Five Wide: 2022 Week Six

By Thomas Willoughby

This week felt like a bye week, didn’t it? I mean, the Falcons played, so it wasn’t a bye week in that respect. But with it being the week off between the end of the Spurs games and the next game at Wembley Stadium, it felt like we were given a week to recover. I hope you all rested up (I didn’t), because it’s full go again next week, in what might well be the worst game we’ve had in London for years!

It was a funny old week in the NFL. A week of upsets, almost. Credit to my colleagues for getting into it so brilliantly; now for the weird one right at the end. Here are five things that I want to talk about this week!

Bad Football Everywhere

A couple of weeks ago, Tom Brady tried to look cool (he’s been doing that a lot recently) by dismissing the amount of 2-2 teams in the league as “bad football”. Well, the league’s elder statesman is about to lose sleep over the sheer number of 3-3 teams in the league right now. Parity at its finest? Or has there legitimately been a step back in footballing quality? Great question.

The old man might have a point. I refuse to believe that a league that allows both New Yorks Jets and Giants to own a 4-2 and 5-1 record respectively is actually operating at a high level. It’s pretty wild that just under a third of the league’s teams (10) are sitting at .500, however. A lot of these teams simply shouldn’t be in this situation. Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and even Brady’s own Tampa Bay, share a table with the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks.

I fully expect the cream of the league to separate over the next few weeks. There is surely an element of the good teams playing each other, and there’s only so many times they can do so. Obviously. That said, the Baltimore Ravens, a perennially good outfit, and the Atlanta Falcons, previously perceived as hapless, have the softest, and second softest respectively, strength of schedules for their remaining fixtures. I’m already salivating at the prospect of a Super Bowl between two teams going up big and blowing it.

John Bazemore-AP Photo

New York, New York

Just to touch on what’s going on in New Jersey, actually…well, what the hell is going on in New Jersey? For a WHILE, the New Jersey-based New Yorkers have been the league’s punching bags, save for a handful of genuinely intriguing (some trophy-laden) seasons. In 2022, they’re both second in their division, only a game behind the team leading it, and beating teams you’d expect to hang 40 on them. What is going on, man?

The Giants have spent the past 6 years trying to recover from an ill-advised boat party in Miami. A team that poised to produce a football team capable of hanging with the leagues best under Ben McAdoo capitulated in the 2016 NFL playoffs against Green Bay, and never came close to that height again. They now have Brian Daboll, credited hugely for aiding Josh Allen’s development, as their head coach. The results speak for themselves. Wins against Tennesse, Green Bay, and Baltimore, have helped the G-Men to a 5-1 start, with only the unbeatable Eagles in front of them. Are they for real? Looking down at their remaining schedule, they might not have a better chance than now to be.

With the Jets, what do you even say? What an utterly odd team they are. They started the season without their 2nd year QB, Zach Wilson, handing the reigns to Joe Flacco. Flacco steered them to a 1-2 start, with a stunning upset in Cleveland the crown of that run, before giving it back to Wilson in week 4. 3-0 and since then; a win at Heinz Field (genuinely do not know what they’re calling it now), a SLAPPING of the Tua-less Dolphins, and a convincing victory over the Packers this past weekend. Their remaining schedule is a real test. On this form, however, they might well be something.

It’s weird not having the league’s whipping boys taking a beating every week, I will say. For two franchises that have shouldered their fair share of difficult times, however, it is quite refreshing. Long may it continue, I suppose.

Purple Falcons

I alluded to it last week, but, man, the Ravens really are them, aren’t they? They’re the Purple Falcons. This season alone, they’ve been up 28-7, 20-3, and 20-10 at various points, and lost all those games. Think about that. They’ve not lost a game they haven’t had a double digit lead in at some point. That’s…well that feels unprecedented, at least?

We know there are issues with the Ravens. While Lamar Jackson is a phenom, their general talent at skill positions (bar Mark Andrews) is lacking. That defense should have more to it than it’s showing so far. They’ve conceded 141 points across 6 games so far. Only 5 teams in the AFC have conceded more. That’s not good, is it?

The good news is that, as we’ve discussed, they’ve got a cupcake schedule from here on out. The bad news is that it doesn’t kick in for a couple of weeks. They host the old enemy (Cleveland) on Sunday, and Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football. They could feasibly be 3-5, and form well and truly against them. Are they bad? Let’s see where we are after their mini-bye.

Adam Hunger-Associated Press

Subprime time

I think now might be the time to ban Thursday Night Football completely. I’m sorry, Bezos, I know you’ve spent a lot of money to get it, but it sucks, sadly. Shut it down. The past two weeks have shown us that football on a short week simply isn’t worth it.

TNF has never been anyone’s favourite prime time slot. Especially over here. Staying up til 4am in the middle of the week? Eugh. No thanks. But, aside from Thanksgiving, it’s the one slot you don’t really want. Especially as a player. Football is a brutal game, and playing it twice in four days must cause havok on the body. So what you get is a poorer quality product. Like Colts @ Broncos and Commanders @ Bears. Which is just gross.

30 points total scored in one game isn’t much. 30 points scored, total, across two games is abhorrent. Granted, the four teams featured in those two games are not very good. But we had two touchdowns, total, across two games. Who is this for, exactly? Not anyone who likes football, that’s for sure.

It’s telling that the prime time games are saved for Sunday nights, and Monday nights enjoy that second tier. Thursday night gets you nothing good. Not even wacky uniforms anymore. In the next two weeks, we’ve got the Saints @ Cardinals and Ravens @ Buccaneers. If those two can’t produce something exciting, end the concept of Thursday nights completely.

The Great Pretender

Time for a little “I told you so”. Because I know you love when I get all “I told you so”. As part of the coaching merry-go-round this offseason, the Denver Broncos opted to move on from Vic Fangio after three pretty underwhelming seasons. They went for a fresh start, pushing all their chips on the QB issue. They had the defense, they’d assembled the supporting cast, it was time to get a quarterback capable of having them hit the heights they should be. The quarterback in question? Aaron Rodgers. How do they go about getting arguably the best QB of all time? Hire his current OC. Welcome, Nathaniel Hackett. Now, to nab Aaron and be on our wa-oh what do you mean he’s signed an extension? Oh God.

Nathaniel Hackett is not a good coach. He wasn’t a good offensive coordinator, and should never have been given a shot at a head coaching gig. His last time as a playcaller was with Doug Marrone’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Don’t let history tell you that team was efficient or effective offensively; it absolutely reeked. Hackett was the first to go in 2019, as Marrone attempted to rearrange the deckchairs enough to save his skin. He landed upwards, as the Packers OC under rookie HC Matt LaFleur, where LaFleur assumed playcalling duties.

The Packers’ offenses since LaFleur stepped in have been electric, and, clearly, that success has been wrongfully attributed to Nathaniel Hackett. What’s even funnier is that he got the Broncos gig because they thought they would get Rodgers as part of a package deal. Now, with Russell Wilson (who’s been on a decline for a few years) running the plays that made Blake Bortles look bang average, Hackett is being exposed for what he is: a man ill-equipped to operate an NFL offense single-handedly to any level of success. The Broncos swerves due diligence for an MVP, and have driven directly off a cliff. Good luck on the 2023 merry-go-round, boys.

Features Image Credit: Morry Gash-AP Photo

Thomas Willoughby