Five Wide: 2022 Week Seven

By Thomas Willoughby

I’m starting to think that Tom Brady was right. We’re a handful of weeks removed from him suggesting that the NFL is just full of bad teams, and over half the league has a losing record. Something has gone very very wrong in the NFL. Doesn’t half make it entertaining, though.

Thrills and spills in week seven. Teams losing to teams they have no right to, other teams maintaining a winning streak they themselves have no idea how they conjured. An utterly barmy time to be watching the sport. And we’ve a trip to Wembley at the end of this week to celebrate. Isn’t it lovely?

Hello Wembley

The UK’s run of only having teams with winning records play here has come to a sad end. We managed to get exactly one game between teams above .500 before the dregs showed their faces again, and OF COURSE, it’s the Jaguars hosting. Of course it is. They return to Wembley Stadium for the first time in 3 years this weekend, to host the hapless Denver Broncos. Both teams sit on 2-5. The pre-season buzz around the Broncos, and the early-season buzz around the Jaguars, has long disappeared, and what we have are two ugly, ugly teams. Are we all excited?

Trevor Lawrence and company looked to have turned a corner this season. Starting 2-1, there was a real feel that his pairing with Doug Pederson could allow him to show the sort of talent that saw him taken 1st overall only a year again. They’ve hit a real skid of late, however. Each of their most recent losses have been by a score or less, however they’ve seldom looked capable of winning those games. You don’t get to only score 6 on the Texans and get taken seriously.

We talked about the Broncos’ head coach last week, but not enough is being made of the atrocious QB play. They made the biggest splash this off-season, landing Russell Wilson in exchange for a small fortune. Since then, he’s completed under 60% of his passes, and has as many TDs as the aforementioned Bailey Zappe. The Broncos’ defense, however, has been lights out, giving up more than 20 points just once this season. This is a team that should be far better than its record suggests.

What this makes for, then, is potentially the most turgid game we’ve seen in London since the city began hosting games. Both teams are in a bit of a rut, and will likely see this trip as an opportunity to start anew mid-season. What we might see is a young Jaguars team struggle against a dominant defense vs Brett Rypien. A least we’ll all get home at a reasonable hour, eh?

Simon Cooper-PA Wire

All Change, Please

The Quaterback is the most important position in football. Or, so they say. You can argue that day and night, but if you don’t have a QB you trust, the likelihood of you going far is significantly shortened. Careers can be made and broken by the pursuit of someone under centre (see Matt Rhule). If you don’t get it right, you’re done for.

We’re at the time of the season when teams that are not good will start making changes because they feel like they need a jolt (or the head coach feels like he’s going to lose his job). We’ve already seen Pittsburgh turn from Trubisky to Pickett. But how many of us saw the Indianapolis Colts shifting from Matt Ryan to Sam Ehlinger? Ryan’s time in Indianapolis thus far has been plagued by bad offensive line play, an inadequate running game, and a collection of well-intentioned but under-equipped receivers catching passes from an injured man the wrong side of 35. Something Frank Reich admitted himself. That said, don’t be shocked if Ryan is starting games again by Thanksgiving.

Is there an actual QB controversy in New England? Mac Jones’ 2021 was pretty good, and was enough to see the Patriots return to the playoffs after a fallow year. Some smart talking heads on the Touchdown NFL Review Show even suggested his team might win the AFC East this season, in part due to Jones’ competence. He’s been banged up in recent weeks, though. And the Patriots have handed the keys to Bailey Zappe, who, through four games (and two starts) has completed over 70% of his passes, has a 5:3 TD:INT ratio, and has amassed 781 passing yards. He replaced Jones on Monday Night Football, albeit to no avail. Do the Patriots make the change? Or do they believe in Jones long-term? Great question.

There are more than a handful of teams that could make a change in the coming weeks (Falcons, Saints again, Titans maybe?), and we’ll no doubt pick this up when those changes come. Right now, keep an eye out for changes as and when. They could come from the strangest of places (all hail Brett Rypien: QB1).

Zero To Geno (sounds a bit like zero to hero (very funny))

The nicest story of the season is the rise and rise of Geno Smith, isn’t it? The former 2nd round suffered from coaching insecurity with the Jets, before landing with the Chargers and, subsequently, Seahawks, in a backup capacity. He got some starts last season, and looked the part doing so. We all questioned why Seattle weren’t in on the Baker Mayfield stakes. Wonder no longer.

Geno Smith has completed over 73% of his passes, for over 1,700 yards, with an 11:3 TD:INT spread. His Seattle are 4-3, and top of the NFC West. He’s got a team that’s been treading water for the past couple of years firing, and playing some exciting stuff. Did you see some of the throws he made on Sunday? Sublime.

You don’t often see a player breaking out in year 10 of his career. It’s walking proof that a player doesn’t need to be the finished product in year one. They often aren’t. There was a time when a quarterback was allowed the time to develop away from the pressures of starting every week. He’s thriving, despite a decade of evidence that he wouldn’t. Credit to him and the Seahawks, man. This is great.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Woe Pack, Woe

Are the Packers broken? Serious question. Since making their maiden voyage to the UK, the Packers have seemingly forgotten how to do the one thing you could rely on their doing with Aaron Rodgers slinging it: win. From 3-1 to 3-4 in the blink of an eye. Unbelievable.

They’re not even losing to good teams. Well, the Giants might actually be good. But the Jets I don’t think are good. And don’t get me started on the Washington Commanders. What’s more, they seem to be doing the same thing over and over again. They refuse to take advantage of the two-headed monster that is Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion. Instead, it’s Aaron Rodgers trying to play hero ball over and over again, regardless of the lead they have. 

They’re two games behind the Minnesota Vikings, having played a game more, with the Bills next on deck. This weekend has to be a statement win for Green Bay. A result and the narrative can start to change. But a loss, and we’re looking at a team in the mire.

NFC South: The Division Of Broken Dreams

We talked about the division of broken promises a couple of weeks ago, now it’s time for the division of broken dreams. Only one division in the NFL today doesn’t have a single team with a winning record in it. The NFC South has decided to harken back to its mid-2010s glory days by serving us up some bad, bad football. 

It starts at the bottom, where the New Orleans Saints currently reside. Having kicked the financial can of the salary cap down the road every year for seemingly the past 10 years, they’re now feeling the squeeze. 2-5, the Saints are without a quarterback, without a coach, and without a clue. Andy Dalton vs Jameis Winston isn’t a QB battle you ever want your team to be having, and yet here they are. They’ve traded away their 1st round pick for 2023, will go into 2023 ~$67.9mil over the cap, and will likely see Sean Payton plying his trade in Dallas. Well well well. If it isn’t the consequences of your own actions.

The Panthers are wild, because they gave up on 2022 weeks ago. Matt Rhule, as we know, was cut loose. By trading away Christian McCaffrey, they seem content stockpiling assets for the next HC/GM tandem. And, yet, with P.J. Walker at the helm, they beat the then 3-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A team, I’d argue, closer to the Saints on the scale than the cream of the league. Tom Brady ruined his own personal life to see himself get beaten by a former XFL phenom. His end must surely be nearing.

I won’t harp on about the Falcons, but they’re 3-4 right now, and only 1 team from their next 8 opponents has a winning record. They’re getting by with a smashmouth run game, but the lack of air attack to complement it will likely be their downfall. Which is crazy considering the weapons they have. 

The most disgusting thing about this division is that there is one win separating 1st and 4th. In the space of a week, the entire division could flip. In theory, that makes for an interesting battle. In practice, you’ve the prospect of a team with a losing record hosting a playoff game in January.

Features Image Credit: Maddie Meyer-Getty Images

Thomas Willoughby