by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
There is no doubt that the 2021 resolution for every coach, player and official is that it will be more prosperous and far less treacherous than 2020. After all, the fact we are heading to Week 17 with every game from Week 1-16 being successfully completed is miracle enough, so for us fans our wishes have been fulfilled already, even if dreams of division titles and playoff berths have slipped away into the bitter night skies for another 12 months.
No team is perfect, even the reigning Super Bowl monarchs the Kansas City Chiefs, who stand at 14-1 safe in the knowledge they will be hosting playoff football imminently.
With a week left in the 2020 regular season there is still a lot to play for, division titles, seedings, and for some a wild card playoff place, especially now there are 14 teams moving into the post-season for the first time.
Each team has its own flaws, for some a mere hairline fracture in their indelible armour, for others cracks that are visible to even those with diminishing eyesight.
The Romans started each year by making promises to the god Janus, (the person the month of January is named after). So what does every team need by way of resolution, a promise to one’s self as we scream good riddance to the year that nobody wants to re-enact.
Arizona Cardinals – To beef up the pass rush on the defensive line.
Haason Reddick the LB stands joint third in sacks across the league, and is second in forced fumbles. He is hot right now but only had 5 takedowns in the first 10 games. The Cards have been found wanting in the last six weeks and the way they can improve in 2021 is getting some beef up front through free agency and the draft. Kyler Murray is remarkable, but he is not a tackler nor is he the embodiment of a 1960s two way star. With the post-season no guarantee this could be a team still a year away from producing playoff pedigree performances.
Atlanta Falcons – To realise that the aim of this game is to win games after 60 full minutes.
Pretty sure if you Google the phrase ‘blown lead’ you are not going to get an exploding dog collar, you will get a cacophony of Atlanta Falcons games. The Falcons have somehow managed to channel the spirit of their devastating Super Bowl loss to the Patriots and replay the heartbreak over and over like Groundhog Day, without the romance or avoidance of Ned Drierson, who most likely would have performed better than a large percentage of Atlanta’s starting defense.
Baltimore Ravens – To get a playoff win in the Lamar Jackson era.
The Ravens had the path to the Super Bowl paved with gold last season, before it melted away and was forged into a crown that King Henry and the Titans wore to the AFC Championship. Lamar Jackson has a remarkable regular season record and a polar opposite one in the playoffs, having gone one and done in hist first two efforts. The Ravens somehow underestimated the Titans last season, and as this is being written they are not even guaranteed a ticket to the final 14, but 4 consecutive wins is pointing the compass in the right direction.
Buffalo Bills – To stay on course in the playoffs and not be overawed by the occasion.
It was 25 years ago the last time the Buffalo Bills won the AFC East. Back then the Bills were ending their greatest period, having reached four consecutive Super Bowls which they unfortunately lost to three different NFC East teams. This team is no longer a dark horse, it is a legitimate contender and one of the few teams built to out duel the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills need to avoid thinking of routes to Tampa, and match the cliché by taking every game as its own championship and we could see the start of a new dynasty.
Carolina Panthers – To draft a stud MLB and get Run CMC fully healthy for 2021 Week 1.
The Panthers have not been a good team in 2020, winning just two of their last 10, and the most recent victory not counting because they faced Dwayne Haskins. Even with Christian McCaffrey playing he still would not have been suiting up on defense. The retirement of Luke Kuechly is still stinging, and whilst the selection of S Jeremy Chinn, who has been an absolute revelation, was fortuitous, this team need a number of defensive upgrades. A defensive dominated draft will be wise for a team that hopes Run CMC in fit in 2021.
Chicago Bears – To make a decision on Mitch Trubisky.
Can the real 2020 Chicago Bears please stand up? First we have the team that went 5-1, then they dropped six on the bounce, mostly due to a failed QB change to Super Bowl hero Nick Folk. Back comes Mitch Trubisky – the man with no future in Chicago, and the team go on a three game tear at exactly the right time. Coming into Week 17 all the Bears need to do is beat some guy called Rodgers and people who wear dairy products as hats. If Trubisky and the solid D pulls off the upset then Bears brass have their draft plans made maddeningly complex.
Cincinnati Bengals – Get more protection for the face of the franchise.
The Bengals hit the jackpot when they drafted Joe Burrow at #1 in the 2020 draft, and the former LSU product looked like a seasoned veteran from Jump Street before his season was taken in a different trajectory with an injury against Washington. The Bengals have been unlucky to say the least this season, also losing RB Joe Mixon to injury. Providing recovery plans stay on target the Bengals will have one of the most exciting offensive skill units in the league, providing they acquire some offensive line upgrades to protect Burrow.
Cleveland Browns – Work out how to defeat Lamar Jackson.
The 2020 Browns have been a revelation, and with a fair Ohio wind can punch a ticket into the playoffs with a win on Sunday. The 10 wins already represent a great achievement and a huge upwards trajectory for a team that has spent more years in the basement than a vintage crop of dust-gathering Chateauneuf du pape. The only real problem the Browns have encountered (apart from the red hot Jets!) was facing the Ravens, who put 85 points on them in two games. The Browns work out how to beat the Ravens in 2021 and they will win the division.
Dallas Cowboys – Stay injury free as the weapons are already in the hangar.
When Dak ‘Yoghurt King’ Prescott went down with a season ending injury the Cowboys season appeared to be heading downhill faster than a worm evading a robin’s beak. Injuries to the offensive line, and a secondary that has been in the most part more porous than a tennis racket, should have meant a spike being put through the Cowboys before December. Somehow the Red Rifle Andy Dalton, and a flagging Zeke Elliott, have managed to hang in there and can still win the NFC (L)East with a week to go. The scary thing is this is a team that has the offensive weapons to beat anyone on their day, they just need to stop getting hurt.
Denver Broncos – To develop a personality and stop being the most boring team in the NFL.
The Broncos have an incredible history, eight Super Bowl appearances and three Vince Lombardi trophies. Everywhere you looked there were personalities, from the Orange Crush and the Three Amigos to the man with the largest forehead in professional sports. Now, if you see the Broncos on the Sky schedule or on a TNF or MNF slate you roll your eyes and think the prospect of some extra shuteye is a far better proposition than watching Drew Lock struggling to muster a decent third quarter drive. Jerry Jeudy was a fine 2020 pick, beefing up a poor unit. Now the Broncos need to find a sense of identity for 2021.
Detroit Lions – To somehow adapt to a future without Matthew Stafford.
In 164 games for the Lions Mathhew Stafford has been a constant fighter, having to lead his team through over a decade of games without any kind of support in the running game. Unfortunately for Stafford, in his time with the Lions he has not won a single playoff game. Now it is likely Stafford will be looking elsewhere to earn his corn in 2021, and that leaves a giant baby-faced hole in the Motor City. The Lions can grab a new QB in the 2021 draft – the unfortunate likelihood they will lead the team until 2032 is about as high as them winning the next two Super Bowls.
Green Bay Packers – To win it all and win it now.
We look at the state of the league and it is apparent that the AFC has the better overall set of teams capable of winning it all. In the NFC teams heading to the playoffs have some real weaknesses, all that is apart from the Green Bay Packers. They are built to win now, they have the likely MVP in Aaron Rodgers at QB, and they have an offense that is currently unstoppable. The Packers, and Rodgers, much like the Saints and Drew Brees, should have more than one ring each, so it is now or never for Green Bay. Being dumped out of the playoffs early in January 2021 will take years to overcome.
Houston Texans – To completely overhaul the secondary.
if there was ever a player to have a truly wasted season that was not the fault of his own it would be Texans QB Deshaun Watson. Houston has disappointed fans with sloppy defensive play all year, and perennial All-Pro DL J.J. Watt finally called out his inept colleagues in a passionate post-game presser after another heart breaker in Week 16. The root of the problem is the secondary, which needs help pretty much everywhere. Watson deserved his Pro Bowl nod, he also deserved a defense that could actually tackle and man mark.
Indianapolis Colts – To avoid a one and done playoff performance
The Colts are a worthy playoff team, the problem is they have not secured a spot in the 14-team post-season rodeo. Big Phil Rivers, who has worn the captain’s hat in many sunk seasons in San Diego, will be looking to take a predominantly young and hungry team to their furthest possible point – the AFC Championship game. The loss of T Anthony Castonzo for the season right before Week 17 is a big blow, but the Colts can mask that with some outstanding defensive performances. If the Texans somehow upset the Titans then Indy could go on an unlikely streak, loading up Jonathan Taylor for a surprise playoff push.
Jacksonville Jaguars – To take Trevor at number one.
When the Jets decided that losing is not actually the intention of playing in the NFL they gifted the Jaguars with an honour that is both highly desirable and somewhat embarrassing – the number one pick in the 2021 draft. College QB Trevor Lawrence, and his barnet – stolen from Whitesnake’s lead singer – will be already looking up the price of swanky condo’s in Florida. Some level of respect has to be given to Gardner Minshew who did at least gain a cult following for a period of time. The Jaguars need help in most places and the drafting of Lawrence will be an undeniably significant starting point.
Kansas City Chiefs – To not die nasty and instead become a Dynasty.
The last team to repeat as a Super Bowl winner was the 2004 Patriots. Thats a long time since a team won Vince Lombardi trophies back to back. The Chiefs have coasted into the #1 seed, with the only real change being who is running the ball. The path to Tampa runs through K.C. Mahomes, Kelce and Hill have remained injury free and primed for a repeat. The only issue is the Chiefs defense which can be attacked. The only real way to beat the champs is to keep the K.C. offensive off the field. If the Ravens, Titans or even the Colts face them then we could witness a huge upset.
Las Vegas Raiders – To generate a respectable pass rush.
The Raiders season has been anticlimactic for a number of reasons. Firstly they move to Sin City and there are no fans to join in the party. Next they have high aspirations that died in a three game losing streak, including a devastating defeat to Fitzmagic and the Miami Dolphins in Week 16. Coach Chucky has been far more mouth and scowl than he has been victorious and inspiring. Derek Carr has had arguably his best season, yet much like the Texans, the defense has been a let down. They could do with a big free agent – someone similar to Khalil Mack. Bet he wouldn’t look too bad in silver and black…..wait a second!
Los Angeles Chargers – Keep building around Justin Herbert.
Teams need transitional seasons, where they use a veteran bridge QB and then slowly and safely bring in a high-priced rookie. That was the plan in LA before a trainer stabbed the vet in the lung and forced the rook to start in September. What happened next was beyond expectation, as rookie Justin Herbert went on to set the rookie passing touchdown record with a week to spare. The Chargers QB of the future is already the QB of today, and they now need to build around Herbert – and that starts with drafting offensive linemen.
Los Angeles Rams – Get some consistency.
The Rams have been an infuriating watch this season. Their schedule was not the worst, and their big names have been around all season. This has equated to a maximum of two consecutive wins during any period, and with a week to go this could be a season that ends on Sunday. Jared Goff has been exposed as a middle of the road passer, and the fantasy nightmare that is the running game that finally looked to settle on Cam Akers as a feature back has seen a niggling injury make matters murky. The Rams can sneak into the playoffs if things go their way, but frankly no neutral will be eagerly anticipating watching them in the post-season.
Miami Dolphins – To give Fitzmagic a coaching role.
The bail-out heroics of Ryan Fitzpatrick cannot be sustained, as the Tua era has begun. Fitzmagic pulled off another miracle in Week 16 and much as was expected he will become a free agent and the end of the 2020 season. Somehow the bearded one brings a sparkle of magic with him wherever he plays. His career stat care surprisingly good and he does seem at home in Miami. The Dolphins could do worse than offering Fitzpatrick a coaching role in 2021. Continuing to be a mentor to Tua would be of enormous benefit to the Dophins.
Minnesota Vikings – Move on from Kirk Cousins – somehow.
The Vikings have some incredible component parts, hight quality ingredients, and a broken whisk. Kirk Cousins is continuing his infuriating journey through the NFL, flirting with great promise but ultimately delivering as much as a postman (or woman) with two broken arms. Minnesota somehow manages to despatch Stefon Diggs and race him with someone who has arguably been more potential (Justin Jefferson). Vikings fans, one suspects, have already seen enough. Cousins is under contract but continuing to generate losing seasons will have everyone ‘not liking that’ and chasing Kirk out of town.
New England Patriots – To sing ‘All we are saying is give Stidham a chance’.
It has happened, the Patriots dynasty is finally deceased, dead, six feet under, and whatever other post-apocalyptic analogy you wish to use. The Can Newton experiment has failed, and despite its limitations Sith Lord Belichick has not wavered from #1 if he has been fit to play. Their 2020 season is lost, so why not give Jarrett Stidham a small chance to prove himself? We know Belichick marches to only one drum beat – the one in his own beautiful mind. Surely he has a masterplan already mapped out for 2021?
New Orleans Saints – To win a second ring and let Brees retire on top.
There is no further purple pressure to face in 2020 as the Saints disembowelled its bogey team the Vikings on Christmas Day. Drew Brees is now back from a nasty chest injury and signs are pointing up that Michael Thomas the WR can return for the playoffs. Now or never are the words on the lips of fans in New Orleans. The Taysom Hill experiment was more of a success than an abject failure, but Hill is no Brees. If the Saints navigate their way to this season’s Super Bowl Brees will be 42. They won’t do it without the continued outstanding play of #41. If the Saints can’t win it all this year it maybe another generation before they get another legitimate shot.
New York Giants – To welcome back Saquon Barkley with open arms.
Its seemingly unfathomable but the 5-10 Giants can somehow work themselves into the playoffs with a win against the Cowboys and a Washington loss in the 2020 regular season curtain closer. All this with one of the most erratic QBs under center and without the most rounded running back in the entire league. Missing Saquon Barkley has been tough in the Big Apple, and without some gutsy defensive performances this would be a team vying for the top pick in the 2021 draft. The Giants are doing a lot of the right things, and another decent draft along with Barkley back in the fold and things are looking good for Big Blue in the New Year.
New York Jets – To get rid of Adam Gase and start over.
At 0-13 the Jets were simply meandering towards a legendary scale of ineptitude when the defense decided enough was enough, holding the Rams to 20 and the Browns to 16, in back to back wins. The offense, which has stunk worse than a vengeful student who sewed raw prawns into his landlords curtains before breaking up for Summer, has managed to win two games and screw up the opportunity to get Trevor Lawrence. At least J-E-T-S fans can feel a sense of pride their team did want to win. Now all the executive need to do is get rid of Adam Gase and burn the record books from 2018-2020.
Philadelphia Eagles – To give the keys formally to Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles may be out of the playoff race and may even see a division rival lift the NFC (L)East crown in their nest, but at least there is a beam of bright green light shining from the Pennsylvania darkness. No Rocky Balboa is not making his 657th comeback, it’s time to hand over the keys of the offense to Jalen Hurts on a permanent and public basis. Carson Wentz has shown he is not the future, his ‘it’s my ball so no-one else can play unless I say so’ attitude has cost the Eagles dearly. Hurts is the personification of a 21st century quarterback, dynamic, speedy and exciting – now he needs a full season to show what he has got to offer.
Pittsburgh Steelers – To remember that there is a thing called a ‘running play’.
The Steelers snapped a three game losing streak in Week 16 with their best second-half performance of the season against a quality opponent (the Colts). They did this with more short and medium range passing from Big Ben Roethlisberger, and another shambolic performance on the ground. Pittsburgh are looking to settle for the #3 seed by resting #7 in Week 17, so surely this is a game where they hand the ball off at least 25-30 times? The Steelers have guaranteed themselves a playoff contest, and they cannot expect that to be two or three unless they can somehow get some sort of offensive balance.
San Francisco 49ers – To come back fitter and stronger in 2021.
Every year there is a team blighted by that many injuries that it is almost impossible to overcome. In 2020 Covid may have affected pretty much every team in the NFL, but no team suffered more due to injuries that the 49ers. Losing Nick Bosa, Jimmy G, various WR and RB and All-Pro CB Richard Sherman was simply too much to bear. There is enough talent on the team to get back to a Super Bowl and another careful draft will get San Fran back into contention pretty darn quickly.
Seattle Seahawks – To carry over the December defense into January.
In December 2020 the Seahawks are 3-1 having allowed under 10 points a game, winning three and only narrowly missing out on going undefeated. The Seahawks defense, led by Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams and the recently acquired Carlos Dunlap have been on fire. When things go right in December, having gone astray in earlier parts of the season, its traditionally a good sign. Adjusting from being vulnerable to pretty much any QB, the Seahawks defense has now joined the offense in being a high quality unit. Can the Seahawks now carry that over and upset the likes of the Saints or the Packers? With Big Russ anything can be cooked.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – To win against evenly matched opponents.
Look into the Buccs 2020 10 wins and they only have one win against a team with a winning record – the Green Bay Packers. For all the pre-season hype Tompa Bay have failed to win their division, and whilst they have secured a playoff spot, they are not convincing anyone that they will break the ‘host’ Super Bowl curse. The Buccs have proved nothing this season apart from the fact Blaine Gabbert actually looks like a serviceable QB. With the exception of a quite remarkable win against an out of sorts Aaron Rodgers, the Buccs have failed every big test, and a one and done in the playoffs would not be deemed a shock.
Tennessee Titans – To get some identity on defense.
The Titans were within reaching distance of a Super Bowl last season, and with one week to go in 2020 they are within grasp of a division title or a seat on the sofa for the post-season. King Henry will will win his second rushing title (the first to repeat since LaDanian Tomlinson 2006-07) and Ryan Tannehill will continue to irritate certain people with his rushing touchdowns. AJ Brown is a stud too. Where Tennessee need to be helped out is with a sense of defensive identity, and somebody has to rise up from the swamp of mediocrity. It might simply be too late for the Titans to make a run in the 2020 playoffs.
Washington Football Team – N/A – they already made their resolution last week.
There have been some strange decisions by teams and their coaches this season, none more so than Coach Ron Rivera giving Dwayne Haskins the start in Week 16 following the QB’s admission that he hung around a bunch of strippers without wearing a face mask. Riverboat Ron must be the nicest guy in the world to have given Haskins one final chance for redemption. When Haskins generated about as much offense as three ferrets and a squid against the Panthers that was it. Haskins was relieved of his employment and the Washington Football Team enter a win and in scenario with zero distractions.
My own personal resolutions. Cutting out white bread, milk, crisps and biscuits. The Coconut milk is in the fridge and a big bag of oranges await as a New Year treat.
What is your resolution and what would you like to see your team do in 2021?
Cheers and Happy New Year from @F10YRetro.