25 Reasons to Be Thankful for the NFL This Holiday Season

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterDecember 21, 2010

25 Reasons to Be Thankful for the NFL This Holiday Season

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader performs at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The holidays are a time for family and remembrance of what we should be thankful for about the past year. It is also a time to plant your butt in your favorite seat and watch some football. There are so many great stories and exciting matches to be had in the next couple of weeks. 

    So in the spirit of the season, I give you those things that I am most thankful for during the current holidays. These are the items that will keep me fat and giggly all through the New Year. 

25. One Last Brett Favre Saga

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings is sacked by the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    This is it, folks. While it is sad that we will be without Brett Favre next year, I can't help but thank the good lord that we will no longer have to constantly wonder whether Favre will or won't play. The ongoing saga that was Favre's final years became an incessant grating noise on the ears of NFL fans. 

    It was like a bad movie that you couldn't leave because you need to see the cliched ending and you happened to have a full bowl of popcorn. So, with the credits rolling on Favre, we can finally leave our seats and bid adieu to a great warrior. 

24. Snow Games

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the Vikings game against the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The best part of watching football on the TV in December is that you don't have to watch a game in the dead of winter in person. You can see these giants of sport hit each other all over a white covered field as you sip on some hot cocoa. 

    Watching grown men play in the most uncomfortable of settings somehow makes me feel a little more cozy in my house. Also, you can almost feel the hits when a receiver is pummeled to a frozen surface. It just makes this game that much better. 

23. Devin Hester

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    On Monday Night, we were treated to the 14th touchdown of the greatest punt returner in the history of the NFL. Devin Hester is a marvel of a sprinter. He is elusive and explosive. Anytime he is on the screen, you have to stop and take a look. 

    You always have this feeling that he will take his next punt for a touchdown. That expectation has us all glued to the TV. That is simply remarkable. 

22. New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  The mascot for the New England Patriots leads the team onto the feild before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won the game 31-27.  (Photo by
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    I am not a Patriots fan.

    But I am a fan of good football. That is why it is so great that the Patriots have returned to glory. They play football the right way. With their resurgence on the defensive end, this team does everything correctly. 

    Not to mention, they have the most unlikely of heroes to follow. The diminutive Danny Woodhead and undersized Wes Welker have you believing that anyone can make it in the NFL.

    All you need is immense physical talent. 

21. The AFC Playoff Race

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 19: Donald Brown #31 of the Indianapolis Colts runs against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Every game matters in the NFL. With only 16 games in the season, one misstep can cost you. Now extrapolate that sentiment ten fold and you have the playoff push in the NFL. 

    Currently things are starting to shape up in the AFC. That does not mean that they are by any means set in stone. The AFC North is still up for grabs and there is a tight race in the AFC South. Both divisions are tied and will force the Steelers, Ravens, Colts and Jaguars to put it all on the line.

    That makes me happy. 

20. The NFC Playoff Race

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  A fan of the Green Bay Packers cheers during the fourth quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won the game 31-27.  (Photo by Jim Ro
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The NFC is just as exciting as its AFC brethren. The conference is stacked with possibilities. None is more enticing than the race between the Packers and Giants. 

    Both teams meet this Sunday. A Giants loss would force them to win in their final week. This weekend could very well go a long way to crowning who goes out of the great white North. 

19. The NFC West

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 19: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams passes against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Edward Jones Dome on December 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Chiefs beat the Rams 27-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    This is the bane of many a NFL fan. The division is a collection of horrible teams. So much so that the winner of the division very well could have a losing record. But where you see a horrid division, I see great entertainment value. 

    Watching these also rans scrape and claw to mediocrity is a little bit hilarious. It also helps that I am a Rams fan.

    Did I mention that I can't help smiling?

18. Jon Gruden

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    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 28: Coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs play against the Oakland Raiders at Raymond James Stadium on December 28, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    It is sometimes very hard to watch Monday Night football. The game can suffer from a mismatch and a great time turns into a blowout. It is nice to finally have someone back in the booth that cares about football as much as Jon Gruden. 

    He gets overexcited and way too enthralled in the game, and I like that. I want a analyst with a booming voice that will lie to me about how great the game I am watching really is. Please don't leave, Jon. 

17. Michael Vick

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Michael Vick left the NFL as a Pro Bowl quarterback. 

    He returned as a legend in the making.

    He is now a complete player. He has learned to be patient in the pocket and take a lay of the land. If all else fails, he runs for a first down. 

    He makes it look that easy. The NFL has its fair share of stars, but Vick is far and away the most intriguing. Everyone loves a story of redemption. The NFL has theirs in Vick. 

16. Rex Ryan

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets watches his team warm up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 19, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    You have to love Rex Ryan.

    He lives and dies with every loss. It seems like he is fighting an unending uphill battle for approval. The devastating loss his team suffered at the hands of the Patriots shows that there is much still to be done. 

    But Ryan is accessible. No one thinks they can relate to the genius of Bill Belichick. He is something not of this world. Rex Ryan is easily related to. I can have a beer with the man. That is what makes him so popular. 

15. Jenn Sterger

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    Roger Goodell hopes to have a decision on the ongoing Brett Favre investigation by the end of the season. That means that some sort of news will break shortly about Jenn Sterger and Brett Favre. That is a fantastic stocking stuffer of a realization. 

    We will soon be treated to image after image of Jenn Sterger. Not only that, but we will have a Favre scandal on our hands. The only thing America loves more than sports is a good ol' fashioned scandal. 

14. James Harrison

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers sacks Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills during their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    James Harrison is everything you want in a defender. He is tough, fierce and competitive. I guess you can throw into the mix the fact that he is good. 

    Harrison has drawn fire for his hard and tenuous hits. But all the while Harrison has maintained his edge. He is a trained animal that does not mind getting loose every once in a while. That is what keeps one eye always on the Steelers game. 

13. Thursday Night Games

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Fans of the the Pittsburgh Steelers cheer during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Pittsburgh won 13-10.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Right before Thanksgiving started, we were treated to a bevy of Thursday Night games. Now the NFL action is not just relegated to Sunday and Monday. It is a welcome respite of entertainment before we all start our weekends. 

    I just wish we were able to have a middle of the week contest all season long.

12. Giants at Green Bay

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Flynn #10 of the Green Bay Packers and teammates celebrate a touchdown during the third quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    This game has it all.

    It will be cold and loud in Lambeau Field. It will have the atmosphere of a past season affair. Why shouldn't it? This game has so much weight attributed to it. Whoever wins this game could very well be the division representative in the playoffs. 

    With only two weeks left in the regular season, there are not many must see games. This happens to be one of the few.

    I can't wait for Sunday. 

11. St. Louis at Seattle

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 12:  Brandon Gibson #11 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled by Malcom Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    I know, these teams are horrible. But could I possibly interest you in a one off, play in game? That is exactly what this could be. If both the Rams and Seahawks lose this week, let's be honest they just might, their match to end the season is for all the cards. 

    There is nothing better than a playoff game before the playoffs. That is what this Sunday afternoon game will be on January 2nd. The loser will go home. The winner gets the chance to be humiliated in the playoffs.

    How nice. 

10. Parity

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 19: David Garrard #9 of the Jacksonville Jaguars passes against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    The NFL boasts the most parity of any sport. It is always possible for a team that was in the doldrums one year to completely turn it around the next.

    There is no bigger example of this than in the AFC South. 

    The Colts were the kings of the division for seemingly eons. But the Jaguars have come from nowhere and sit on top of the division with the perennial powerhouse. This race will come down to the wire. Even if the Colts win a spot in the post season, the Jaguars have shown what some timely miracles and young talent can yield in this league. 

9. The Chargers Losing The Division

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Head coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers looks on against the San Francisco 49ers prior to their game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    It is almost here. Right around the corner is the Chargers losing the division. It is not that I hate San Diego, it is just that I am tired of their late season surges. 

    No team should be able to completely blow one whole half of the season and still make the playoffs. It goes against everything we have come to expect from a 16 game season. I knew that one day their early year faltering would bite them in the end. This may finally be that year. 

8. Matt Ryan

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    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    It is always fun to watch a quarterback grow and mature. Atlanta Falcons QB, Matt Ryan, has done just that. The man that has his team on top of the NFC is an official star in the league. He boasts a powerful arm and great pocket presence.

    But the one thing that makes him so special is he is so darn precise. 

    He boasts a terrific completion rate. That is the sign of a player that has matured. He knows when to hold onto the ball and when to release it to a check down. All the while he is not afraid of shooting one down field.

    This young stud is just getting started. 

7. Tim Tebow

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos throws the ball during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Show me a guy that loves to play his sport and I will show you an athlete fans adore. Tebow lays it all on the line every single play. Broncos fans love him because they recognize the same passion and heart in him that John Elway had. 

    While that comparison is unfair to Tebow, it is the most glaring reason for his recent success. The fans demanded Tebow and they got him. I have to say, I may jump on the bandwagon soon. 

6. Albert Haynesworth's Dismissal

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth #92 of the Washington Redskins stands on the sidelines during preseason NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Washington Redskins suspended the troubled defensive lineman recently and that made me happy. Haynesworth is a me first player that has no semblance of what it takes to put the team first.

    Sadly, these types of players are usually the ones that get rewarded. 

    It was surprising that the Redskins stuck to their guns in light of their dismal season. I have to commend them to not relenting. Most teams would have been glad to switch up their defensive schemes. Mike Shanahan shouted loud and clear that he is the one in charge. More teams should follow suit. 

5. Dallas Cowboys Demise

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Head coach Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys complains to a referee during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    I am sorry, but I had about enough of the Dallas Cowboys. I never stated that they were America's team. Most of you never claimed it either. The Cowboys are forced fed to us the way the Yankees and Lakers are. 

    So when they struggle out of the gate and find themselves as a bottom feeder, it warms our hearts. As winter turns ugly, I find great comfort in knowing that you cannot simply buy a title. It must be earned.

    There is that smile again. 

4. The End Of Fantasy Football Season

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    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 19:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans runs against the Houston Texans at LP Field on December 19, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Texans, 31-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Now that I have been ousted by my league for my horrible showing, I can now forget the hopeless feeling I had all season. I had one of those years where I could not win for losing. 

    It all started with drafting Chris Johnson. How could I not be grateful for that kind of pickup? Well, I should have thrown that pick in the trash and concentrated on Arian Foster and Peyton Hillis. Most of all, I am tired of injury reports. I have to weed through the nonsense of questionable and probable and the games that the staffs play with these status monikers. Look, just tell me if the dude is playing.

    Thank you. 

3. Hot Seat Coaches

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    You may have seen them, lurking on a sideline near you.

    They look like normal everyday citizens. But they are so much more. They are coaches on the hot seat and their pain is my entertainment. 

    Every year around this time a coach or two comes in danger of losing his hold on the tea. It is both painful and hilarious to watch. The post game interviews become heated. The locker room stories become more scandalous. It is even hilarious to watch a head coach hesitate in throwing a challenge flag. You can see the nervous twitch as they hope their challenge is not another nail in the coffin. 

2. Carolina Panthers

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    I think it goes without saying that every NFL fan is thankful for the Carolina Panthers.

    Okay, maybe not Panthers fans. But this team gives you and your team a lot of perspective. Now even the Buffalo Bills can say, "At least we aren't that team."

    Carolina even makes the Cardinals look like an actual team. Thank you, Carolina. You are the Mother Theresa of the league. 

1. Postseason Baby

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    In a about a week or so we will finally be handed a finalized list of those teams that made it into the playoffs. Finally, after months of waiting, we will have match ups to break down and dissect. 

    For us NFL nerds, it is a gift that we will tear open the wrapping to play with. Before the games even get played, we will have slotted the possible match ups, torn down the coaching pedigrees, and waxed philosophic about home field advantage.

    I can't wait.