One thing we love about every NFL team

Arun Srinivasan

It’s Valentine’s Day, arguably one of the more polarizing days of the calendar for any adult. It could be a day full of love and excitement, a day that triggers tough memories of heartbreak, or just marked indifference.

We’d like to focus on the positive things, however. Without further ado, here’s one thing we love about every NFL team.

Arizona Cardinals: We love that Kyler Murray chose football over baseball, at the risk of alarming the “please like my sport” bells. Murray showed flashes of superstardom during his rookie year and only stands to improve. We would love it if Murray did his best Deion Sanders impression and played both sports, but for now we’ll gladly take him on the Cardinals in an offense that will be designed around his unique talent.

Atlanta Falcons: The sustained brilliance of Julio Jones is something to admire. Whether the Falcons are a Super Bowl contender or everything’s falling apart, Jones is a surefire bet to top 1,300 yards and run over, through, or around opposing defensive backs while taking it to the house. Let’s appreciate a future Hall of Fame talent, even if the Falcons were among the biggest disappointments in 2019.

Baltimore Ravens:

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was revolutionary in 2019 en route to winning NFL MVP unanimously and it's hard to see him stopping anytime soon. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Lamar Jackson is the NFL’s most exciting player and though the Ravens’ season ended in heartbreak, there will be plenty of chances to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. Becoming the youngest player to win NFL MVP is impressive by itself, and to do so unanimously amplifies his impact on the league.

Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious White leads one of the best secondaries in the league and deservedly earned first-team All-Pro honours. Buffalo’s defense has been one of the best units in the league for years, and White has given the team an outstanding asset at one of the game’s most important positions for the foreseeable future.

Carolina Panthers: Matt Rhule injects some new life into the Panthers and comes over from Baylor with a reputation of running fun, spread offenses. Rhule has helped Baylor rise from the darkest times in the history of the program and now gets to test his reputation as an offensive wizard with All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey in tow.

Chicago Bears: A motivated Khalil Mack. This is no slight on Mack but he had a down year for his impossibly high standards, recording 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 16 games. He’s still among the NFL’s best edge rushers but the fact that he was left off the All-Pro team this year could see him ascend back into the Defensive Player of the Year race in 2020.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow is on the way and ready to lead the franchise out of the AFC North basement. While he’s technically not on the team yet, it would be a seismic upset if the Bengals took anyone but Burrow with the No. 1 pick. It’s the perfect storyline for this franchise by being able to take the Ohio native, who left Ohio State only to engineer one of the greatest college seasons of all-time with LSU. Burrow is going to fill the seats in Cincinnati.

Cleveland Browns: A fresh start for a team full of top-end talent. Everything that could’ve gone wrong for the Browns did go wrong in 2019. Freddie Kitchens was ill-equipped to lead the team, Odell Beckham Jr. played through a sports hernia, Baker Mayfield had no time to think in the pocket, and Myles Garrett swung his helmet at Mason Rudolph, earning an indefinite suspension.

Kitchens has been replaced by Kevin Stefanski, Beckham will return healthy, Mayfield ought to overcome his sophomore slump, and Garrett has since been reinstated. Here’s to fresh starts.

Dallas Cowboys: We’re curious to see how Mike McCarthy unleashes Amari Cooper. Dallas first has to sign Dak Prescott and we expect negotiations between both parties to be somewhat contentious. Instead, let’s focus on Cooper, who made all the pundits look silly by proving he was worth giving up a first-round pick for. Cooper just submitted the best season of his career, and we’ll see if he’ll break the 1,200-yard barrier going forward.

Denver Broncos: Denver might’ve accidentally found its quarterback of the future in Drew Lock. Now it’s on John Elway to supply Lock with more weapons to give him an earnest shot of leading the Broncos back into the playoff race. And who can forget Lock rapping along to Young Jeezy on the sideline? We’re all the way here for it.

Detroit Lions: Detroit is in position to have a shutdown cornerback tandem that could even the playing field in the NFC North. Darius Slay is consistently one of the best corners in the league, earning three Pro Bowl selections and though it’s far too early to write it in stone, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah will be sitting there waiting with the No. 3 pick. Detroit shouldn’t overthink the possibility of having two shutdown corners, and we love this idea for them.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is too obvious an answer, especially when the Packers finally boast a legitimate defense. Instead, we’re going with Jaire Alexander, who’s quickly among the NFL’s most feared cornerbacks. Alexander will anchor a Packers’ secondary which the team has invested in heavily for the next five years, and we can’t wait to see him back on the field again.

Houston Texans:

DeAndre Hopkins' catch radius makes him an unstoppable force. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

DeAndre Hopkins and his unmatched catch radius. Hopkins is like Spider-Man: throw the ball in his vicinity and he’ll come down with it. His tape is always among the most entertaining to watch in the league and here’s to another year of D-Hop embarrassing defenders for jump balls.

Indianapolis Colts: Nearly unlimited cap space for general manager Chris Ballard. Indianapolis doesn’t have to spend all it in one place, and their cautious, measured approach to free agency has suited them well in years’ past. Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement caught the team off guard, and we would love to see the Colts blow a bag in free agency in hopes of unseating the Texans for pole position in the AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen - no, not that Josh Allen - recorded 10.5 sacks during his rookie year, earning a Pro Bowl selection. Jacksonville’s cast of defensive line standouts has arguably been the strongest part of its identity and we love that Allen could make the leap - and maybe prove, all along, that he's a better Josh Allen than the Bills QB.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will continue to dominate the league. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

There’s a lot to choose from here, but Patrick Mahomes is the obvious answer. No quarterback has been so accomplished at such a young age, and he’s already the face of the NFL, having won an NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP during the first three years of his career. Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are set for an individual rivalry that could shape the tenor of the next decade.

Las Vegas Raiders: No offense to Oakland and its fans, who cultivated one of the league’s most intimidating home venues. But we are curious about the Vegas experiment, so here’s to new beginnings.

Los Angeles Chargers: A future without Philip Rivers might sound bleak, but we like that the Chargers could aggressively pursue Tom Brady or draft Tua Tagovailoa this year. Los Angeles is The Entertainment Capital of the World after all, and the pursuit of Brady or Tagovailoa, one of the best college prospects in recent memory, is enough to captivate us.

Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald’s campaign to win his third Defensive Player of the Year Award of his career is something we’ll be keeping a close eye on. Donald didn’t win this year, having won the previous two awards but is still the NFL’s most singularly disruptive defender. Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt are the only players to capture the award three times, and Donald could join this exclusive group.

Miami Dolphins: Cap space, galore. Miami has the most projected cap space in the NFL and though its tanking job didn’t quite work, finishing with a 5-11 record in 2019, it has enough money to accelerate its rebuilding efforts if it so desires.

Minnesota Vikings: We don’t just like that, we LOVE that. Shoutout to Kirk Cousins’ trademark catchphrase as he leads his team to another playoff appearance.

New England Patriots: We like that Tom Brady could be leaving, but that kind of works against the spirit of this exercise. So for now, we’ll highlight that the Patriots just had the best defense of Bill Belichick’s entire career, led by Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Considering that Belichick is the best defensive coach of all-time and almost certainly the best coach, period, that’s quite a statement but this unit is carrying an offense that is in sudden, if expected decline.

New Orleans Saints: Michael “Can’t Guard Mike” Thomas has the most fitting nickname in the league, as nobody can stop him. Thomas broke the single-season receptions record in 2019 with 149 and should only get better as he rounds into his peak years. There’s not a single cornerback in the league who can contend with Thomas’ combination of size, speed, and catch radius. We welcome his attack on the record books.

New York Giants:

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley has succeeded in spite of his team's front office. (Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Saquon Barkley’s breakaway speed is breathtaking. It’s a testament to Barkley’s talent that he’s been able to succeed despite getting next to no help from his teammates or management. People will often use Barkley being taken second overall as a referendum against him, but he is a true joy to watch speeding away from countless defenders.

New York Jets: Jamal Adams may or may not want to stay with the Jets, but that’s a debate for another day. Adams has exceeded the hype since being taken sixth overall in 2017 and we’re looking forward to seeing one of the NFL’s best safeties continue to thrive.

Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia returns with a clean bill of health for 2020 and really, that’s all matters while playing in the NFL’s weakest division. The Eagles were picking up AAF castoffs and practice squad retreads just to field a roster and still won the division. We love their competitive spirit and being able to fend off a host of horrific ailments.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt is now looking for his Defensive Player of the Year Award. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

T.J. Watt would’ve been my pick for Defensive Player of the Year if the Steelers made the playoffs in 2019, and though it’s almost impossible to live up to his older brother’s status, the younger Watt is a genuine superstar in his own right. It’s unfathomable that he slipped to the 30th pick in 2017, and is coming off a season where he recorded 14.5 sacks, two interceptions and an absurd eight fumble recoveries.

San Francisco 49ers: Richard Sherman’s return to elite status was one of the better storylines of the 2019 season. After overcoming an Achilles injury, Sherman played some of the best ball of his career and while we’ll likely remember Sammy Watkins burning him off the line in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, we can’t wait to see him retain his status as the leader of the NFL’s best defense.

Seattle Seahawks: Bobby Wagner is far and away the best middle linebacker in the NFL, with his only contender for the title, Luke Kuechly, retiring after the 2019 season. Wagner along with K.J. Wright are the lone remnants from Seattle’s legendary defense that led the league in scoring defense from 2012-15. The 29-year-old should be among the sure-fire Hall of Famers from this era, alongside Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and perhaps Kam Chancellor.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A chance for a new start at quarterback. Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions last season and head coach Bruce Arians has been ambivalent about bringing him back as he’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are among the NFL’s elite wide receivers. Imagine how proficient they’d be with a quarterback that doesn’t have a penchant for throwing backbreaking picks.

Tennessee Titans:

Is Derrick Henry ready for an encore performance in 2020? (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Derrick Henry won the rushing title and then became the NFL’s singular star of the playoffs before losing to Mahomes and the Chiefs. Henry is unstoppable once he gets to the second level, and we can’t wait for the Titans to unleash him like they did in the second half, even if 300-plus carries could be hazardous.

Washington: A shot at redemption for Ron Rivera. Rivera guided Carolina to a 76-63-1 cumulative record during his tenure, including a 15-1 season in 2015 that culminated in a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos. He doesn’t have a ton to work with from the jump, but he deserved another opportunity. Armed with the No. 2 overall pick, there are a few building blocks that he could mold slowly but surely.

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