It's Not All Bad, Fans

OK, so your favorite team is dealing with injuries (hello, Green Bay), or controversies (you too, Miami), or the dissolution of once-promising seasons (sorry, Atlanta and Houston), or just the same old sadness (sorry, Jacksonville). There's still always something to be thankful for ....
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NFC East

Eagles: That management thought outside the box and doggedly pursued Chip Kelly, a refreshing change agent in a league too often stuck in the past.

Giants: That Victor Cruz, one of the better receivers in the NFL, signed a team-friendly extension, giving the Giants future flexibility while retaining a star player.

Cowboys: That when Tony Romo was there for the taking by any team after going undrafted in 2003, the Cowboys took a flyer.

Washington: That the debate over the team name has steered conversation away from a truly forgettable season.

NFC North

Bears: That the new leadership tandem of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman—while not the most dynamic—present as smart, sensible and focused on sustained success.

Packers: That—as frustrating as it is for fans—an empowered medical staff prioritizes long-term player health over immediate football needs, even if the player is named Aaron Rodgers.

Lions: That the Packers have that philosophy this week.

Vikings: That Adrian Peterson never grumbles about the carousel of unsuccessful quarterbacks standing in front of him, with next year’s signal-caller a mystery as well.

NFC South

Saints: That, when deciding on a quarterback in 2006, Nick Saban and the Dolphins’ doctors considered Daunte Culpepper’s knee a less risky option than Drew Brees’ shoulder.

Falcons: That Jadeveon Clowney and/or Anthony Barr will be available where they are going to pick in the 2014 draft.

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During my nine years with the Packers, we played three Thanksgiving Day games in Detroit. Playing a Thursday midday game on the road presented some challenges. The compressed schedule had game-planning and meetings on Monday; the week’s only practice on Tuesday and a Wednesday walk-through before an afternoon flight. Roster decisions normally made Friday or Saturday are made on Tuesday or Wednesday, often without the benefit of a normal practice.

Despite the quick turnaround, players, coaches and staff appreciated the personal benefits of playing on Thanksgiving (though we never would admit to liking it). With the early start (11:30 a.m. CT), the team hurriedly sped through its postgame locker room rituals to board the buses and catch the short charter flight back. Despite the "work day," we were pulling up a chair with our families for Thanksgiving dinner at a normal time before a restful and relaxing weekend to prepare for the grind of December.

This points to a mythbuster about Thursday night games in general: players grumble about the short week but love the mini-bye week after the game, especially late in the year.


That Clete Blakeman and his crew were working the Patriots game.

Buccaneers: That the season has a second half; they’re clearly on the uptick.

NFC West

49ers: That Michael Crabtree is returning in time for the playoff push in a crowded NFC field.

Cardinals: That Patrick Peterson is not only an elite player, but also a valuable mentor to the talented yet troubled Tyrann Mathieu.

Seahawks: That the architects of CenturyLink Field created added value, decibel-wise, for a talented team that hardly needed further advantage.

Rams: That the gift of draft picks received for RG3 keeps on giving, with another first-rounder coming next year.

AFC East

Patriots: That with a roster weakened by injury, free agent attrition and a murder charge, the quarterback is still healthy and thriving.

Dolphins: That there will someday be other things to talk about than the Incognito-Martin saga (we think).

Jets: That relative calm has been restored: no more Revis, no more Tebow, no more Sanchez soon and a (somewhat) muted Rex Ryan.

Bills: That EJ Manuel provides hope for future performance and stability at the most important position.

AFC North

Bengals: That a perfect storm of age, injury, cap issues and attrition have dramatically weakened the AFC North, with the Bengals taking full advantage.

Browns: That the Colts gave up a 2014 first rounder for a player not in the Browns’ future plans.

Steelers: That, when offered "first one to take it" deals last year, Antonio Brown said "yes" and now-Dolphin Mike Wallace said "no."

Ravens: That the title of "reigning Super Bowl Champion" lasts through Feb. 2, even if they are no longer playing after Dec. 29.

AFC South

Titans: That Kenny Britt’s contract expires Dec. 29.

Texans: That the guaranteed portion of Matt Schaub’s contract expires Dec. 29.

Jaguars: That, after beating the Texans Sunday, they are not in last place in their own division.

Colts: That the Colts bottomed out with the league’s worst record in the year Andrew Luck was the prize for doing so.

AFC West

Chiefs: That Andy Reid, urged by friends to take the year off, continued coaching.

Broncos: That the Patriots free agent contract offer for Wes Welker was underwhelming.

Chargers: That Phillip Rivers is getting better as he accumulates more years (31) and children (6).