This week, I’m going to do something a little bit different.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to indulge into a popular ‘turkey day’ tradition that has become a staple of our modern America.
I’m going to look ahead to Christmas.
Yes, just as pumpkin pie, turkey, high school football rivalries, and unwanted relatives are the cornerstones of November’s biggest holiday, so too is the yearning of many to partake in the Christmas season.
So since children like to write out their Christmas lists for Santa around this time, I figure it would be nice of me to write lists for all 32 NFL teams, as well as a couple “bonus” teams, so that they can get everything they need this holiday season.
So, without further ado, here we go.
NFL WEEK 11: 12-4
FOR THE YEAR: 100-60
PITTSBURGH: I would like to buy James Harrison some modified forearm pads that are made of foam rubber. This way, he can “hurt, not injure” on a more acceptable clip. Granted, those pads would do him no good in a fight with Richard Seymour, in case Harrison wants to avenge his jawjacked quarterback.
BUFFALO: I’d like for Santa to bring Buffalo some better luck. A few of their losses were by the narrowest of margins against good teams. Had luck swung their way, Buffalo would actually be an outside wild-card contender (5-5 isn’t unrealistic).
THE GAME: Buffalo has no luck here, and there isn’t enough to really help them. In the AFC North race, the Steelers are tangled with Baltimore too tightly, and you can expect Rashard Mendenhall to take a couple long on the luckless Bills.
SCORE: Steelers 38, Bills 14
16. New England over Detroit
NEW ENGLAND: I hope Bill Belichick finally gets some “redemption credit”. A few years removed from Spygate, and Belichick has revamped his offense with Wes Welker in the lead receiver role, Danny Woodhead as the all-purpose ‘joker’, Rob Gronkowski as a rookie sensation at tight end, and Tom Brady as a leader who hasn’t missed a beat. With a chance to take home field in the AFC, let’s give credit where credit is due, and give Belichick his respect back.
DETROIT: I hope Santa changes up the schedule next year, and gives Detroit Thanksgiving off. This way, the stadium employees at Ford Field can spend the holiday with their families, instead of having to run security for a bunch of dejected fans, who’re watching the Lions get pasted, as per the norm.
THE GAME: As per the norm, the Lions will get pasted. I think the previous paragraph tells the story quite nicely.
SCORE: Patriots 47, Lions 17
15. New York Jets over Cincinnati
NEW YORK: I hope the Jets can find the ability to win games earlier, so that their fans aren’t staring in the face of coronary bypass surgery in a few years. A good defense should at least be ‘bend, but don’t break’, yet the highly touted Jets D is ‘bend, break, but somehow get bailed out by the offense’. I hope for the fans sake that Coachasaurus Rex isn’t coddling these guys.
CINCINNATI: I hope Santa brings some dynamite, and then blows the whole team up. You bring in the dual reality show of T-Ocho, and this is what you have to show for it? Not only should TO go, but Chad should as well. As well as Carson. Build the offense all over again, and show the world that building a champion takes priority over a couple of preening, tweeting, attention-seeking clowns.
THE GAME: I get the sense that the Jets will get their gift early. As long as Palmer is as ineffective as usual, and hands over some easy picks to the defense of New York, the Jets should close this out early. Plus, if Darrelle Revis can get a pick or two covering TO, it makes the latter’s comments a little more laughable.
SCORE: Jets 31, Bengals 14
14. Millville over Vineland
(NOTE: As a Millville alumnus, I’m including one of the oldest high school football rivalries in America in my picks column. Because I’m biased. You’ve seen my Eagles picks, right? Right)
MILLVILLE: I wish for my fellow future-alumni the very best in life, and I hope some of them make it out of South Jersey and into the NFL ranks, as defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks almost did these last two years with the Giants.
VINELAND: Well, they’re just kids like the Millville crew, so I also wish the very best for Vineland’s kids. If any of them make it to the NFL, I’ll be happy, albeit slightly begrudgingly.
THE GAME: Hard to say, because I don’t follow high school intently, but since Millville was a playoff team for the first time in twelve seasons, I’ll take my school in this one. Besides, I was going to anyway.
SCORE: Thunderbolts 24, Fighting Clan 9
13. Kansas City over Seattle
KANSAS CITY: Santa should bring them a drum machine, because they need help keeping the beat. The team has so much talent in their running game, their containment defense, and Dwayne Bowe as an individual. Yet, they’ve had some misfires and have found their tenuous grip on the AFC West to be just that, tenuous.
SEATTLE: I’d like to give Seattle more wins, not as a fan, but because someone from their god-forsaken division has to have at least 9 wins. Can we please get a few opponents to lay down for them for the greater good?
THE GAME: Chiefs need this one to keep Oakland off their backs, and Seattle only has a true chance if they can get their freak “4 returns for touchdowns” games. I’ll check with the odds, but I think they’re pretty slim Sunday in that case.
SCORE: Chiefs 27, Seahawks 10
12. New Orleans over Dallas
NEW ORLEANS: Santa should leave some marketing attempts for Drew Brees. While he gets plenty of hype in commercials during NFL games for custom jerseys, he and his kindly, humanitarian ways take a backseat to the Favres and Romos on ESPN, simply because he’s not controversial. Brees deserves a little more attention on the whole, and he shouldn’t have to get it through scandal.
DALLAS: While I’d prefer Santa eat some spicy chili and leave a nice mess under the Dallas tree, I hope for their sake that Kris Kringle brings them continued humility. Hyping up a “home Super Bowl” that won’t happen, followed by Miles Austin doing leapfrogs after a first quarter touchdown against a 1-3 opponent, and it’s clear the Cowboys could stand to bring it down a notch.
THE GAME: If my predictions are right, we’re going to get three games on Thanksgiving with little drama. The Saints are back to championship form, and the Cowboys needed a little luck against the Lions (as well as typical Detroit stupidity). Go with the champs.
SCORE: Saints 31, Cowboys 14
11. Baltimore over Tampa Bay
BALTIMORE: Santa should bring a time machine for Joe Flacco, so he could transform into the 2008 version of himself. The Flacco of that year, his rookie season, was one that was unflappable and cool (even drawing the “Joe Cool Jr” moniker from Joe Montana, no easy feat). A mistake-free Flacco, combined with the rest of the team as is, makes for a Super Bowl favorite.
TAMPA BAY: 7-3 is nice, but maybe Santa should bring them some stiffer competition. The record becomes less impressive when you realize that a lot of their wins came against inferior opponents (I mean c’mon, they get the NFC West this year! Plus the Bengals, and then the Panthers twice!). At least this week, they get a true test.
THE GAME: Tampa is 7-3 with an indelible asterisk. It’s going to become 7-4 when the defense buckles the smart Josh Freeman. Even the collected, meticulous quarterbacks get swallowed whole by Baltimore’s D. There’s no shame in it.
SCORE: Ravens 27, Buccaneers 14
10. Cleveland over Carolina
CLEVELAND: I’ll see if ol’ St. Nick can bring the Browns that elusive Super Bowl that the city’s begged for. It won’t happen this year, but it’s feasible down the line if Colt McCoy remains the stud leader, and plays up to this level. I ask for this because you shouldn’t ask Santa for sordid gifts, like Art Modell’s head on a stick. I would if I could though, Cleveland.
CAROLINA: Santa should bring the Panthers the gift of intuition. After they clean out the coaching staff and purge the non-hackers this offseason, Panthers fans deserve to see their team choose the absolute best player in the 2011 draft, whoever he may be.
THE GAME: It’s not often I say “The Browns look to have an easy time against….”, but that’s precisely the case. Maybe Jake Delhomme will get some playing time. I’m sure there’s a few players on the Panthers defense that would love to pick off their old bumbling leader.
SCORE: Browns 31, Panthers 14
9. San Francisco over Arizona
SAN FRANCISCO: Should Mike Singletary be let go after this disappointing year, I hope Santa finds a job that meets his true calling in life: being scary. With so many kids committing suicide due to excessive bullying, perhaps he can go to these schools and be a professional “bully-harasser” to the tormentors. He’d be my second pick for the job, behind R. Lee Ermey.
ARIZONA: Santa should provide the groundwork for a ‘compatibility service’ that will allow the Cardinals to find a younger replica of Kurt Warner. Nobody else they’ve tried can match his leadership, continuity, and maturity (which explains why Matt Leinart’s no longer there).
THE GAME: This is the ESPN Monday Night game. Seriously. I guess if Troy Smith keeps it simple and doesn’t screw up, the 49ers should be able to take this. But really, isn’t that a good night to watch wrestling? C’Mon, The Miz is WWE Champion! The Browns are winning! Say it with me! AWEEEEEESOMEEEEEE!
SCORE: 49ers 24, Cardinals 13
8. Philadelphia over Chicago
PHILADELPHIA: I give them the Super Bowl. I’ll let Santa amputate all ten of my toes. You know that jolly lardo has to have a hacksaw in that sleigh somewhere. Also, Santa should quiet the media down a bit. Yes, Michael Vick is a convicted felon. Yes, Vick did horrible, horrible things to animals. But hey, he served his sentence and he continues to try and better his life. That’s what prison is for, right?
CHICAGO: Santa should bring their offensive line some of those riot shields, or maybe some medieval jouster’s shields. Something has to hold off the pass rush so that Jay Cutler can throw his INTs with less pressure.
THE GAME: The Bears defense has been impenetrable, but they’ve never faced the Vick/DeSean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin offense. Sean McDermott just has to ratchet up the pressure with the pass rush, because a rattled Jay Cutler leads to easy interceptions. If DeAngelo Hall can get 4, Asante Samuel can get 7.
SCORE: Eagles 24, Bears 14
7. New York Giants over Jacksonville
NEW YORK: I give them a faith healer, because somebody needs to walk that sideline and keep guard over their receiving corps. The Giants started out like gangbusters, but injuries have made them lose two straight, and things are beginning to unravel. The last thing Tom Coughlin needs is another second half meltdown
JACKSONVILLE: Santa needs to go through town and pop the tires of all moving vans. The Jaguars have a small but faithful fanbase, and there’s no sense in moving them to Los Angeles. Let the River City have their team.
THE GAME: Jags may have the AFC South stronghold on, but the Giants are desperate. They’re not going to lose three straight, I don’t think, and as long as the game doesn’t come down to a close one in the fourth, the Giants should be able to take this.
SCORE: Giants 31, Jaguars 17
6. Miami over Oakland
MIAMI: I ask Santa for a division realignment. Being in close quarters with the Patriots and Jets, who amass impressive teams year to year to year, the Dolphins rarely have a chance at the division title, save for the weird 2008 season. Miami now knows how Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays fans feel.
OAKLAND: Maybe Santa can use some of that “inception” to plant the idea in Al Davis’ head to get a real GM to make smart personnel moves. Tom Cable’s blue collar rah-rah approach is doing well, but not enough to get Oakland back to dominance.
THE GAME: Hard to say, because both teams have had stellar weeks and some crap weeks. I think if Tyler Thigpen manages the ball better, Oakland will have a hard time stopping the run AND the bubble screens in successive plays. Dolphins have speed that kills when it’s done right.
SCORE: Dolphins 21, Raiders 13
5. Tennessee over Houston
TENNESSEE: I want Santa to orchestrate the following trade: Vince Young to any other team, in exchange for a player with a grudge, ANY grudge, against Jeff Fisher. New player comes in, knocks Fisher into next week with a big right hand, renders him comatose, team hires a new coach who can win in the clutch, VY is gone, and you’ve solved two problems for the Titans.
HOUSTON: I want Santa to convince the NFL to have “Texans Rules” for Houston games, where the fourth quarter is only nine minutes long. If that were the case, Houston would be challenging the Dolphins’ perfect season from 1972.
THE GAME: I refuse to pick Houston until they convince me that they can dominate the last five or six minutes of a game. Then we’ll talk. Until then, Rusty Smith gets his first career win.
SCORE: Titans 24, Texans 17
4. Minnesota over Washington
MINNESOTA: If Jenn Sterger gets a restraining order on Brett Favre, then Santa could convince her to relocate to an apartment by the Metrodome, to officially keep Favre away. This team needs continuity, not somebody who’ll show up in August and end up costing the head coach his job (though, to be fair, Childress supported Favre’s return. He did reap what he sowed, but it wasn’t all his fault).
WASHINGTON: Santa needs to convince Daniel Snyder to sell the team. It doesn’t matter to who. Even Yoko Ono would do a better job of not meddling with a potentially strong entity.
THE GAME: I’m satisfied if either of them lose, but I’d prefer the Skins get dropped, what with the whole division thing. What Jason Garrett did for Dallas in his first game, I think Leslie Frazier does with the Vikes, and reprograms them. I’m setting Minny’s defensive output over/under at 5.5 sacks, 2.5 INTS, and 0.5 defensive touchdowns. Anyone wanna wager?
SCORE: Vikings 27, Redskins 20
3. Atlanta over Green Bay
ATLANTA: For Falcons fans, I wish that Santa would imbue their team with Teflon, so that they don’t fall victim to the “overhyped” curse. When you top the ESPN power rankings for two straight weeks, you become a “get”, and that kind of pressure can crack even Matty Ice.
GREEN BAY: I hope Santa brings them a Super Bowl within the next few years, because Aaron Rodgers really needs to end the whole “guy after Favre” crap once and for all. He’s a better overall player, and he doesn’t need to have his ego stroked like a lapdog.
THE GAME: Best game of the week, I think, and Green Bay needs to make Matt Ryan make mistakes. I don’t think it’ll be enough, however, and I see Ryan throwing with no fear on them. This will come down to the final minutes, and it can go either way, but Rodgers is more prone to mistakes, so I’ll go with the Iceman himself.
SCORE: Falcons 27, Packers 24
DENVER: I have Santa make sure that the front office has no bias toward Josh McDaniels, because his crazy brain needs to go. Santa should also bring in someone with a sense of logic and common sense to run the team going forward. Maybe they can pluck Gregg Williams from New Orleans. Buffalo’s not exactly a good barometer for judging coaches.
ST. LOUIS: I give Sam Bradford a great doctor who specializes in shoulders. His injuries are a concern, but his talent, leadership, and drive are a rare blend. He’s done great things with a hard-luck franchise, and he needs more time to lead them back to contention. Let’s keep the kid healthy.
THE GAME: Something of an upset here, as Denver’s had some weird games this season. They pummeled KC, so they could also pummel their Missouri sibling. Despite the short week, Denver can take this if the St. Louis’ up-and-down defense is down, and I’m gonna take a guess and say this is a ‘down’ week.
SCORE: Broncos 24, Rams 20
1. San Diego at Indianapolis
SAN DIEGO: I give them the courage to part ways with Norv Turner. A team led by Philip Rivers should NEVER be conservative. In important games, Turner doesn’t roll the dice enough, and you’re wasting a confident, all-pro quarterback. Also, Santa should help stuff AJ Smith into a mailbox and send him anywhere far away. You didn’t even TRADE LT? You just CUT him?! Cue Sam Kinison scream!
INDIANAPOLIS: Brothers can share gifts, and that faith healer I let Eli Manning’s team have, maybe he can let Peyton’s squad use him. The Colts sideline looks like the aftermath of an earthquake.
THE GAME: As much as I hate to pick against Indy in an important game (with the Jags technically owning first place), Philip Rivers is also in desperation mode. He’s putting up MVP numbers in his attempt to get the Chargers into division consideration, and it’s all coming together. With the Colts defense so depleted, he’s going to throw on them until he does the job.
SCORE: Chargers 35, Colts 31
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