One Gift Every AFC Team Is Wishing for This Christmas
With the month of December just days away, its time to dust off the old Christmas tree, hang up the stockings and make your list.
Some NFL teams' Christmas lists are short (Pittsburgh), others are long (Indianapolis), but everyone wants something this time of year.
Here is my list for the one gift each AFC team is wishing for this Christmas.
New England Patriots: Safety Help
After having a plethora of safety options over the past few years, the Patriots released both Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders in the offseason. They rested their hopes on younger players like Patrick Chung, James Ihedigbo, Sterling Moore and Sergio Brown.
Bill Belichick typically gets the benefit of the doubt in regards to his personnel decisions, but this one may have backfired. Injuries in the secondary have not helped, but New England is ranked dead last in passing yards allowed, giving up more than 300 yards a game on average.
Not only is a safety needed, but possibly a whole new secondary.
New York Jets: Consistent Quarterback Play
Sure, Mark Sanchez is having one of the best years of his career, already throwing more touchdowns this season then he has in his previous two, and he is averaging more yards per game.
But, Sanchez is still being plagued by the turnover, typically in an opportune time. Even after throwing four touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday, fans are still frustrated with the constant roller coaster ride that Sanchez leads them on week in and week out.
All fans truly want from Sanchez is more a consistent quarterback who makes smart throws and limits his amount of turnovers.
Buffalo Bills: This Season's First Half Mojo
After a 5-2 start to begin their season, the Buffalo Bills were one of the hottest teams in the league. Since then, the Bills have lost four in a row, as well as their dynamic running back, Fred Jackson.
The loss of Jackson to a broken fibula, has sucked the already depleted energy out of the Bills. Up until his injury, Jackson had been one of the most dynamic players in the league—rushing for 934 yards and racking up 442 yards receiving.
In order for the Bills to step up and reclaim the magic they had in the first half of the season, newly extended quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to raise his level of play, and former first-round choice C.J. Spiller needs to live up to his potential.
Miami Dolphins: A Time Machine
After losing their first seven games, the Miami Dolphins won three in a row before losing by a last second field goal to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
The Dolphins have seen an offensive explosion from Reggie Bush, consistent quarterback play from Matt Moore and an improved defense.
Where was this at the beginning of the season?
What if the Dolphins could go back to the beginning of the season with the mindset they have now? Although their record might not be much different, more competitive games could have been possible.
And who knows, maybe their record would be the inverse of what it is now, at 3-8.
Baltimore Ravens: Consistent Offensive Play Calling
It's no secret that Ray Rice is one of the best running backs in the league, so why don't the Ravens know that?
Rice offers one of the most consistent runner back/receiver combinations in the league. In the Ravens three losses this season, Rice was given 13 or less rushing attempts in all three contests.
With a defense built the way Baltimore's is, and a quarterback that can struggle at times, the smartest choice would be to get Rice upwards of 25-30 touches per game—from rushing attempts to receptions.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker Health
When you think of the Steelers you think of defense, and when you think of their defense, the first word that comes to mind is toughness. The epitome of toughness for this defense is James Harrison.
Harrison has been the heart and soul of a stout Steelers defense for years and missed time earlier this season with a fractured orbital.
Another key contributor in their line-backing core has been five-year veteran LaMarr Woodley. Woodley has missed three games so far this season with a hamstring injury.
Without Harrison, the Steelers lose their toughness and an inside presence. And without Woodley, the defense loses a premier outside pass rusher.
If the Steelers want to make another trip back to the Super Bowl, these two need to be healthy.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ability to Maintain Their Naivety
One of the biggest surprises this year has been the play of the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are currently 7-4 and if the playoffs started today, they would make the cut as a wild-card team.
Very few people would have given the Bengals much of a chance at succeeding this year, especially with a rookie quarterback and a rookie wide receiver.
One of the reasons why the Bengals are succeeding is low expectations and young naive players who just love to play the game. Sometimes youthful exuberance can go a long way, and if the Bengals can maintain that, they have a strong shot at not only reaching the playoffs, but making some noise while there.
Cleveland Browns: A New Division
The Browns are young, lack a superstar and most importantly they are not that good. But, would they be better if they did not have to play the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals all twice a year?
The Browns have struggled for many seasons, and it's never easy when you share a division with two perennial playoff contenders in the Steelers and Ravens.
The Browns have done some good things in recent years: bringing in Mike Holmgren to run the front office, drafting a quarterback with a winning pedigree in college and developing a young, talented defensive backfield.
The only way the Browns can compete any time soon is if the Ravens and Steelers (and in the future, the Bengals) collapse.
Houston Texans: A Starting Quarterback
Your team has the top seed in the AFC, what could possibly go wrong? How about your starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, injures his foot and misses the rest of the season.
Following Schaub's injury, the Texans turned to former Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart to run the offense, who then fractured his collarbone in his first start since 2009.
Enter fifth-round pick T.J. Yates.
In a little more than a half of football, Yates threw for 70 yards while completing eight passes. Yates will not be expected to set the world on fire, and with veterans Kellen Clemons and newly-signed Jake Delhomme waiting in the wings, the Texans will rely even more on their stellar running game.
But not every game can be won on the ground alone. Is T.J. Yates enough to push this offense through the playoffs?
Tennessee Titans: For the Texans to Not Find a Starting Quarterback
The best weapon for the Tennessee Titans right now is the Houston Texans' injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.
The Titans currently sit at 6-5, and with the Texans expected to regress a bit with T.J. Yates starting, the Titans are in position to make up ground. Last week saw Chris Johnson finally break out of his funk and he rushed for 190 yards.
If the Titans want a shot at making the playoffs, not only do the Texans need to regress, but the Titans running game and quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck need to pick up their game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A Draft Redo
The single most important position in the NFL is quarterback. The Jaguars have been lucky in recent years to have a solid, albeit unspectacular, quarterback in David Garrard, but saw him to the door before the first game of the season.
In April, the Jaguars felt they were getting a steal by drafting Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the tenth overall pick, especially after the Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker with the eighth pick.
In Gabbert's nine starts, he's thrown for just over 1,300 yards, averaging only 146 yards per game and throwing the same amount of touchdowns as interceptions: six.
If given a do-over, the Jaguars would certainly look to either not draft Gabbert, or go ahead and draft current Bengals starting quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Or they could have never released David Garrard.
Indianapolis Colts: A Healthy Peyton Manning
Has the loss of one player ever had a more drastic effect than Peyton Manning's has had on the Colts?
The Colts, who are typically vying for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, are scrambling to get a victory. Currently sitting at 0-11, the Colts have five more chances to not become the second team ever to go 0-16.
This season, maybe more than any other, has proven how great Peyton Manning truly is. Offensively the team seems unable to function without his presence.
And without an offense bailing them out, the defense has struggled.
If Manning was not hurt, would they be going for 16-0? Doubtful. But there is no doubt they would at least be competitive.
One player truly can make or break a team.
Oakland Raiders: A Healthy Darren McFadden
Before his injury in Week 7, Darren McFadden was one of the most dynamic running backs in the league. McFadden had always had big play potential, and was finally living up to his lofty expectations until spraining his foot.
The Raiders are currently riding a three-game winning streak, mostly behind the great running of McFadden's replacement Michael Bush, and with new quarterback Carson Palmer finally settling in as the leader of this offense.
If the Raiders want to hold on to their AFC west lead, a healthy McFadden will go a long way in securing their first playoff bid since losing Super Bowl XXXVII.
Denver Broncos: A Passing Tim Tebow
One of the biggest stories of this NFL season has been the play of Tim Tebow.
Tebow was never regarded as a top-level NFL quarterback prospect, having played much of his life in an option offense. There is no doubt that Tebow was an incredible college quarterback and one of the greatest college football players of all time.
Tebow has been able to change the way quarterbacks can win in this league, and during the Broncos four-game winning streak, he is only averaging 16 pass attempts per game while completing less than 45 percent of his passes.
There is no denying that Tebow's running ability is his greatest strength, but eventually, teams will be able to figure out the option, and force Tebow to use his arm to beat them.
Kansas City Chiefs: To Never Have to Start Tyler Palko Again
In two starts after an injury to starting quarterback Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko has thrown six interceptions to zero touchdowns.
To say Palko was awful, would not be enough.
Poor decision making and bad throws have led to the possibility of newly signed quarterback Kyle Orton pushing for the starting job this Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
At this point, even a guy like Orton, who has been with the Chiefs for less than a week, is a better option than Palko. For the Chiefs' sake, lets hope that Orton can do better than zero touchdowns and six interceptions in two games.