It's the most wonderful time of the year: the Christmas holday, the turn of a new year, and the stretch run of the NFL season. Playoff races are heating up, and some dreams are in the process of being crushed while others are just forming. We even find ourselves with a matchup this week of a team resurrecting their preseason optimism—hello, Buffalo!—and one watching their entire season continue to go up in flames—sup, Chargers? Whether you're enjoying the moment or looking ahead to next year, you have to be a fan of NFL football being on TV 4 times in 5 days.
This year is unique in the fact that the naughty and nice lists haven't quite separated themselves as much as they have in years past. Only three teams in the AFC (Titans, Jets, Patriots) are eliminated from playoff contention as are three in the NFC (Commanders, Cardinals, and Panthers). That means 13 teams in each conference are still in the hunt with some not yet knowing whether they'll be elated with what Santa brings them, or if they're going to be throwing the lump of coal they receive on the inevitable fire that their fan bases create when they miss the postseason.
I, for one, like to take this time of year and express gratitude where gratitude is due. First of all, I am lucky enough to have a beautiful family of my own and a wonderful supporting cast with my extended family. I'd be remiss if I didn't give them a shout-out: I love you guys. I'm also incredibly thankful to be a fan of and to be able to blog about what I believe is still the best football team in the NFL: the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm grateful for Andy, I'm grateful for Mahomes, and I'm even grateful for the wide receiving corps (for the most part).
I'm also grateful for the 140-84 record I've put together this year in the picks. You'll notice I'm a little late to the Thursday night game this week—my procrastination is to blame for this—but for the record, I had the Rams in that one. Whether or not I look like an idiot or a liar when you're reading this is truly up to your perception, but I'm counting it on my mark and will send a screenshot to anyone who requests from my CBS Sports pick 'em league.
In the spirit of Christmas, I'm going to do things a little differently this week. I'm still going to pick with mostly my gut, somewhat my heart, and a small bit of my brain, but I'm also going to project what would be on each team's Christmas list for this year. Some will be predictable, others will be off the wall, but when you incorporate the spirit of Christmas into anything it makes it a little more...jolly.
Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
The Raiders are coming off an absolute shellacking of the once-decent, now atrocious Los Angeles Chargers last week. 63 points from a Raiders team that got shut out the week before? The Chargers are on to bigger and better things after firing Brandon Staley (finally) after the loss, and the Raiders are on to bigger and better opponents in the Chiefs, who rebounded nicely against the New England Patriots last week.
These teams faced off just 4 weeks ago, and while the Raiders made things concerning for a moment by jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the Chiefs made Vegas look like light work over four quarters leaving Sin City with a 31-17 win. What can we expect this week?
Well, for one, the Raiders have to be hoping for some sort of Christmas miracle to keep them in playoff contention. They need some help sitting two games back of the 7 seed in the AFC with 3 weeks to play, and with Buffalo surging and Houston getting C.J. Stroud back that seems highly unlikely. The Raiders can go one of two ways in their Christmas wishes: shoot for the moon and land on the stars or just hope for a complete meltdown. Landing on the stars would mean patting themselves on the back after a "nice" season, full meltdown would mean they have a chance to get a QB higher in the draft.
Either way, they're ultimately not getting what every NFL fan hopes for at the beginning of each season. But how many times have you had to settle when it comes to Christmas? Maybe you wanted an Xbox and ended up with some socks - a comparison more apt to the Chargers season than the Raiders, but you get the point.
What the Chiefs want for Christmas is for a playmaker to start making some plays. The receiving corps has been sporadic at best this season, but there's one guy who has caught more flack than anyone else along the way, and his name is Kadarius Toney. I'm calling the shot: Toney has over 100 all-purpose yards this week with a rushing and receiving TD and the Chiefs win in a big way. Chiefs 42, Raiders 14
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
For Christmas, Cincinnati is wishing for a Wolverine-like healing process for Joe Burrow's wrist while Pittsburgh is just looking for some points. I'm imagining Tyrone Biggums from Chappelle's Show in a Steelers jersey asking "Y'all got any of them points?" Cincy's wishlist doesn't include a stacked roster around Jake Browning, because they already have that. That'll be enough to bury the Steelers this week. Bengals 23, Steelers 16
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers
How great did this matchup look before the season started? While Buffalo is hoping for continued resurgence for Christmas, the Chargers are asking Santa for a time machine to go back to the pre-season where they were truly at their best, before football games got played. Oh well, only a few more months until the next off-season when they can be completely oversold again. Bills 33, Chargers 10
Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons
The Colts' Christmas list is light. they just hope Anthony Richardson is the man once he gets healthy. The roster around him and the coaching staff seem to have Indy primed for a bright future. The Falcons are just hoping to hang on and be slightly above average enough to win the dog show that is the NFC South this year. They don't get any closer this weekend. Colts 24, Falcons 13
Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans
Seattle is hoping that DK Metcalf's heart will do the thing that the Grinch's did when he was trying to keep the sleigh full of Christmas presents from crashing off of Mount Crumpit, while Tennessee's wishlist is just for the season to be over so they can hit Broadway and maybe run into Morgan Wallen. Seahawks 28, Titans 20
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Detroit fans are confused this Christmas. Normally they're hoping they hit on a QB in the draft or can at least win more than a couple of games next year. This year? They're thinking Super Bowl, and it's not unrealistic. The Vikings are just hoping Santa brings them a recovered Kirk Cousins for next season. They may want to pencil in Brian Flores not getting another head coaching gig after the year, though. Lions 21, Vikings 13
Washington Commanders at New York Jets
The Commanders' wishlist is one of the more extensive in the NFL, but because they have a strict dad (Eric Bieniemy) they're only going to get what they need, which this week will be stifling at the hands of the Jets defense. The Jets just want their Aaron back and for Zach Wilson's mom to get off of Instagram. Jets 10, Commanders 7
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers
Carolina has one of those Christmas lists that you read from a kid and you're like "Do you really need all of this?" The answer here is yes. Outside of a few pieces on defense and (maybe) Bryce Young, the Panthers need about 20 more good players. Green Bay is just asking for Santa to continue allowing their Love to grow. Packers 23, Panthers 12
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
Houston got their big Christmas early in April when they drafted Stroud. Now they just need a couple of other teams to falter so they can get into the playoffs way before anyone expects. Cleveland is hoping that Deshaun Watson isn't the third member of the Wet Bandits. But with Stroud likely out this week, Joe Flacco will play his best Fred Claus and get the Browns a W. Browns 21, Texans 14
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jacksonville (and I) are hoping that Calvin Ridley actually starts playing like Calvin Ridley. The Bucs are just hoping no one figures out they're not good before they sneak into the playoffs. Jaguars 24, Bucs 20
Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears
Where do we start here? Bears fans have to be hoping that the news earlier this week that management hasn't decided on Matt Eberflus or Justin Fields is just misdirection. Make a play at Jim Harbaugh and draft Caleb Williams. The Cardinals are hoping for more Jonathan Gannon "pew pew pew, shots!" moments in 2024 and really don't care about Christmas because it's like 80 degrees there and they've got tee times on Christmas morning. Bears 27, Cardinals 20
Dallas Cowboys at Miami Dolphins
The Cowboys are hoping that they're the team that trounced Philly and not the one that got embarrassed by San Fran and Buffalo. Miami is simply asking Santa to get Tyreek Hill's ankle back up to speed. If it is, Dallas is going to have trouble keeping up with Miami's offense. Dolphins 33, Cowboys 24
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
These are two hilarious Christmas lists I'm envisioning, but I'll just list one wish from each team although I have several. New England: asking Santa for Tom Brady to return. Denver: still asking Santa (for a second year in a row) to find a way to get Russell Wilson's contract off their books. Broncos 17, Patriots 13
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Giants fans are asking Santa "Ayyyy, St. Nicky, where's the cutlets?!" While Eagles fans just hope that Santa is more committed to delivering presents to Philadelphia than Jalen Hurts thinks his teammates are to winning games. Great change for Philly to bounce back at home and for the Eagles PA team to blast Jason Kelce's Christmas album over the loudspeakers after. Eagles 33, Giants 13
Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers
Both of these teams have Super Bowl titles on their wishlist, and rightfully so. When was the last time we got a Super Bowl preview, with both conference's 1 seeds, this late in the season? I don't remember and I don't really care, but I'm full-on rooting for the Niners in this one, I won't even try to hide that. Help us get the 1 seed, Brock Purdy. 49ers 23, Ravens 21