, indeed I do. In fact, I might want to add a few more.
My hoodie collection has always been dominated by navy and orange and hoodies are, in my opinion, the most comfortable clothing option in cooler weather. That association between football and comfort brings me a lot of joy.
7. Lamar Jackson. I love watching Lamar Jackson play football. He’s already won the league MVP once and it is not out of the question for Jackson to earn a second as the Ravens are currently the top seed in the AFC. Jackson’s still having success on the ground, but the passing game has finally been unlocked under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Jackson will turn 27 in January and might be cementing his legacy if he can keep this up and take the Ravens deep into the playoffs. Another MVP and a Super Bowl appearance would essentially lock up the Hall of Fame.
8. Jags and Lions. Yes, I’m going to include the Lions in this. The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions have been two of the least successful teams in the NFL in the recent past. Their fan bases have long suffered the slings and arrows of fans and commentators from around the league for their favorite team’s incompetence. They now sit at the top of weak divisions and would host at least one playoff game if the post season were to start today.
That should give other fan bases at least a modicum of hope that their franchise can be turned around as well.
9. Houston Texans and CJ Stroud. I’m still thankful to the Houston Texans for gifting the Bears the number one pick last year with their amazing victory in Week 18. I’m also happy that, despite losing that coveted top draft pick, they were able to land their quarterback of the future. I’m not sure who the Texans would have picked with the top pick, and Bryce Young might turn out to be a good player in the league, but the Texans must be thrilled with finding CJ Stroud. The Bears gain last year was seemingly at the expense of the Texans so it’s nice to see that it may have ended up benefitting them. Sometimes, things work out for the best.
10. All of you. Yes, it’s sappy but true. Those of you that read our articles, listen to our podcasts, watch us on YouTube, and interact with us on Twitter make the time and effort we put into this work worth it. I will tell you honestly that it is not particularly easy or fun to cover a team that seems to be caught in a vicious cycle. Sometimes, it can be downright confusing. There have been many times over the last few years that some of you get mad because we wrote something positive about an aspect of the team when they’re doing poorly. Or someone gets mad when we cover something negative about the team when they’re doing poorly because why are we piling on? Or maybe someone gets angry about something that’s not in the article / podcast / video at all and just needed to blow off steam.
However, I’m a firm believer in finding the way that you want to be a fan and expressing yourself in that way. I hope that we can bring some balance to your fandom and that at the end of the day we all realize that we’re all wearing the same colors, cheering for the same ultimate goal. Let’s just make sure we’re kind to one another along the way. Enjoy the holiday and grab that extra piece of pie. You’ve earned it.
Let me know what you’re thankful for in the comments below.